Like millions of other people, you moved from spending your days in an office outfitted with the latest technology to working from home – seemingly (or possible literally) overnight. While you may have set up a space to work from home occasionally, maybe for sick or snow days, it’s likely that you’ve quickly realized that your beloved spot on the couch simply isn’t a long-term solution.
According to a FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics report, 65 percent of respondents are more productive in their home office than at a traditional workplace. However, you only see the productivity gains with the right technology and equipment. Because many companies are offering their employees stipends to get what they need for their home offices, now is a great time to review your current set-up and go shopping (online, of course).
Here are six things you need in your home office to be productive:
Successfully working remotely depends on having an internet connection that is fast and reliable. Otherwise, your video calls will freeze and your emails may get stuck in a black hole. And with the rest of your family working and attending school remotely, your internet is likely working harder than ever. Because most of us have internet packages and speeds that support our entertainment and light streaming needs, you may need to increase your internet bandwidth to handle video conferencing, file sharing and the many connectivity-intensive tasks you perform every hour.
If anyone in the household’s internet usage is about to change – such as a college student adding video classes or your spouse’s job turns from essential to remote – be sure to test your internet capacity before it reaches a critical point. Have everyone in the home perform their most bandwidth-intensive tasks (such as streaming or video chats) at the same time, and see how the internet performs. This allows you to troubleshoot any problems (or increase your internet speed) before your Wi-Fi goes down during an important customer call.
Virtual private network
Connecting over an insecure internet network can open up both your device and your company’s network for security breaches. According to VPNMentor, 31 percent of households with five or more devices have experienced a data breech on their home network. Even if your home network is password protected, you need to take high-level security precautions when your company data and your professional reputation is on the line. If your company provided a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for connectivity, which creates a private network using any internet connection, be sure to use it each and every time you get online for work – even if it’s a quick email check after dinner. If your company hasn’t provided you with a VPN already, ask your IT administrator about using a VPN or consider subscribing yourself (and getting company reimbursement) to safely connect.
Robust monitors and displays
You likely grabbed your laptop when you last visited your office, and that may have been several weeks ago. But you probably left the monitor that you used during the workday sitting on your desk – in the now-empty office building. Regularly using a small screen can cause eyestrain and headaches, as well as reduce your productivity. For the best eye health, All About Vision recommends using a flat-panel LED screen with an anti-reflective surface. By investing in a good free-standing monitor (no, not one that’s been sitting in your basement for years), you can be more productive – which can give you more time for quarantine projects, long neglected hobbies or even just Netflix binging.
Video conferencing space and a quality headset
With video calls becoming standard for most meetings, take some time to create a professional spot in your house. Consider the lighting (natural light is best) as well as the background (a bookcase creates a better image than clothes-filled closet). And if you have been thinking about getting a high-quality headset, now is a great time to make that investment. The microphone in a good headset provides a much more professional voice quality – so your customers don’t have to suffer through hearing background noises or echoing.
With others in your house taking work and school breaks at different times than you or being on video calls throughout the day, a quiet work environment is not likely happening anytime soon. Not to mention pets that think you working from home means more playtime.
By investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, you can have the peace and quiet you need to get your work done. And after the crisis is over, you will find many uses for your new headphones – sleeping on planes, working in coffee shops – yes, that will happen again one day.
A high-capacity multi-function printer
Take a minute to evaluate your current printer to make sure it can handle the significantly increased demands you’re going to put on it. Even with technology making digital work and processes a reality, you will likely need to print documents (possibly many documents) at home. Many tasks, such as editing and research, are much easier and more accurate when they’re done from a printed document. Because you want to make sure you give your kids every advantage to learn as much as possible during this crisis, to keep from falling behind for next year, you also need the ability to print worksheets and research material for their homework and projects.
Most new remote workers will find themselves needing to purchase a new multifunction printer. Carefully consider the type of ink your current printer uses, as well as the type of ink used by any new printers you are thinking of purchasing. Ink type makes a big difference in your long-term costs, printing quality and environmental impact. By choosing a printer with that uses high-capacity ink bottles, such as Epson EcoTank Printers, you can save up to 90 percent on printing costs vs. laser1.
Using a printer with wireless printing capability and a direct internet connection, you can scan documents or photos with a few taps on the printer’s control panel. Then you can share your scanned files to preset email addresses or online cloud storage accounts without the need for an attached printer. Look for a printer that is voice activated so you can print from anywhere in your house as well as from any device.
By taking the time to create a home office with technology that makes your job easier instead of more stressful, you can accomplish everything on your to-do list in less time. When you carefully research the right technology instead of purchasing the first thing you find or making do with what you have, your home office will truly be a place where you get everything done you did in the office – and hopefully, even more.
1. Actual savings and costs will vary considerably based on print tasks, print volumes and usage conditions. Savings and cost per ISO page are based on the cost of replacement ink bottles and the cost of enough standard cartridges to achieve the total page yields of the bottles using the MSRP (USD) and yields for Epson standard-capacity ink cartridges for similarly featured Epson consumer inkjet printers as of February 2019.