Telecommuting: The Basics
So you’ve scored a job that lets you work from home; whether it’s by choice or because of downsizing, it’s important you hit the ground running. If at all possible, try to get your workspace set up before you actually start working. Otherwise, things could get chaotic very quickly, and your employer would surely notice.
Two great places to get basic supplies like a desk, desktop accessories and storage at reasonable prices are IKEA and The Container Store, both of which are present all around the country.
Photo Credit: jnyemb
Once you start working, keep very close tabs on your schedule. Keep an old-fashioned datebook or use tech tools like smartphone apps or digital calendars to manage your projects.
This sounds so basic, but because you are no longer tied into a structured workplace, and because you may find yourself bouncing from appointment to appointment, it can be very easy to become disorganized.
Photo Credit: Generation Bass
If you’re like me and like to work in the dining room and not at a traditional desk, you might be sitting on a chair that is not designed for all-day use. I turned my stiff-backed dining room chair into a comfortable working chair with Comfort Ideas’ memory foam pads, which you can slip onto any chair as you see fit. You can create different custom shapes to meet your needs; I use mine on the chair back to make it soft and cushioned.
Available from online retailers for $24
Photo Credit: Comfort Ideas
I’ll leave the choice of a computer up to you, but make sure your software is up to date so you aren’t limited by your technology. Some new software options like Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 are geared toward telecommuters, with capabilities like co-authoring. With co-authoring, documents can be worked on, edited or reviewed by anyone from any location. You can even have multiple people working on documents simultaneously, which will save the headache of trying to keep on top of which version of a project is the current one.
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Even though you’re working from home, you still want to put in some face time with your colleagues. Make sure you encourage video conferencing whenever possible, because as we all know, out of sight can mean out of mind.
Many computers are now equipped with cameras, but if yours isn’t, you can find webcams designed to work with the internet calling service Skype. Its Freetalk Everyman HD Webcam ($69.88), which allows you to videoconference in high definition, and since the service now offers group video calling (in beta form), you can chat with up to 10 colleagues on your screen at once.
Conference room staple Polycom also offers multiple-user teleconferencing with its HDX 4000 camera. It also has a very helpful list of teleconferencing tips that covers topics like meeting prep to appearance.
Photo Credit: Skype
Personal Data Storage
Since you’re no longer working from a professional-grade server at an office, data storage is crucial for the home worker. Something tiny but with a lot of storage space, like the Verbatim Tuff-'N'-Tiny, is perfect for when you need to carry your files, photos or presentations with you. This little guy is only as big as a zipper pull and is available from 2GB to 32GB capacity.
Prices vary, so choose the appropriate model for you.
Photo Credit: Verbatim
Data Storage – The Big Guns
For your larger storage needs (say if you are working with video, hi-resolution graphics and images or other large files), check out the Seagate GoFlex Home storage unit. It connects to your home Wi-Fi network and automatically stores, backs up and accesses files wirelessly for up to three computers (PC or Mac). You can also access files via the Internet from computers and mobile devices outside of the home.
They are available in 1TB or 2TB sizes, and prices vary.
Photo Credit: Seagate
While we’re on the topic of storage, make sure your home office doesn’t take over your home. If your line of work requires you to store extensive files or things like trade show displays and the like, you may want to consider a storage service like StorageByTheBox.com.
This unique service works with FedEx, which will deliver the boxes to store your files and supplies to your home. Once you fill them, simply log onto your StorageByTheBox account and FedEx will pick the full boxes and take them to a secure storage facility. Retrieval is just as easy.
Prices vary, but the peace of mind knowing your stuff is protected from fire in your home is priceless.
Photo Credit: StorageByTheBox.com
On the Move
At some point you will need to leave the comfort of your home office. When you do, make sure you are organized and on top of your mobile devices so that you can access what you need while out and about.
Something I’ve had trouble with when I’m away from the home office is keeping my smartphone charged. I’m on it so much – talking, texting, tweeting, taking pictures and sending e-mails – that inevitably my battery drains to nothing.
Technocel’s PowerPak provides a universal charging solution that combines a backup rechargeable battery pack with a rapid home charger. It can serve as your everyday charger, but it also has the ability to boost a mobile device’s battery power for up to three hours.
Buy it online for $49.99.
Photo Credit: Technocel
When I’m between appointments, I often find myself running around looking for a place with Wi-Fi, so I was thrilled to discover ZyXEL's mobile wireless router, the MWR211. It’s designed to make portable Internet access continuous, fast and secure, and it includes a built-in rechargeable battery for when no external power source is available. The product isn't in stores yet, but is expected to be released Jan. 10, 2011, and should appear on Amazon for $80-$115.
Photo Credit: ZyXEL
If you’re driving from place to place all day, make sure you’re using a hands-free accessory with your mobile phone. It’s the law in most states, but it’s also just common sense.
Bluetooth technology is constantly improving. One cool Bluetooth headset is the MoGo Talk XD for iPhone 4, which it claims is the world’s thinnest (5mm) and only high-performance integrated Bluetooth headset and protective case system for the iPhone 4. It stores and charges right in the case and provides crystal clear conversations, comfort, good fit and easy charging.
Available on Amazon for $99.99.
Photo Credit: MoGo
Need a Leash?
Another problem a lot of telecommuters have is leaving their cell phones behind when juggling all of one’s daily activities. Zomm is a wireless “leash” for mobile phones that attaches to your keychain and ensures that you never leave your phone behind by flashing, vibrating and sounding an alarm if you walk too far away from your phone. You can also answer calls through it when your phone is out of sight or while you’re driving. Cool, huh?
Available for $79.99 at Zomm.com
Photo Credit: Zomm
Everyone has to have at least one trick up their sleeve… If you give visual presentations, your must-have gadget is the Favi Business Projector. Slightly bigger than a box of band-aids, the projector connects to your laptop, cell phone, DVD player or iPod, and has built-in speakers, remote, Mini USB connection, great resolution and 1 GB of internal storage. Clear some wall space and impress everyone in your meeting with on-the-fly presentations. And then use it at home for movie night!
Available on Amazon for $289
Photo Credit: Favi