8 must-have tools if you work from home

Working from home isn’t for everyone, and there are many factors to consider before you decide if it’s right thing for you. Columnist Rob Enderle helps you decide if it is and suggests some tools that will make your home office more efficient and successful.

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Credit: Thinkstock

I’ve been working from home for well over a decade now, so it would be tough to move back into a corporate environment. However, working from a home office isn’t for everyone and while there are some huge advantages, there are some drawbacks as well.

I’ve had a number of employees over the years, some who blossomed from home, and some who flamed out, and often the difference is all about mindset. Over the years, and particularly recently, I’ve found a set of tools that make working from home much more productive. In fact, I’m likely better equipped in my home office now than most are in their corporate headquarters.  

The positives of working at home

The big plus is no commute. I get up, get dressed walk down a short hall, and I’m in the office. This is my space, I’m comfortable, secure, can start as early or work as late as I want, and I’m personally securing my stuff. In addition, being at home actually turned out to be rather important to my neighbors as I was able to stop a couple of home invasions at other residences because I was around while everyone else wasn’t.   Finally, you can avoid all of the little distractions like stories of weekend activities, gossip, folks who can’t talk quietly on their phones (I’m one of them) -- and then there’s the office drama that you don’t have to deal with.

The problem of working from home

You are disconnected, that’s good if you are good self-driver, but it is bad if you need to be pushed. In addition, out of sight is out of mind, making it harder to get promotions and raises. You are more likely to be laid off or fired (far easier to fire someone over the phone), and your home has its own distractions, which can be worse than the ones in the office.

There could be misperceptions too, even though you may be kicking butt, your boss may think you are kicking back. Finally, CEOs have a habit of cancelling work-at-home benefits and a lot of folks find they can’t commute anymore because of kids, distance or other personal issues that made working at home ideal for them.

In short, there are more ways to become unemployed when you work at home, so I’d recommend not doing this early in a career. I’d also suggest you avoid having both spouses taking this route at the same time to help assure both of you don’t lose your jobs in the same window. By the way, on this latter, both spouses working at home can actually put a lot of stress on a marriage, but it’ll better prepare you for retirement. I’ve seen a number of marriages come apart late in life during the retirement phase because the spouses find they can’t stand each other for more than short periods of time.

Tools that can make your home office amazing

Ooma Business: This VoIP phone system has been a godsend especially when we moved and were able to take our numbers with us to another state. The nice thing about VoIP systems is they can work anyplace and our initial plan was to take this between homes while we had two of them (owning two homes became more pain than pleasure). Oh, and VoIP calls are mostly free.

Panasonic KX-TG9581: Finding the right phone system is important as well. Ooma has phones getting a key system and tying it the Ooma resulted in a more robust solution.   What makes this Panasonic different is it is a tow line wireless system with a decent desk phone base station that will take a Plantronics headset. It’ll also take up to four cell phones so you can have your smartphone on the charger and take the call on your office phone with that headset if you want. It will also handle up to 12 wireless remote handsets so even if you have wandered away from your office you can answer as if you are in it.

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