No window overlooking downtown, but I'll take it.

People who work from home don’t wear suits.  Or ties.  Or the company-Friday button-down.  Well, at least not the people I know.   Personally, I prefer a white t-shirt and zip-up fleece teamed with a periodic Minnesota Twins baseball cap and a pair of ragged blue jeans.  But that’s just the technology company I work for.

Some “work-at-homers” seem to have a hard time finding the shower (thank you web cams).  Others are still trying to figure out how to run the web cam.  Yet putting personal hygiene and attire preferences aside, working from home can be a win-win across the board for the employee, employer, and the customer if done properly.

Here are 10 essentials that every employee must have in order to be both efficient and successful working from home for a technology firm.

1.  A fast and reliable Internet connection.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.  If the new hire you’re interviewing lives somewhere between the sticks and the boondocks, you better hope that satellite Internet has recently improved greatly or productivity issues will certainly abound in the absence of a stable local Internet Service Provider.  My speed test just returned a download speed of 28 Mbps.  That’ll work.

2.  Integrated VOIP telephony.  “Voice over IP” technology allows you to run your phone through the Internet, avoiding the common fees associated with local telephone companies and long distance charges.   At Krengeltech our VOIP service is provided by a company called Apptix, which employs one of the best customer care advocates I’ve ever worked with (thank you Christiane Gangloff).  Utilizing VOIP allows all of our employees to have the same area code regardless of physical location, administrators to set-up different departmental hunt groups, and even enables employees to take their phone to work from any location with an Internet connection.

3.  A GotoMeeting account.  GotoMeeting allows you to host live web meetings and conference calls, and now has a new feature called HD Faces which enables you to see up to 6 other locations on web cam during a call.  With GotoMeeting, you are instantly able to share your computer screen with others, type on someone else’s computer keyboard, collaborate on presentations, documents, training sessions, and much more.  There’s no “sending someone from I.T. to your cubicle” to troubleshoot a PC problem when GotoMeeting is used effectively.

4.  A way to share and collaborate on documents.  Google Docs (through Google Apps for Business) is our solution.  As a company we’ve in fact gone a bit Google-crazy.  With Google Docs employees can create Word or Excel files (among others), select who they want to share them with, allow only certain people to edit them, and see multiple people editing and typing real-time within 1 document.  Cool.  Another “good job” from Silicon Valley.

5.  An ergonomically-sound work station.  I’m at my desk behind my computer all day, every day (yes I get a break on week-ends).  Cheap chairs with poor support do not cut it.  Here’s mine.  Having a monitor too low does not cut it.  Not having a telephone headset does not cut it.  Typing with your keyboard too high does not cut it.  Employers: do not skimp on workstation ergonomics.  That’s a productivity-killer.

6.  An issue-free PC.  I say that in relative terms.  Issues do come up with computers.  But consistently fighting with a PC that freezes up, consistently requires a reboot, can’t support the use of multi-media applications, etc, etc,  is a morale-killer.  Beat that PC with a stick, consider a Mac or grab a Lenovo ThinkPad and kiss that nonsense goodbye.

7.  A smartphone.  In my mind that equates to an iPhone or some other device that runs Google Android.  In the event power is out at an employee’s location, (or the local Internet service is down), smartphones act as the back-up office phone, as well as an Internet source “hotspot” that PC’s can connect to in order to resume “business as usual”.  My iPhone delivers a higher speed Internet connection to my laptop than most of the coffee shop Wi-fi connections I’ve tested.

8.  A reliable all-in-one printer/scanner/copier.   I’ve had great success with HP all-in-one’s similar to this model.  You don’t need an I.T. system administrator to install and configure a device like that.  Yes there are laser vs. inkjet pros and cons.  Even in the paperless-driven work we live in, I still need to print, sign, and return documents to business partners regularly.  Paper jams drive me nuts.  Scanners that don’t scan drive me nuts.  Don’t drive your employees nuts with overly complex or mechanically-challenged equipment.

9.  A break.  Working from home means you don’t join your peers for the morning 10:00 break in the corporate America lunchroom.   It also doesn’t mean the human body was created to sit and stare at a computer screen idle for 9 hours in a row.  While some days are like this, I try and make a habit to get up every couple hours to get the blood flowing.   Whether it’s a quick walk around the yard, 30 push-ups (working on more), or a coffee refill, any activity is better than constant immobility.

10.  Coffee.  I suck down about a half a pot before lunch.  My wife shares the other half or else I’d probably do the whole enchilada.  Of all the addictions in life, I can think of worse.  So let’s agree to have something to look forward to every morning.  OK?

So that’s it.  My tips for success after nearly six years working from home for Krengel Technology.

Time for the push-ups.

31 it is.

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