For a growing number of workers, home office technology has become vital for getting their work done. Seven in 10 professionals around the globe now work remotely from home at least once a week, a recent study by IWG found. Over one in 20 Americans now work entirely from home, U.S. Census data shows. Freelancers already comprise over a third of the American workforce, and by 2027, will make up a majority of U.S. workers, Upwork projects.
These trends make an increasing segment of workers dependent on technology for their income. Here are some tips to help you make sure your home office is optimized for using the technology you need to get your work done.
A prerequisite for setting up a tech-ready home office is getting connected to reliable power sources. Having a lot of cords all over your office can create an unwieldy mess and make it hard to do maintenance, so a power cord management strategy is prudent.
Plan to use wireless devices when possible to reduce cable clutter. For items that use cables which sit under your desk, you’ll want a surge protector to avoid electrical damage. Hide your surge protector in a homemade box or cablebox to keep attached cables contained. Bundle loose cables together with zip ties or cable sleeves.
For cables sitting on your desk, shorten their lengths by wrapping them around an item such as a Cablebone. Store unused cables you only use occasionally in a separate area; running them through the gap in binder clips can be a good way to store them. Keep cables labeled with a method such as color coding or using bread clips so that they’re easier to identify.
Getting set up for wireless connectivity is another essential step. In today’s smart home environment, your best bet is to set up a Wi-Fi mesh router system, which combines a central hub with distributed satellites so that your wireless network covers your entire home. This helps prevent running into dead spots that interrupt your connection in parts of your home. Positioning your router in a central part of your home, using an external antenna with high-gain directional sensitivity or using a repeater can also extend your coverage.
To optimize your Wi-Fi signal, look for a router running on a 802.11ac standard, which supports a throughput of 1 Gbps. Configure your settings for optimal performance. If your router has dual-band features, you may be able to improve speed by using the 5 GHz band instead of the 2.4 GHz band.
If you’re getting interference from neighbors’ networks, try changing router channels. Use your router’s Quality of Service (QoS) tools to limit bandwidth for non-essential uses of your wireless network, such as videos or video games used by other family members.
Keep your router firmware and wireless and network driver software updated to ensure top performance.
Working from home makes you a target for cyberhackers and thieves, so it’s important to follow digital security strategy best practices. These include:
- Using strong, unique passwords of 12 characters or more, with a mix of capital and small letters, numbers and symbols
- Changing your default router password to a strong password, and setting your SSID network name to hidden
- Using a firewall
- Logging onto the internet through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connection
- Using current operating system updates, app updates and antivirus software with the latest bug fixes and security patches
- Periodically backing up important data and storing it separately from your main computer, using a method such as an external hard drive or a cloud-based backup service (making multiple backups using separate methods and storing one at a different physical location is actually advisable)
In addition to digital security, it’s also important to keep your home office and general premises physically secured to protect your equipment and sensitive files. Follow good home security practices such as locking doors and windows, in addition to locking your home office. Keep important documents stored in a secure location such as a lockbox. Consider using a reliable security camera system with motion detection to monitor your property.
If you’re working at home, you’re probably going to be sitting at a desk a lot, so it’s important to make sure your technology setup is ergonomically designed to avoid strain and injuries. Set your desktop or laptop computer on a desk at a height where you don’t have to lean over or look up to see what you’re working on, with monitors about an arm’s length away. Use a monitor large enough to avoid eye strain. Sit in a comfortable chair set at a height where your knees are about even with your hips. Set keyboards, mouses and other frequently used items at a height where your hands are at or below elbow level.
If you talk on the phone frequently while you’re at your desk, consider using a headset instead of holding your phone manually. Keep other items you need frequently stored within easy reach.
A Tech-Ready Office Makes Working From Home Easier
Following these guidelines will help make working with technology from your home office easier. Well-managed cords, a reliable wireless connection, a secure workspace and a comfortable ergonomic set-up provide a foundation for a home office environment where you can focus on getting your work done instead of worrying about technology hassles.