Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show in 2015 nearly a quarter of Americans worked from home at least part of the time. Many projections predict the rate of telecommuting will continue to trend upward in most industries. Some estimate independent contractors will make up 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
That means the home office is more relevant than ever. For many years a home office was a luxury. It was a room reserved for people in upper management. Today, the home office is the headquarters for telecommuters, freelancers, contractors and small business owners. Each home office has to suit the specific needs of the owner, but every telecommuter needs certain technology.
Reliable Internet Access
The one thing every telecommuter absolutely needs is a reliable Internet connection. The Internet has made telecommuting possible for most of today’s freelance and contract workers. Without it, very little work can be done. That’s why reliability should be a top consideration when you’re selecting an Internet plan.
Opting for a bundled plan like DIRECTV + Internet can help telecommuters save money and provides another outlet for keeping up with the national news, local news and happenings within your industry. Your services may even qualify as a tax deduction if you file as a self-employed individual.
Access to the Company Mainframe Computers
You may need to establish a remote desktop connection. It’s the ideal solution for any telecommuter that splits their week between home and the office. A remote desktop connection will allow your home computer or laptop to access your work computer. Basically, it syncs the two computers allowing access to both from either location.
At the very least, consider a cloud service for storing documents and using a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) project management system. Google also has a lot to offer telecommuters and information can be accessed from any computer.
Video Conferencing App
With video conferencing apps telecommuters can be present in the office or at a meeting without physically being there. Skype jumped on the video conferencing idea early on and remains a top provider of video chat tools. However, the options have greatly expanded, and video chatting is often built right into new smartphones.
One of the things you can do with video conferencing apps is train other employees or customers using screen captures alongside live video or audio. That means even managers or team leads can telecommute from home one or two days a week and still give people one-on-one instruction.
Internet Capable Smartphone
If you want true mobility and freedom, an Internet-capable smartphone is another must. Every year smartphones become more functional for professionals, especially with the introduction of plus-sized devices.
Just be careful. Smartphones can be a productivity booster or killer. It’s best to shut off notifications on your phone when you need to focus on a work task. When you leave the house, the office can still contact you if there’s something that needs to be addressed immediately. With a smartphone, you can also use a wait in line or trip on the trolley as an opportunity to read email, update your calendar, create a task list, check a project’s progress, etc.
Apps have replaced a lot of things, but the printer isn’t one of them. There’s far less need to print things out these days; however, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to print out a contract or agreement that needs to be signed.
Since a printer will rarely get used, you don’t have to break the bank to get one with all the bells and whistles. As long as it can sync with your computer and print clearly, that’s all most telecommuters need. That said, there are some impressive printers that can do a lot more than create paper documents.
Scanning App That Replaces Faxing
Once you print your document and sign it, you’ll need a way to send it. You could run down to the closest big box shipper and fax the document for about $1 a page. Or you can spend a few dollars on a scanning app that acts like a fax machine. Apps like TurboScan make it easy to take a picture of a document with your phone, convert the image into a PDF and email it to a recipient in under a minute.
Another benefit of a scanning app is it acts as a repository for all of the printed documents you’ve sent. Anytime you need to review a signed document you know where to look.
Maximize Productivity With a Digital Assistant
The latest digital assistants from tech giants like Amazon have finally overcome their quirks and are actually useful rather than simply cool. Digital assistants can look up the information for virtually anything in a matter of seconds. It can also sync with your smart home devices to automate systems for you.
All the little mundane tasks that take up a few minutes here and a few minutes there can derail productivity throughout the day. Let technology handle the work for you.