By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
When I left the corporate world seven years ago to work from home editing a magazine, I knew that to do my job properly I needed an ergonomic set up. I renovated a spare room and bought a U-shaped desk with upper cabinets, a book shelf with a filing cabinet and a comfy desk chair with lots of buttons and levers. I also invested in the latest technology.
But according to a recent survey by business machine and home appliance company Brother Canada, only two out of 10 Canadians who work from home say they have an efficient work space, or think that they are more productive at home than at the office. And when it comes to technology, many home offices are definitely not up to par. Only 65 per cent of respondents have a printer and only six in ten have a high-powered computer or laptop.
What you require to run a home office will depend on how frequently you work at home, the job you do and the number of people who share your home. This is a list of the 10 essential things I need to do my job effectively.
1. A dedicated office with a door
A single purpose room is not an option for everyone, but for me it is definitely the Holy Grail. Keeping the stacks of paper I seem to generate daily in order is a constant challenge. I don’t think I could cope if laundry and children’s toys were mixed in.
2. Lots of desk space and storage
I like “an open filing system.” Out of sight is out of mind. When I have work for multiple clients I need to be able to see and easily access their files. I also like to spread out my research all around me. The built-in adjustable keyboard tray which helps me avoid repetitive strain injuries is a bonus.
3. A business line with voice mail
We have two landlines and I use one for business. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to look into various VOIP options tested by other Moneyville bloggers, but I’m not there yet. The handset is a speaker phone but my headset is indispensible if I’m doing interviews or talking for any length of time.
Related: 7 alternatives to a landline phone
4. A smartphone
I’m often out and about. A smartphone is the only way I can possibly keep track of appointments, telephone numbers, addresses, Facebook and Twitter when I’m away from my desk. I have a BES server hosted by a company called SherWeb which automatically synchs when I enter information on either my phone or my computer.
5. A fast computer with a big screen
I have a laptop with a docking station, a big screen and a separate keyboard. My favourite new toy is a high definition digital webcam that I plan to use to make videos for my corporate clients.
Related: Microsoft Windows 8 coming soon
6. A printer/fax/copier/scanner
I’m using a seven year old HP LaserJet which still has lots of life in it. When I need colour copies I’m networked to the new Samsung colour laser printer in my husband’s office.
7. A dependable fast, internet connection
My internet connection has to be fast and available 24/7. When it went down on one or two occasions, I have been grateful for the kindness of neighbours who allow me to tap into their wi fi networks.
8. A digital recorder
I love my tiny Olympus digital recorder which plugs into the phone and directly into my computer to upload files. I’ve bought a newer model, but it is a little heavier and more complicated and I still haven’t got around to giving it a good road test.
9. Back up “in the cloud”
I use a program called SugarSynch which maintains a complete mirror of all the files on my computer and is constantly backing up anything new. I can also access my SugarSynch files using my smartphone but I haven’t tried it yet. One really cool feature is that SugarSynch will generate a url I can use to send large audio and video files by email instead of trying to use attachments.
10. An IT guy
As you can imagine, I could never keep all of this technology up to date and operating if I wasn’t married to a technology whiz who graciously spends far too much time moonlighting as my IT guy. But I’m not letting him give up his day job yet.
11. A health and wellness program
I belong to a gym and have an elliptic trainer at home as back up. However, I consider Rudy the dog and Simba the cat as essential elements of my health and wellness regime. I try to walk the dog twice a day and the cat purring on my desk definitely brings my blood pressure down when I have multiple deadlines.
Do you work at home some or all of the time?