As we’ve discussed, virtual offices are finally being accepted as a way for business owners and employees, alike, to trim some pretty big overhead costs — like space rental and fuel spent commuting — from budgets. Of course, work is still work and making sure that the job at hand gets done is the most important consideration that your business must take into account.
Let’s be honest: some people are more cut out to work from home than others. The line dividing work life from private life can be a little blurry for even the most disciplined among us, and making sure that we have the home office tools to succeed helps sharpen and define that line.
Home Office Tools That You Don’t Need
Distraction is a sneaky beast that haunts us all from time to time. If you find that you’re easily distracted, you want to make sure that your home office tools are optimal toward helping you focus. Television probably tops my list of what not to include in a home office. “Executive” toys like Newton’s cradles or magnetic sculpture blocks can also be distracting, but I do realize that everyone’s got their own process; one person’s distraction is another’s inspiration.
The Tix clocks that you see in my home office may be distracting to some, for instance, but I find them soothing. They really transform my home office into a place where matters of great import are constantly taking place and make me feel like I’m in the control room of my very own spacefaring vessel! The bright lights beckon me toward destinations unknown (and if you watch my videos, you get to enjoy the ride with me). Onward! I mean business!
The rule of thumb here is that you should examine your home office and analyze what works toward your progress and what works against it. Eliminate anything that distracts you more than it directs you.
Home Office Tools That You Do Need
An ergonomic chair, a comfortable desk, a printer, a scanner, a fax machine (yes, some people still use these, and having a fax option on hand will save you trips to the local copy shop), a home office suite like Microsoft Office 365, and a computer with broadband Internet are all pretty standard fare as far as home office tools go — they’re the hammers and screwdrivers in your toolbox.
Let’s take a look at some of the hex keys and needle nose pliers in your toolbox — the home office tools that may not be part of the basic set, but will still come in handy when you’re up against the unforeseen circumstances and surprise deadlines that come with home office territory.
Having a whiteboard with an erasable marker on hand or even a chalkboard to sketch out projects is a fine idea, but IdeaPaint takes this a step further by allowing you to turn your very wall into a brainstorming pad.
Sure, your kids may have already taken the initiative and done the same with a box of crayons, but IdeaPaint actually lets you erase your creative spurts and write new ones — again and again, just like you would with a whiteboard or chalkboard.
This is a $200 kit that includes a roller and the special whiteboard paint. All you need to do is add a primer to the wall and, once the primer has dried, paint on the whiteboard paint.
Encrypted Network or Flash Drive
Keeping your data secret and safe is more than just wise advice from some sagely wizard house guest — I’d include it here as a fairly important component to your business strategy. Having an encrypted network or flash drive gives the information generated and stored by your home office a hack-resistant buffer against the evils of competitors and mischievious ne’er-do-wells, alike.
And while protecting your data against the designs of nefarious humans is crucial, this leads us to the next entry in the list of home office tools…
Network Attached Storage or Offsite Backup
At this stage of the game, nobody should have to tell you to back up your data. And while this is one of those things that many neglect until the inevitable hard drive crash happens and the lesson is learned the hard way, even more neglected is the need to have a backup of the backup.
While it may seem like overkill, having your data backed up on network attached storage (NAS) or — I would even say and — offsite backup services like SkyDrive will be much appreciated if anything ever happens to the physical location of wherever that data is held.
Power surges, natural disasters, coffee-spilling mishaps, giant monster rampages, or just plain old hard drive wear and tear from regular usage can strike at any time. Redundancy in triplicate is far from overkill — just be sure to keep those backups current!
All-In-One Wi-Fi Enabled Printer
Sure, this combines some of the basic home office tools I mentioned above as being standard, but an all-in-one Wi-Fi enabled printer is like a Swiss Army knife that does the job of many devices while saving space and cash.
The average models today will scan, copy, and print — some will even fax — with Wi-Fi capabilities giving you the added flexibility of being able to work from your laptop or tablet in another part of the house if your home office is feeling a little too familiar and you need a change of scenery.
Digital Camera with Video Capability
If you’re producing videos for YouTube or you’re selling items on eBay, you will want a digital camera with the ability to shoot video among your home office tools. Luckily, most digital cameras coming out these days are able to capture video (with varying levels of quality, obviously). Shopping for what’s right to suit your specific needs would entail a completely different post, but you’ve got quite a few options available.
Your smart phone or tablet may even fit the bill if your needs are simple enough. Oh! Which reminds me…
Smart Phone or Tablet Computer
Chances are, if you’re technologically savvy enough to have your own modern home office, you’ve probably invested in one — or even both — of these gadgets. If not, you probably have your reasons, but I, for one, can’t imagine being anywhere near as productive as I am without them.
Even if you don’t regularly use data through your phone and you really just use your phone the old-fashioned way (you know, to talk to people and stuff), having the option when you’re in a pinch can really save the day.
Even if you prefer to use a laptop with a “real” keyboard as your device of choice when you need to get out of your home office, tablets are so much more portable and most (if not all) can be outfitted with keyboards. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing traditional laptops and notebooks being on the market at all in the next few years as more people get on board with the tablet experience (and tablets, themselves, get better).
Community Question: Do you have any home office tools that may help other business owners? Please leave a comment below and share them with the rest of us!