Thanks to job losses and stay-at-home initiatives this year, most of the American population is currently working from home.
A recent study into this phenomenon has revealed that 42 percent of Americans are now remote workers, 33% have suffered job losses, and only 17% (mostly essential workers) actually report for duty every day.
So, there’s a good chance you’ve already joined in this new normal way of earning your daily bread, and your boss might even have decided they like it that way.
Check out these work from home tools to help you stay productive, healthy, and sane while working from home.
The Ultimate Tools of the Trade
Thanks to modern-day advancements, you’ll need little more than a laptop to work from anywhere in the world. That means you can carry on with your day job from a coffee shop, on the beach, or from your dining room table.
So it makes sense to buy the best laptop you can afford since it’ll be your main moneymaker during your work-from-home endeavors.
If you want to get the most bang for your buck when upgrading your laptop, or shopping for a new one, make sure you look for Cyber Monday or other special offers. These are awesome opportunities to pick up new laptops for a fraction of the price they’d usually cost.
A Keyboard, Screen, and Mouse
While you’re shopping around for work optimizing tools, consider investing in a good keyboard and mouse too. The trackpad on your laptop simply isn’t designed for precision or speed and it can get in the way when you’re typing at speed.
Most laptop keyboards are fine but it’s difficult to maintain your posture while you’re hunched forward to reach it. Ideally, you want your screen at eye-level and this is impossible when you’re working on your laptop keyboard.
Double monitors quite literally mean you can work twice as fast since you’ll never lose track while switching screens.
An ergonomic support pad to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder pain from prolonged mouse action is an added comfort for when you’re burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline.
A Docking Station
If you can’t stand the chaotic jumble of wires that inevitably result from all these accessories, you can invest in a docking station to keep things tidy.
A docking station uses up only one of your USB ports to connect to all your extra attachments, keeping the cables away from your workspace. They also help charge your computer.
If you need to move your laptop, you only need to detach it from one cable and everything else stays put on your desk.
Fast, Affordable Internet
Your usual internet connection may have served you well in the past but you can rest assured it’s going to let you down in this age of online schooling, social media surfing, and binge-Netflixing.
With more people at home around the world, the internet’s becoming a drag in all but the most urban areas.
For maximum efficiency, and glitch-free online meetings you’re going to have to do better than your usual Wi-Fi connection.
You need a dedicated phone line for your internet with an ethernet connection. The trouble is, most laptops don’t have ethernet ports these days.
That’s easily remedied with an inexpensive USB adaptor and ethernet cable that connects directly to your router. This gives you first dibs on bandwidth and will prevent countless family arguments over who’s dominating the connection.
Setting Up Your Home Workspace
If you’ve been working from home since the pandemic sent us all scuttling for cover, you’ve discovered that you need a dedicated space for work by now.
Sitting on the couch all day long wreaks havoc with your body and the kitchen counter’s a hot spot of distractions. It’s also easier to keep office hours when you’ve got a space that’s separate from everyone else.
When you have your laptop set up in the living room, it’s easy to fall into the ‘just-one-more-thing’ trap and end up working way past your usual hours.
These are the essential items you need to create a comfortable workspace to maximize efficiency while you work from home:
A desk with drawers is ideal but they are expensive. Try shopping around for a second-hand desk or order a table online from one of the budget e-commerce stores.
While shopping for desks, you might want to consider getting a standing desk. The best part about these is that standing is much better for your posture and your health than sitting all day long.
Many workers also say they’re more productive when standing. If you want to try standing while you work, you don’t need to spend money on a fancy ergonomically-designed desk, you can opt for a stand that elevates your laptop or use a wide shelf instead of a desk.
An Ergonomic Chair
If standing for eight or more hours a day fills you with terror, a good quality chair designed to safeguard your back is a good investment in your future health.
Ergonomic chair out of your reach financially? You can opt for cheap yet effective posture cushions instead.
Desk Organizers and Office Decor
Clutter is the enemy of productivity. Keep your desk in good shape by ensuring that everything has its place and stays there. Ban your kids from your office area unless you want used plates and glasses, random clothing items, and toys littering your workspace.
A few pictures or ornaments can add aesthetic pleasure to the spaces you’ll be staring at for hours on end, and a pot plant or two may restore your will to live when crushing deadlines are looming all at once.
Work From Home Tools for Teams
Remote meetings are becoming ingrained in office culture and managed to keep everyone on track. They’re a poor substitute for socializing around the water cooler, or quick catch-ups when it comes to shared projects.
Fortunately, there are also a host of apps and other innovations available to keep teams talking and collaborating while they’re far apart.
These are some of the best ones:
Zoom is the ultimate meeting tool for 2020. You can host daily staff meetings, collaborate on projects, and check in on your team members with this useful tool.
You can host meetings for up to 100 people at a time on Zoom and the platform has a host of security features to keep your conversations confidential.
TeamViewer gives you remote access to your office PC as if you were right there. It’s also a lifesaver for workers who need remote help from the IT department with technical issues.
If you work with large amounts of data that are beyond the capabilities of a laptop, TeamViewer is your key to the server housed at work and all the storage space that goes along with it.
Slack is the world-leader in team collaboration. With this tool, you can set up different channels for departments, projects, or specific topics, such as IT issues.
You can send direct or group messages and video calls too.
Like Slack, Basecamp centers on team tasks with a few extras that make keeping track of work easier without countless emails back and forth. With Basecamp, you can set up projects, invite team members to join, and allocate tasks to each one.
It’s easy to mark tasks as complete, query issues with other team members, and keep track of progress with this tool.
Boosting Your Productivity
There are several things we can learn from freelancers and others who’ve been working from home since long before anyone ever suspected that a virus would have us all grounded.
Some of the best ones are:
- Listening to music while you work can energize you and keep you motivated
- Time trackers and time blocking are essential for getting things done on time
- Self-care, exercise, and rest help keep your mind fresh and your body free from aches and pains
- Looking up from your computer every twenty minutes prevents eye strain
- Getting up and moving away from your desk at least once an hour is key to preventing burn out
You’ll soon realize that it’s easy to become absorbed in your work and lose track of time. When you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long, you’ll start to feel sluggish and demotivated.
So, download an app that reminds you to get up and get moving, buy some speakers or headphones so you can listen to your favorite songs, and set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take time out.
Make the Most of Working from Home
Love it or hate it, there’s a good chance working from home is here to stay for the foreseeable future. So, it’s worth investing in some of these little extras to help you optimize your productivity.
After all, without anyone looking over your shoulder, every moment you save during the day belongs to you. That means more time for family and fun.
Browse our blog for more about the work from home tools you need to solve any more issues you have with productivity or to maximize your comfort and convenience during your workday.