Setting Up a Home Office – 5 Things You Need and 5 Things You Want

Here is a checklist to help you set up your own home office. I’ve listed 5 things you need and 5 things you want. I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but was inspired to do it this week by the ProBlogger Group Writing Project. Check it out after you’ve got your office set up.

1. You need a computer. You want a laptop!
You still get more bang for your buck with a desktop system but the price difference is decreasing every day. By choosing a laptop you gain mobility. Laptops allow you to work in other parts of the house; on the road; or in the office. The fact of the matter is that most hardware power these days is overkill unless you are a heavy gamer, big into video encoding, or perform lots of complicate CAD and graphic work.

2. You need a printer. You want a multi-function printer/scanner/fax/copier!
We simply haven’t achieved the paperless office yet. A printer is still essential. However, since you are taking up the desk space anyway, consider getting a multifunction printer/scanner/fax/copier. You will be surprised at how little these additional features add to the price. Even though you may not need them all the time, you will be glad you have the ability to whip out an occasional fax or copy a contract. Other features to look for are wired or wireless network ready and a document feeder. (Check out our review on the Brother MFC-420cn.)

3. You need a phone. You want VOIP!
Some may argue with me on this one, but hear my case. With VOIP you are paying far less for far more. Most VOIP plans come with all the features you can dream of and include long distance to boot. Many are now even including some international destinations as part of their unlimited plans. The sound quality isn’t always perfect, but VOIP certainly does the job 99.9% of the time and saves you a bundle. (Read and write reviews of various VOIP providers in our Resource Directory.)

4. You need an internet connection. You want broadband!
It’s the 21st century. You need the internet. You need to be connected. You can’t settle for dial-up. It just doesn’t cut it anymore. If budget is your primary concern, I urge you to look at entry level DSL in your area. I have been shocked at how cheap some of these plans have become. If you are still on dial-up and haven’t checked DSL prices in a while, run (don’t walk) to your nearest provider and see what they offer, you may find that you can get a faster connection for less money than you are paying for dial-up. (Read and write reviews of various Broadband ISPs in our Resource Directory.)

5. You need a dedicated space for your office. You want a door!
Designate a comfortable space in your house with the room you need to perform your job. Furnish it with a desk of the appropriate size, a chair with the proper support and make sure that there aren’t a lot of distractions. I highly recommend that your designated space has a door. A door serves two essential purposes. It keeps out noise and distractions when you are working in the office, and it keeps you out of office when you should be living. Work-Life balance is important and a simple door is a great way to preserve it.

Telecommuting Proposals for Congress

I came across two related articles about congress members and telecommuting today…

Yes they are satire. Yes, I do enjoy making fun of our political leaders. Yes, it is generally more fun to mock the party in power, but I believe taking shots at either party is fair game and well deserved.

Enjoy.

Be Careful What You Ask For

I am going to file this one under, “Yikes!”

AOL recently released three months worth of search data to researchers. To “protect the privacy” of the searchers, their names were replaced by identifying numbers. Of course it isn’t too difficult to narrow down the identity of an “anonymous” searcher by looking at what they searched for. The author of this article in the New York Times did exactly that.

AOL has since taken down the data and apologized, but the damage has already been done. It has been copied and spread all over the internet now.

The point is that our privacy is slipping away. There are records of everything you do and it doesn’t take much for these records to get out. Be careful. Be outraged.

One of the Benefits of Working at Home

For those who don’t know, I work in a home office in my basement in Maryland. I telecommute for a company in California and I manage projects with people from three continents. I am one of the 2% of the American workforce that is a full time teleworker.

Telecommuting full time is not easy. You have to communicate better and perform better than your office bound counterparts to get the same amount of recognition and career advancement potential.

I have a family to support, so career advancement is an important issue for me. So you may be wondering why I would want to make it more difficult to get a promotion.

One reason is lunch. Yes, Lunch.

I save $7-$10 a day by going upstairs for lunch rather than to the local greasy spoon for my mid-day meal. Of course that $1600 a year is not the reason I like lunch at home. I like it because I get to eat lunch with my two-year old son.

Yesterday, I gave him chicken nuggets for lunch. He ate all but two and then said, “Daddy’s nuggets” and began rotating the plate so that the nuggets were closer to me. Whether this was generosity, a lesson in sharing, or a clever ploy to get out of eating the last two nuggets was anyone’s guess.

In any case when he completed the 180 degree rotation, he stopped, got a funny look on his face, giggled, pointed at the nuggets and then said, “Eyes!” He realized that the 2 nuggets at the top of a blue plate looked like a funny face and was amazed by the discovery.

So there it is. In 30 seconds, I got to see my son plot, plan, execute, use his imagination, discover, and communicate his creative discovery with glee.

This is remarkable to me because last month I was amazed when he started putting together words into sentences that made sense. The month before that I was amazed when he started saying, “Yes” to things instead of the ubiquitous “No, no, no!” that was his response to nearly every previous question or request.

By eating lunch at home, I get to watch my son grow, learn, and discover. I don’t miss out on the mischief, plots and bursts of creativity that only happen in the middle of mundane tasks like eating lunch.

Watching your kid grow up is an amazing thing that I get to do more often because I am not sitting in traffic for two hours day. I know through the little things discovered over lunch that he is smart and becoming more clever everyday. This is a great thing to see, because it let’s me know that the extra $1600 a year I am putting into his college fund will not go to waste.

Save Time and Money!

The Baltimore Business Journal made a shocking claim. It says that employees’ reluctance to telecommute costs them a lot of time and money.

They gleaned this information from the 2005/2006 National Technology Readiness Survey.

Of the survey respondents, 25% had employers that supported telecommuting or jobs that were conducive to telecommuting, but only 11% actually took advantage of telecommuting.

If the folks that could telecommute managed to do it once or twice a week, they would save a collective $3.9 billion in gas alone. This number doesn’t count wear and tear on the roads or pollution.

The median commute found in the study was 10 miles and 20 minutes each way.

The survey was prepared by Rockbridge Associates and sponsored by the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

What is Telecommuting?

What is telecommuting? What is telework? Lately we have had a number of visitors searching for the answer to these questions and I realized that I haven’t answered them directly before, so here goes…

Telecommuting or telework is an arrangement where some or all of an employees tasks can be done at a location other than the designated central office or worksite.

Traditionally the home is generally used as the “other” location but it can be a hotel room, a customer site, a coffee shop, the back yard, or anywhere that the environment allows the employee to complete their tasks or projects.

Both terms “telecommute” and “telework” were coined in 1973 by Jack Nilles, a rocket scientist that became known as the father of telecommuting. Both words are now used interchangeably, but the original use of the term telecommute referred to the ability of telecommunications technology to eliminate the need to travel or commute physically to a central location.

Telework is made possible by technology, but it is the very human qualities and specific skillsets of the teleworker and the manager that make teleworking arrangements successful or not.

How To Set up a Home Office Network: Part 1 – Getting Internet Service

How To Set up a Home Office Network
Part 1: Getting Internet Service

The first step in setting up a home office network is to figure out how you are going to connect to the internet. You need an on-ramp to the information superhighway. There are several different ways to get on the Internet. This is good because competition lowers prices and improves features, but bad because marketing geniuses have a gift for confusing everyone about their choices.

Read the rest of this article »

How To Set up a Home Office Network: The Overview

How To Set up a Home Office Network: The Overview

This is a multi-part series to explain in simple language the process of connecting to the internet and setting up a home network.

The Overview – Includes a checklist. Looking for the basics? Start here.
Part 1: Get Service – Choosing an internet service provider
Part 2: Get Connected – What equipment is necessary for connecting one or more machines to each other and the internet.
Part 3: Get Secure – Securing your network from hackers and pests. (coming soon)
Part 4: FAQ – Submit your questions in the comments or using our form. (coming soon)
Read the rest of this article »

Laptop Stolen from VA Teleworker Recovered

The head of the VA reported that the stolen laptop with veterans’ personal information on it had been recovered.

If, as it appears, the data has not been compromised then this is good news for vets. However, I don’t see how it lets the VA off the hook for their shoddy data security practices.

They don’t need to forbid teleworking, they simply need to implement policies and practices to protect data. Some of these practices will include technology, some will include behavioral changes. All will include an awareness of security implications on the part of all who access or transport data.

Wow! Buffett Gives $37 Billion to Charity!

Yeah. That’s billion with a “B”.

Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, announced that he is giving about $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (You know, the charitable foundation created by the richest man in the world.) Buffett is also giving about $7 billion to the charitable foundations of his wife and kids.

For those counting along at home, this leaves about $7 billion for those incidental expenses required as Warren winds his way through his senior years.

Wow!

I don’t really know what else to say. I just hope to do the same thing some day. I had better get started.