Tools, tips, and toys for remote work from home

For about the past 20 years, I have worked mostly from home. As a remote worker, I enjoy the following benefits:

  • I live a healthier life style because I eat better and exercise more
  • I have more time in my life because I’m not commuting to work
  • I spend less money eating out, buying gas, maintaining my car
  • I am more relaxed and less stressed
  • I enjoy using my own private bathroom
  • I control my own background noise

But to be effective, remote workers need to have the right tools and IT setup for their home office. This is what I have found to be effective for me:

  • Fast Internet. One of the drawbacks of remote work is a disconnect between employees. Some people experience loneliness and isolation. One way to overcome this is by regular video conference calls, which often suck bandwidth. So, it is important to have as fast of an Internet and WiFi as possible. I am blessed to have 1GB from Verizon FiOS and my favorite WiFi system is eero.
  • Conference cam. Remote teams need to teleconference regularly. It helps to have a conference cam that includes a camera that is not attached to your laptop monitor, one that can be placed at or above eye level, and has an excellent speaker and mic combo. I am particularly fond of the Logitech BCC960.
  • Staying connected. One of the problems people may suffer from when working from home remotely is the feeling of isolation and loneliness. We overcome this a couple of ways. First, we use Slack to instant messaging. Slack has various channels so people can subscribe to conversations relevant to them. We also have a fun channel where people can just joke around a bit. In addition, we have group video conferences. The app we use for that is Zoom, which we like because we can record meetings. Once we week, we hop on a group web conference just to BS and yuk it up for a few minutes.
  • Standable work desk. One thing that commuting forces many people to do is to walk. Back in the day, when I commuted to Washington DC, it was common for me to walk from my house to the bus stop, then from the bus to the metro, then from my metro stop to my office building. Once inside my office building, I walked a lot to see people, attend meetings and standups, go to the lunch room, etc. I walked thousands of steps per day. Working from home often deprives us of these opportunities. So, it’s important to get up once in a while and perhaps even stand while working. I use a Varidesk.
  • Desk light. Often, when I interview people or participate in meetings, there is always that person who looks like they are in witness protection. Because they are sitting with their back to a window or light, their silhouette becomes too dark to see their face and facial expressions, which kind of defeats the purpose of a video conference. I am particularl fond of the Aukey Smart Touch LED Desk Lamp which allows me to direct the light directly towards my face so it lights up nicely. I can adjust the brightness and color temperature so I look nice and tanned 🙂 and I can also use the USB charging ports to keep my mobile devices charged.
  • Sound proofing. One thing that drives me nuts is annoying noises. It would be important to have a dedicated room or space and the ability to shut the door. I also have a signal that I can put out, like a “On Air” or “Recording” light to indicate that I am in a meeting and need people to be quiet. Fabric is a great nonconductor (or absorber) of noise and sound. So, carpet and rugs on the floor or tapestries on the wall can help reduce echo and absorb sound. I use acoustic panels in my home office and it is amazing the difference in my voice when I am talking in the hall and then walk into my office. I have used acoustical materials from AcoustimacKirei, and GIK Acoustics.
  • Sharing files. Regardless of whether you have a physical office that you go to from time to time and then alternate work from home or if you are a full-time work from home professional, it becomes convenient to store files on the cloud so you can access it from any device and share with colleagues and team members. We use a combination of Google Drive, Dropbox, and on occasion, Microsoft OneDrive.

Between the gig economy and digital transformation of the information age, more and more people are expected to work from home. So, I hope these tools, tips, and toys are helpful to you.

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