10 Essential Telecommuting Tools and Gadgets

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10 Essential Telecommuting Tools and Gadgets
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You've landed a dream job that allows you work from home full time, but how do you outfit your home office so you can be just as productive in a domestic setting as you were in a business one? The key is to create a space that gets you quickly into the mindset of work but also allows you to leave it once you've put in your hours or you need to take a break, says Brandon Dempsey, the president of HR Telecommuting, a telecommuting consultancy in St. Louis.

A Separate Room
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A Separate Room

If possible, create your home office in a separate room with a door, and preferably with a window. Don't just work from your kitchen table or living room, Dempsey says. A separate room allows you to more clearly separate work from home and it can keep out noises like barking dogs or fighting children. "The biggest pet peeve of clients is background noise on the phone," Dempsey says. "Having a door to your office lets you step in and get into work mode and step out and get into home mode."

Proper Chair and Desk
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Proper Chair and Desk

If you are telecommuting, it's essential to sit at a chair and a desk, Dempsey says. "People will sometimes work from their beds or couch and they can develop back problems and carpel tunnel syndrome," Dempsey says. Depending on how tall you are and the height of the table, you may need to adjust your chair's height so that you aren't straining to view your computer screen.

Good Apps
Photo courtesy FreshBooks

Good Apps

Many free and paid applications that you can download to your computer can increase productivity. Microsoft Office Communicator is an add-on to Microsoft Office that provides instant message and voice and video call services. for example. FreshBooks is also a good cloud accounting tool and Spotify, an online music player, lets you listen to tunes but conveniently shuts off if a call comes into your computer. Another program, Switch Off, forces your computer to hibernate for a certain amount of time, helping you to take breaks, Dempsey says.

Speaker Phone
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Speaker Phone

Most cellphones and home phones have terrible speakers, so it pays off to invest in a higher-quality speaker to talk to clients, Dempsey says. Many compact options are available that allow you to connect to your cellphones via Bluetooth and will pause music when a call comes in.

Hard Drive Backup
Photo courtesy Dropbox

Hard Drive Backup

With all the important work stored on your computer, it's essential to back it up in case your computer crashes. You can purchase a backup hard drive that will copy your work onto a separate drive, or you can utilize online backup services such as Mozy or Carbonite that can allow you to access your files at any computer with Internet access, Dempsey says. Cloud storage services like Dropbox can also help protect important files by providing an online copy of selected folders.

Extra Monitors
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Extra Monitors

You'll be surprised at how much more productive you can be with two monitors. Most laptop screens are very small, so having one or two extra monitors allows you to easily do work without straining your eyes, Dempsey says. You might need to purchase additional cables to help you connect the monitors.

USB Hub
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USB Hub

If you are connecting different devices to your computer, a USB hub or expander is a must, Dempsey says. You can purchase any size that works with your needs so that your printer, telephone, headset, mouse, keyboard or tablet can all function at the same time.

Temperature Control
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Temperature Control

Space heaters and fans are a great idea for the home office, Dempsey says, and they can save you money without having to heat or cool your whole house. Space heaters come with varying levels of power, so pick one that is appropriate for the size of your office. The wrong size might produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.

Power Strip
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Power Strip

If you value your work, plug your computer into a backup power strip that has surge protection so that if you happen to lose power, your hardware won't be damaged, Dempsey says. It's a little more expensive, but a backup strip that offers an uninterrupted power supply features a battery that can let you work for a short time after losing power.

Cooling Fan
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Cooling Fan

A cooling fan or cooling pad is a good idea if you use a laptop to telecommute, Dempsey says. A laptop produces more heat than a regular computer because the internal parts are so close together. Excessive heat can build up and burn your skin or even the laptop itself, so a cooling fan or pad can really improve the life of your computer.

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