15 tips to maximize your home office productivity

From a productivity perspective, working at home can be your best friend or your worst nightmare based on a number of factors, including your personal discipline, home work environment, level of needed interaction with your coworkers, the ability of your boss to manage virtual teams, and a number of other related factors.

This is the first of two blogs on this topic. This week’s blog contains tips 1 to 6, next week’s blog contains tips 7 though 15.

We can talk about your boss in a different blog, but for today, I’d like to give you some tips on how to maximize your productivity when working in the comfort of your own home.

1. Embrace telephone related gadgets: One key to home productivity is convenient and high quality phone communication. As a result, I suggest you have the following items at your fingertips: • Land-line based telephone: Cell phones are great. I have one and I love it. That said, it’s easier to lose your cell phone than it is to lose a land line that’s plugged into the wall. Also, it’s my opinion, that generally speaking land lines have a more consistently high sound quality. • Speaker phone: It allows you to be hands free in your office to use the keyboard, be cleaning your office, and/or filing documents. I particularly like to use my speaker phone when I’m on hold because of the potential difference in sound volume between the On Hold music and the person I’m are waiting to answer. • Wireless USB headphones: I know they are expensive, but they save you from being tethered to your desk/computer giving or listening to a webinar. • Cordless phone and headset: Like the wireless USB headphones, this saves you from being tethered to your desk when you are on the phone. It also allows you to multi-task when on less important phone calls, allowing you to fold laundry, make lunch, or other home related task. Note: if you are doing the dishes remember to hit the mute button :)

2. Have a network based printer / scanner / copy/ fax machine: Having a combination printer/scanner/copier/fax truly is a four in one. The printer, well, you need a printer. The scanner is great for signed non-disclosure forms, expense reports, and other items that need to be digitized. The copier, well, it’s faster and easier than having to scan it to a PDF and then print it. Lastly, regarding a fax machine, it’s great for those occasional times when you actually need to fax something to someone. I personally barely ever need to fax something anymore, but when I do, it’s nice to have the capability handy. As a final note, one advantage of an all-in-one device is that it takes less physical space in your office.

3. Active PC offsite backup tool: Use a product like Carbinate to back up your PC on an ongoing basis. This has three advantages: • It automatically backs up your PC without you having to think about it. • Because it’s cloud based, it gives you access to all your backed up files when you travel. This can be a lifesaver if you forgot to bring important files with you when you travel and physically turned off your home PC.

4. Use a cloud-based virtual disk drive: A product like Dropbox allows you to share big files, such as videos and very large documents with others without using email. This has two big advantages. First, if the file is too large, your email provider or the company you are sending it to may not accept it. Second, it saves you from filling your email server with large files.

5. High speed internet connectivity: Simply put, the faster your internet connectivity, the less time you will waste waiting for files to upload and download and the faster your browser will display needed web pages.

6. A well designed workspace: The advantage of having a well designed, comfortable, high quality home workspace cannot be emphasized enough. This importance is best stated by author Linda Varone. “Your productivity when working at home may have less to do with willpower than with the setup of your workspace.” Her book “The Smarter Home Office: 8 Simple Steps to Increase your Income, Inspiration, and Comfort” provides great insights on ways to layout a productive home office.

I hope that these first six tips have been of value to you. Next week’s blog will not only contain additional tips about your office, but it will also include some tips about you.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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