More and more people are working from home: some telecommute for their paid job, some own their own home-based businesses and some use their home offices as super-charged productivity hubs for all their jobs, clients, paid hobbies, and more. The one thing all home offices have in common is that they should all be geared up and streamlined for distraction-free, enjoyable productivity. We’ve got a quick list of some essential tech items that can help you work smarter, not just harder. Some of these items may even save you a bunch of money.
All-in-one or multifunction machine
In the not-so-distant past, home offices typically had a veritable flotilla of devices to help keep things running — a printer, a scanner, a copier, and a fax machine. Thank the geek gods for constantly improving technology, because all those old devices fit into one slim, high-tech machine. All-in-one units have high-quality color printers, high-resolution scanners, and copy functions. Unfortunately, most don’t come with faxing capabilities anymore. (Instead, you can just scan a document and fax it for free using faxzero.com or similar site.) An all-in-one is essential because it does so much and takes up so little space. You’ll also save a lot on your electricity bills by dropping from four power-hungry devices to one.
Some popular all-in-one units:
Laptop computers are often preferred for home-office use because they allow work to be done from more than one static location in the home. They can be moved from desk to desk, out of the office and onto the porch, and even on the road, if necessary. Should you get a little stir-crazy from working from the same location all the time, a quick trip to a coffee house with wireless internet can work wonders for clearing cobwebs, sparking new ideas and reminding you that you’re still part of a social society. You just can’t get that freedom with a desktop computer. Laptops use much less power than desktops, so you could see an almost instant drop in power consumption. Even better, most new laptops are comparable to desktops in power, memory, and speed.
Some of the best-rated laptops:
External hard drive
If you value any of the data on your computer, you need to keep it backed up in some way or another. If you have lots of data to protect (images, spreadsheets, business plans, computer code, emails, etc.), you’ll want a very reliable external hard drive. Storing duplicates of your files on an external drive saves you untold grief should your main computer ever fail or go missing. Always buy a hard drive that can hold more data than you think you’ll need. You can often get drives with 200% more storage room for only 10% to 20% higher prices than base models. Excellent value, brilliant security solution.
Some of the best external hard drives:
If you’re one of the few people still using a bulky CRT monitor in your home office, please, please, please do yourself and the environment a favor by upgrading. The best monitors for 2019 offer stunning visual quality, low power consumption and, best of all, widescreens can enhance productivity. Even if you’re using a laptop, you can benefit immensely from the productivity boost an external monitor can provide. It essentially doubles your workspace, allowing you to multitask like mad, all without having to switch back and forth between super tiny windows. Prices are right for any budget, too.
The best-rated monitors include:
Unless you’re hearing impaired or suffer from terribly low attention span, one of the most enjoyable productivity boosters can be background music. Whether it’s a little Tony Bennett playing softly over the airwaves, or trip-hop cranked up loud enough to drown out air raid sirens, music is both aesthetic and therapeutic. Fortunately, high-quality speaker systems are very affordable and can play directly from your computer or phone. Desktop systems, shelf systems, and even floor-based systems can be found online and in retail stores everywhere. Speaker sets may not save you any money, but the music they play can inspire you to do more.
Some popular speaker systems:
Whether you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, the wrong keyboard can wreak havoc on your workflow and can prematurely tire your hands and fingers. Bad keyboards contribute to typos, hand/wrist strain and, quite often, excessively loud key noise that can drive some people batty. Find a new keyboard that has smooth keying action that feels good under the tips of your fingers. Ergonomic keyboards can help reduce and/or prevent strain. Most high-quality keyboards have wireless versions, helping you keep your desk clutter free.
Three of the best rated wireless keyboards:
Old style mice with the rubber ball underneath are notoriously bad when it comes to accurate mouse movements. No matter how clean you or your workspace may be, gunk inevitably builds up, causing herky-jerky, uncontrollable mouse action. They’re also prime gathering places for nasty germs. An optical or laser mouse will work beautifully on most surfaces, and you can even ditch the nasty mousepad. Some mice are made with comfortable ergonomic designs, making them very pleasant to use for long periods of time. Wireless mice (whether Bluetooth or RF) are great for keeping desks clean and tidy.
Some of the best mice include:
In a work environment, phone headsets can be invaluable. Whether corded or wireless, headsets allow extra mobility, eliminate kinked-neck syndrome and add freedom for both hands to work on other things. Bluetooth headsets allow you to freely walk around the office environment, up to 30 feet from the phone itself. Most Bluetooth headsets (and many corded headsets) also work well with VoIP applications like Skype, iChat, etc.
The best headsets include:
VoIP Phone Service
Standard landlines, though old-school, are commonly used for home office phone service. Many home-based entrepreneurs and remote employees use cell phones, especially if they need to be mobile on a regular basis. Another fantastic option — often free or incredibly inexpensive — is to use an already-existing high-speed internet connection for VoIP – also known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or internet telephony. Think Skype and Vonage. These services can save tens, hundreds and even thousands of dollars on long-distance and long-duration calls.
The best VoIP phone services include:
Along with all the gadgets sprawled all over the average home office desk, there is inevitably an equal number of charging blocks and cords connected to said gadgetry. Virtually eliminate the mess by getting a supercharging hub like the Callpod Chargepod. The Chargepod can simultaneously charge up to six gadgets and only uses one wall outlet. It’s a fantastic space-saver in the home office and works wonders for simplifying business and personal travel and lightening the bags you may carry.
Here are some more charging hub options: