You’ve done it (or almost done it!). You are about to join the masses of people who are leaving the traditional office behind in order to work remotely. Congratulations! You stand to save between 2k and 7k per year thanks to this decision. You already know the other benefits; less stress, one less car on the road, no commute, flexible schedule (often), and the option to choose exactly where you’ll work.
Now, let’s consider the risks. Your success as a remote worker depends on your ability to be productive, and to complete all of your tasks just as you would in the office. This is true in all cases, and especially so if your client or employer isn’t 100% sold on the idea. You don’t want to be the person who ruins this by missing deadlines or otherwise screwing up.
One of the best ways to ensure your success is to have the right setup. This is your workspace, tech gear, gadgets, even the way that you organize your days. Put enough thought into this, and get what you need.
Assess Your Needs First
The best place to start is with a list of tasks. What do you need to be able to do in the course of your workday? If you worked in an office, what equipment did you use on a regular basis?
Once you’ve answered those questions, move on to an inventory of what you have available to you at home. Keep in mind that having a piece of equipment or furniture isn’t enough. It has to be able to sustain the demands of your work, which is likely to be more of a load than general home use.
This last part is for the true, digital nomad. What do you need to become truly portable. As we go through everything, we’ll also touch on what you need to consider to create a portable work setup.
Here’s an example of what your final list might look like:
- Internet — Upgrade to Business Tier 1
- Table — Need 1 With Seating For 4 to be Kept in Den
- Desktop — Purchase 1 For Den And Move Old Laptop to Rec Room
- Phone — Get Dedicated Landline And Upgrade to Unlimited Data
You get the picture, but figuring your needs can be more difficult than you might anticipate. Below are some things to consider
Comfort And Ergonomics
This can be an unexpected cost. Remember that the furniture a company purchases for its workers can be very expensive. It’s designed to be used for 8 or more hours a day. The cheap office chair you picked up at a big box store may be fine for a couple hours at a time. If you try to get an entire day out of it, you could be pretty stiff and uncomfortable.
It could be worth the money to upgrade your furniture to something a bit more suited to long work hours. Consider your desk and office chair at the very least. Here are some guidelines for making your workspace ergonomically correct.
If the cost is a bit much, here are a few things you can purchase in the meantime:
- Lumbar Support Pillow
- Gel Wrist Rest
- Something to Lift Your Monitor to Eye Level
- Extra Cushion For Your Chair
If you plan to be a digital nomad, these things are reasonably portable and can help you turn your hotel room or nearby cafe into a reasonable workspace.
Here’s something else to consider if you are on a strict budget. Rather than going to discount stores to find the cheapest versions of what you need, look for used office furniture. You will usually be able to find decent furniture and accessories, designed for a full days work, that is made by reputable manufacturers. Scout Craigslist, or search for used office furniture dealers in your area. You could save money and wind up with some pretty nice furniture.
Technology And Infrastructure
The key here is to ensure that you can do everything you need to do with the same speed and efficiency. To accomplish this, you might need to upgrade or buy new equipment.
If you are able to, find the specs of the computers and other equipment that you would use at work. You might need to add memory, upgrade your phone and internet, even get a dedicated phone just for work purposes.
Obviously, there will be things that you cannot duplicate. You probably don’t need a $3,000 duplexing color printer, but you might want to upgrade the one you have. If you need to transmit documents outside of email, you’ll want to look for a decent online fax solution. Efax offers some decent subscriptions.
Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of appeal here. As a remote worker, you have the luxury of creating the perfect ambiance. In an office, the best anyone can do is try to keep the majority reasonably comfortable. Here are some things to consider:
Yes, it’s okay to enjoy the sense of power knowing that you and you alone control the temperature of your workspace. Well, as long as you live alone that is.
Don’t hesitate to experiment a bit. Your ideal temperature for hanging out and watching TV might not be your ideal temperature for working. You might find that you want things cooler than normal (sweaty palms) or warmer (stiff typing fingers).
If you don’t want to heat or cool the entire house, you could invest in having a separate HVAC zone created for your workspace. If that’s not cost effective or otherwise doable, consider adding a few fans or a space heater.
This is important. Your workspace should have decent overhead lighting. It should also have dedicated workspace lighting. If possible, buy the bulbs that mimic natural lighting. If you have a window, and good sunlight exposure, take advantage of that! Exposure to natural lighting can help with focus and concentration, and help you to feel a bit more energized.
If you’re traveling, ask about the workspace in your room. If you won’t have a desk and lamp in your room, you might want to reconsider. Hotels designed for business travelers often have shared workspaces to use. These can make do in a pinch.
This is all about blocking bad sounds and bringing in good sounds. If you work well listening to music or talk radio, and you’ve dreamt of getting a quality sound system, now is the time. If nothing else, consider a great set of bookshelf speakers. This will give you decent audio at a reasonable price.
As far as keeping out bad noise, this really depends on your preferences and tolerance level. If you find household noises or traffic to be distracting, you might consider a white noise machine. A good pair of noise canceling headphones can also help. These are a must have if you plan to work outside of the home, or if your music is disruptive to others.
Wherever you work, you could potentially be in that space, breathing that air for hours. Ventilation and air quality matters. If things are stuffy, and air quality isn’t up to par, that could have some health impacts.
Ideally, your workspace should have:
- A Window That Opens
- A Vent or Fan
- A Ban on Things That Can Reduce Air Quality (Smoking, Cologne, Strong Air Fresheners)
If you can, consider adding a plant or two. It can improve air quality, and create a healthier space in general.
What do you do if you don’t have a window or decent ventilation? Consider an air filter or purifier.
If you travel, or prefer to work outside of the home, you’re in luck. Most cafes and other spaces want to attract remote workers, and provide a comfortable environment for their other customers. As long as you work in an area that’s banned indoor smoking, you should be okay.
Finally: Finding Resources on The Go
One of the biggest draws for working remotely is having the opportunity to travel. Whether that means traveling the world while making a living as a location independent worker, or simply being able to head to the nearest park or cafe, the freedom is quite attractive. Just remember that there are some challenges to working without an office.
The first thing to consider is making everything as portable as possible. Consider buying a decent backpack that will fit your laptop and any other accessories you might need. This hack, for adding a whiteboard to your laptop can help you add a useful function to an existing piece of equipment.
A good bit of your success will depend on your ability to research and scope out the resources you need while you travel. Know where you can find free WIFI. Identify the places that are welcoming to telecommuters. Unfortunately, not every place is. Finally, be on the look for cooperative workspaces. These provide desk space, conference, room, and standard office technology for remote workers. For just a few dollars a day, these can be a real asset to remote workers.