The changing global landscape is bringing changes to the way many people work. As the cost of physical office space escalates and as pressure mounts to save fuel and reduce environmental impact, more workers find themselves working at home rather than making the commute to their employer’s office. If this happens to you, you will need an office of your own in your residence that will help you be effective in your work.
Here you will find 7 essential tools every office needs. Get these and you will be on your way to establishing a productive place to work.
1. Effective communication tools: You need to make sure you can stay in touch with your coworkers, which means email, messaging, and voice service. You can use your home phone, but if you want to keep your business life separate, you will need your own phone number. You can get a number from Google Voice or Skype and use their messaging and teleconferencing options as well. You costs will vary depending on what services you use, although computer to computer calling, chat, and video chat are normally free.
2. Meetings and seminars: When you don’t have a commercial facility to work in, it’s hard to roll out products, hold sales and customer meetings, or even meet with investors. You can still meet with clients, demonstrate new products and hold industry forums, but you just do it online rather than in a physical meeting. Services such as GoToMeeting, WebEx, and others allow you to address large groups, collaborate in real time and share presentations, making them essential tools for any office. These services have 30 day free trials, after which you can select a plan priced to fit your budget.
3. Virtual personal assistants: When it’s you, you are the business and you are the office staff, so you have to find ways to manage details of your business without getting behind in your productive work. Services like PageOnce will collect all your utility bills, cell phone bills, and entertainment bills together with social media updates and send them to your phone in a neat, manageable format. This service is free.
4. Project management tools: As a remote worker, you need to have tools available to help manage your projects. Scheduling, time, resources, task management can all be handled via online Web applications that allow you to be productive anywhere you happen to be. Consider Basecamp, one of the best online tools for project management, for a subscription. Plans start at $24 per month.
5. Knowledge base: Information is valuable in every business, so the more of it that you can store and retrieve later, the better off you will be. A knowledge base helps you document how different problems and support issues were handled in the past, so the next time around the answer will come at an instant. MediaWiki is a popular (and free) knowledge base that runs on your Web server. If you need a hosted solution, consider PBWiki which has business subscriptions starting at $20 per month.
6. Scheduling: Google Calendar offers powerful scheduling features that help you schedule your time. You can even share calendars for team scheduling and you can add items to coworkers’ calendars as long as they allow it. This is a powerful tool that will make sure you leave nothing out of your busy day.
7. Data backup: No office should attempt to operate without a disaster management plan in place. One part of that plan should be backing up your computer data. Services such as Elephant Drive will maintain copies of your data while running in the background on your computer. This automates the process and makes sure that you always have a recent copy of your data available even if your computer crashes. Plans start at $25.00 per month for business users.
Setting up a remote office is challenging, but is you make sure you have these 7 essential tools every office needs, you will be well on your way to a productive and profitable career in your home office.