Working from home has become the norm for many people today. For freelancers, small business owners, and those working remotely, it provides a certain freedom and lifestyle enrichment.
With today’s technologies, there is little you can do in an office building that you can’t do from home—provided you have the right equipment. You know you need the right hardware and software to perform your job-specific tasks, but what about the equipment to keep you comfortable? Or what you need to ensure you’re working safely and securely with everything properly backed up? Are all your bases covered?
Check out our home office essentials list below for making your workspace more efficient and productive.
Home Office Hardware Essentials
Hardware essentials are the nuts and bolts of your office. There are tons of available options for these items—here are some tips to point you in the right direction.
1. The Computer
The computer you choose will depend heavily on the type of work you do. Working from home suggests you are interested in mobility, so a laptop is likely the best choice. Again, which laptop you choose will depend on many factors including the battery life, feature set, and power. To compare models, check out Techradar’s look at the top laptops for business.
As powerful as today’s laptops are, there are still some tasks that require the extra power of a desktop. If this is what better fits your needs have a look at Techradar’s comparison of business desktop PCs.
2. The Monitor
If you’re using a desktop computer, the monitor is obviously an important aspect of the system. Even if you’re working on a laptop, a second monitor can come in handy to reduce eye strain.
Most monitors range from 19 to 34 inches. It’s recommended that the average user has a monitor between 22 and 24 inches—a nice compromise between screen size and the amount of space it takes up.
Larger monitors are nice when working with graphics or if you’re a multi-tasker who likes to have lots of windows open.
Here’s what you should look for when picking your monitor:<
- A resolution of at least 1080p (or 4K if it’s in your budget) and an aspect ratio of 16:9, the same as HDTV.
- The device the monitor is connected to has the proper inputs, generally HDMI
To help your decision, have a look at RTNGS.com’s list of the Best 6 Office Monitors (Summer 2019).
3. An All-In-One (AIO) Printer
In a home office, you need to consider functionality and practicality. Practicality includes saving space. That’s why an AIO printer makes sense. One machine to print, copy and scan—plus add on the fax function if you need it.
There are a slew of AIO printers on the market all with different features and functionalities, so you need to consider your actual needs:
- Are you printing mostly text or mostly graphics?
- Will you be printing in all black & white or colour too?
- What kind of page volume will you be using for printing and copying?
- Do you need to be able to email straight from the scanner?
Once you have taken the time to pinpoint your needs, have a look atPC Mag’s comparison of the Best All-In-One Printers for 2019.
4. Internet Provider & Router
A fast and reliable network is vital to your ability to work effectively from home. To create such a network, you will need a robust internet connection.
When looking at internet providers, here are a few things to consider:
- Look at the upload speeds, not just the download speeds. Upload speeds are important for video conferencing (a staple for many work-from-homers) as it affects the quality and speed of audio and video signals being sent outbound from your home office.
- You will need a reliable wireless router. In your home office, you don\’t have to worry about it being able to handle huge amounts of network traffic, but you\’ll still need something that has enough power to handle a number of devices accessing the network.
- Look for a router that is quick to set up and easy to use and maintain so you don’t need an IT pro to help you out. You’ll want features that are accessible through an easy-to-use interface that you can access through your computer or mobile device.
- Look at the security features, the support, connectivity options, scalability, and make sure it has a business grade VPN to keep your network safe and secure.
For help choosing the right wireless router for your home office, check out this 2019 guide from Consumer Reports
Home Office Software Essentials
Software essentials are the programs, applications, and operating systems necessary to perform the tasks of your business. While most of the software you choose to run will be specific to your industry, there are some software applications that every home office should be running.
1. Anti-virus Software
Whether you’re a business with a thousand employees or it’s just you working from home, malware and other attacks are always a concern.
Anti-virus software is an important aspect of cybersecurity. Viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malicious code can delete or corrupt your files, steal information, or allow others to access your computer and business information.
There are several things to consider when choosing an antivirus software:
- Paid vs. Free: while cost is always a consideration for a home office, free antivirus software tends to be less robust than paid options.
- Speed vs. Performance: make sure performance is not compromised for the sake of speed.
- Compatibility: make sure the software is compatible with all of your devices.
- Customer Service & Support: choose a provider that proactively informs customers about critical safety issues and offers excellent customer support.
- Protection System: Look for a product that uses Machine Learning (ML) and cloud-based systems to protect your networks. Cloud-based management helps alleviate the pain of setting up and configuring update servers.
- User-friendly: For your home office, look for a user-friendly system that is easy to set up yourself.
While there are many products available on the market, experience leads us to recommend as the best anti-virus software for small business. It provides an effective defence against viruses, spyware, ransomware, zero-day threats, and other online vulnerabilities for both Mac and PC.
In addition, Webroot offers a range of price points and platforms with features ranging from home to enterprise level—so there is an effective solution to fit your budget.
2. A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
You enjoy working from the privacy of your own home, so you’ll want to keep your network and the information that travels on it private as well. That’s where a VPN comes in.
A VPN is like a tunnel that allows you to make a secure connection between your network, devices, and other networks—your internet destinations. Your data is encrypted before it enters the tunnel, keeping you anonymous and hiding your browsing activities from prying eyes.
A VPN is important for remote work and accessing information on other networks. This is especially important if you are ever working from a coffee shop, airport, or other public spaces on Wi-Fi that is unsecure and unencrypted. It is an essential layer in any cybersecurity plan.
Check out our post Why Your Small Business Should Use a VPN to learn about what you should look for when choosing one.
3. Collaboration Software
Working from home is rarely a solitary pursuit. Nobody works in a vacuum. There are times you will need to work together with other team members, partners, or clients to ensure the best end result.
Good collaboration software definitely improves communication, but there are many other benefits as well. It can improve project management, simplify workflows, and make sure that team members have immediate access to the information and documents they need, when they need it.
The collaboration software that works best for you will depend on your industry and what you want to achieve with it. Different platforms will offer different options. You need to decide which options are most important to you.
Here are some points to consider when choosing your collaboration software:
- Do you want to improve visibility between team members?
- Do you need video conference capabilities?
- Do you want to standardize your workflows?
- Would you like to be able to generate reports on completed work?
To help you find the platform that best fits your needs, have a look at PC Mag’s article Best Online Collaboration Software for 2019.
4. Accounting Software
Money management may not be your thing, but it is essential to your business that you keep on top of the financial comings and goings. You will need a program that at least helps you take care of your daily accounting tasks like recording payments, tracking expenses, invoicing customers, and reconciling transactions, in addition to giving you some insight about your business’ financial health.
There are many accounting software options to choose from and the right one for you will depend on the features you need and the money you want to spend. Beyond the daily accounting tasks mentioned, here are some points to consider when choosing your accounting software:
- Do you need added features like time-tracking and payroll?
- Do you sell multiple products that require inventory control?
- Would you like to add tax preparation features?
Accounting software should make your life easier, so look for usability and time-saving features. To compare some of the top platforms and to see which is best for your home office, have a look at Business News Daily’s Best Accounting Software and Invoice Generators of 2019.
Other Home Office Essentials
In addition to the above home office tech essentials, there are other physical components essential to your home office. Because you’re going to be spending a lot of time there, you really need to make sure it works for you.
1. Your Desk
Your desk is the centerpiece of your home office so you really want to love it, but it also has to serve its purpose well. Here are some points to consider when choosing your desk:
- Do you use a laptop or do you need more room for a desktop computer?
- How big is the monitor it needs to house?
- What other electronics does it need to accommodate?
- Will it fit within the space?
Corner desks are a good use of a smaller space. If you’re really challenged with square footage, a floating desk that attaches to the wall can be an even better solution. Desks with built-in or attached bookshelves and file cabinets are another way to maximize the space you have.
Home office budgets tend to be tight, but you don’t want to forsake quality to save a few bucks. Your desk is going to be well-used so you don’t want it falling apart in a couple of years.
2. Your Chair
You’re going to spend hours sitting in a chair so it’s worth spending some time choosing the right one. It is the most important piece of essential office equipment in terms of your comfort and health.
When choosing a chair, you will need to look for the ability to adjust the chair in several key areas:
- Lumbar Support: adjustable to fit your spine. This goes a long way in reducing stress on the lower back.
- Arm Rests: should be adjustable in both height and width. Bringing your arms in close to your sides, and adjusting height to match the height of your desk greatly reduces strain on your shoulders and neck.
- Seat height: you want to be able to adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the ground. This helps to properly align your body to further reduce stress and fatigue.
A good, supportive office chair prevents fatigue and discomfort that can come from sitting for hours on end.
Proper lighting is an essential element in creating a productive home office space. Poor lighting can reduce your energy, cause eyestrain and headaches, and interfere with your ability to work effectively.
If your space is short on natural light, proper artificial light becomes that much more important. The room you’re working in may have ambient lighting like overhead or recessed lights, but these were not intended to properly light a workspace.
Here are some things to consider when setting up lighting in your home office:
- Use natural light where you can. It’s way easier on your eyes. If you can, move your desk right under the window.
- Use indirect lighting. Avoid working under the direct glare of overhead lights. Instead, look for ways to diffuse the ambient light that’s there. Lampshades soften harsh light, and an upward-shining floor lamp bounces the light off of walls and ceilings.
- Light according to task. For example, for computer work and other focus-intensive tasks, choose a well-defined light source dedicated to what you are doing. An adjustable or articulated desk lamp puts put light exactly where you need it.
- Be aware of the location and where the light is coming from. A light source coming from behind will almost certainly cause glare on your monitor. Watch for unintended shadows from lamps set up for task lighting.
Good lighting can boost productivity, so it is worth taking the time to set it up properly.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Working from home can be a real luxury. Often you can set your own schedule and find little bits of extra time to really enjoy life outside of work. However, to really enjoy your home office you need to make sure it is set up right. These tips should help you create the best home office setup for productivity, comfort, and security.
As always, if you need some help getting your office set up our team of Nerds is ready to help.