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Get Your Office Right for Work at Home

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 3, 2020

While we battle the Coronavirus more people will be working from home and in some cases several members in each household. I shared some of these tips in the past but felt it is still a relevant topic.

Productivity and employee wellbeing are crucial to the success and growth of any business — even for a solo entrepreneur. During my career, I’ve been in charge of productivity and human resources for teams of 20 to 500, during which time I’ve relied heavily on equipment and technology. This month, I want to share ideas, solutions and suggestions for the physical workspace that have helped me during my transition into the career service industry.

Over the past seven years, I’ve tested and implemented things that have improved my productivity and wellbeing, starting with my home office.

Two years ago, Rob and I relocated to Florida, and when we were looking at new homes, the need for a good office space was top on our list.

Now is the perfect time to plan a few upgrades.

The recommendations below are solutions that worked for me, but they might not work for your home office, work style or budget. By sharing them, I hope to inspire you to think about how you can improve your home office, energy and productivity.

 

1 A good laptop is a significant investment, but be careful. It’s easy to blow your budget on a laptop. Believe me, I’ve been there. Shown here is my MS Surface Pro 4. Last year, I upgraded from a Surface Pro 2. These are the pro tablet versions, which are super portable and have the full power of a laptop, but they are too small for everyday use without a dock setup allowing you to use larger screens, the way I do. MS now has Surface laptops that pack a big punch. Mine has an Intel i7, 2.5GHZ processor with 16.0 GB RAM, and is 64-bit, with a 512GB SSD (no more hard drives).

I recommend not going lower than 8.0 GB RAM, as this will help when you have a lot of applications open simultaneously. Get at least an i5 processor. The size of the SSD drive depends on what else you use your computer for other than work. If you use MS Office 365, you get 1TB of cloud storage, which allows you to save items to the cloud and not on your SSD drive. A really good midpoint is the Intel Core i5, 256GB SSD with 8 GB RAM, but think about your needs two years from now so your laptop will grow with you.

PRODUCTIVITY: This setup allows quick startup in less than 15 seconds and the ability to switch between multiple applications with ease, so everything runs smoothly.

2 Whether you have a desktop, a laptop or a tablet PC, the ability to add screens is essential. Monitors are inexpensive these days. I have two 27" Acer widescreens that I bought for $189 each. BestBuy, BJ’s and Costco will normally have 27" to 32" monitors on sale for less than $200. The quality is perfect for our industry; but since I’m not a gamer or a graphic designer, I can’t speak to their performance for those uses. I highly recommend that you get monitors that can switch between landscape and portrait view, as shown.

PRODUCTIVITY: With this setup, I can have five items open at the same time in full view, which saves time and lets you brainstorm with information clarity. MS Windows 10 enables you to snap screens in half, which you can also do on a Mac manually. In my desk pic, you’ll see my 3rd monitor in portrait view, which allows me to see two pages at once.

APRIL 2020 | PAGE 17

3 An adjustable desk was one the best investments I made in my office. After my first year sitting all the time, I knew needed to make a change. I opted for VariDesk (Vari) converter that sits on top of a conventional desk. I purchased the PRO PLUS 36 model. I paid $350 and used it for four years. When we moved, I sold it on Craigslist for $225. Pros: it works, it’s well constructed and I got into the habit of working standing about 25% of the time. Cons: it’s not that pretty sitting on your desk. It’s bulky, you need alot of surface space and its a little pricey, but the quality is worth the extra cost over cheaper versions.

When we set up our new home office, I purchased a 24"x54" electric adjustable desk with five memory settings. I purchased it through a local office furniture store and paid approximately $550, matching it to the rest of my furniture.

WELLBEING: Once I started standing for 10 to 15 minutes each work hour, my back and neck pain started to vanish, and I felt more flexible. An unexpected benefit I learned about myself was that when I was on sales calls or coaching sessions, my engagement, focus and energy level were sharply boosted when standing or moving/ pacing around my office. This led to closing more sales and connecting to my clients on a higher level.

4 Monitor mounts. Since I was adding two monitors to my desk, I wanted to keep the surface clear and adjust the height and landscape/portrait orientation, so after much research, I went with the Kanto DMG2000 dual mount, and I’ve been very satisfied with the performance. I found the best pricing on Amazon. Make sure you purchase mounts that fit your monitor size.

WELLBEING: This setup improved my comfort level. I’m able to move them closer or farther away to read different font sizes and move them up or down to match the height at which I’m standing or sitting.

5 Desktop phone. I’m all for mobile phones, but I keep my business phone number and personal one separate. I use a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service, Ring Central, that allows me to answer client calls through the internet on my PC, on my mobile phone app or the Ring Central desktop phone, even when I shut my computer down.

PRODUCTIVITY: I’m able to stay in contact with my clients at all times, on my terms, which gives me the flexibility to head off issues before they get worse — and it helps me close more sales.

6 A wireless headset that provides clear communications and long battery life. I use Plantronics, which makes some of the best headsets, widely used in corporate call centers. I’ve been using an older model CS55 for 7+ years. There are now Bluetooth models that will connect to your PC or mobile phone.

PRODUCTIVITY: Outstanding quality calls support clear communication with clients and the ability to conduct calls from any point in my home. I’ve never had the battery die because it’s so convenient to use the easy charging stand, and I’ve had the same battery for 7 years.

7 Webcam. Most laptops come with decent webcams built in, and our cell phones can also act as good webcams, but when conducting coaching sessions, doing online training or making live sales web calls, providing high- quality HD is vital.

I’ve been using a Logitech C930e 1080P HD video webcam, which has wide view, internal tilts and 4x zoom that can be used for whiteboard presentations, creating web classes and everyday client interaction. This model is five years old, which gets the price down to about $69.

PRODUCTIVITY: I’ve never had an issue with the quality of Skype, GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar sessions, which improves my customer service and interactions with clients, as ours is a virtual industry. I started using the web and screen sharing during sales calls and have noticed an increase in landing clients via just a phone call.

 


DEDICATED OFFICE SPACE

It might be hard to have 100% of a room dedicated to your business. You might need to use the space as a guest bedroom or share your workspace with a spouse (like Rob and I) or use it for another dual purpose, but you should be able to shut the door when you’re working to block out noise. When you plan your home office space, you have to keep many things in mind, including style, smart use of the area and the a for face-to-face meetings with local clients, so we paid attention to style and made it fit with the rest of our home. Hopefully your window view also provides stimulation and energy.

CLOSING STATEMENT

I hope I’ve provided some ideas that you can implement to make your workspace more productive and comfortable. Please remember that what has worked for me might be different for you, so do your research before you purchase. Always shop around for pricing, I’ve found pricing for most accessories to be best on Amazon, I recommend purchasing a computer directly from the manufacture or trusted retailer. 

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