Working from home isn’t as always great as it sounds. There are definitely learning curves and an ever-changing list of pros & cons.
But as you start to become adept to the challenges that come with working from home – you’ll find tools and services that allow you to not only survive the days but thrive at your home office, even if you’re wearing yoga pants.
2016 marked my 6th year of working from home and here are the 5 companies I can whole-heartedly say that have made my working from home experience a great one.
Ok – I’m a fan boy. I don’t necessarily get every single new shiny Apple product that comes on to the market, but you’d need more than two hands to count all of the Apple products in our house.
For home office purposes, there are three devices that make my life easier:
Who needs an extra screen on your desk? I do. I already have two monitors on my desk to help organize my windows while I work on a large project. But you know what’s better than two monitors? Three.
My iPad generally serves as a static screen with my tasks for the day via Omnifocus app – a visual reminder of the things I set out to accomplish for the day. But I also use it as a video conferencing tool with clients, prospects or co-workers. It’s nice to have the extra screen space for something that is important, but not crucial to the specific task I’m working on.
This is probably a given for most of you. I mean, who couldn’t live without their smartphone these days? (Answer: none of you – don’t lie to yourself.)
My iPhone is my connection portal to the world. My email, texts, Slack messages with co-workers, actual phone calls!? and all of my social media platforms. Without my phone, I would feel like it’s 1995 and get out my flannel shirt, corduroy pants and chain for my wallet.
Of course, my phone also provides the soundtrack to my day. Sitting with only my thoughts and the clicking of a keyboard sounds daunting.
The watch has been a big changer for me and what amounts to my mostly sedentary lifestyle at home. If you’re an Apple Watch user, you already know the benefits, but for those of you who don’t..
Think of the Apple Watch as your notification screen for your phone. Any text, email, ping, Woof, Slack, meeting reminder all has a slight vibration on your wrist. Like a subtle ‘hey there’ from a cubicle roomy.
In addition to all the important notifications from the wonderful people in your life – the watch also wants you to get up out of your chair. 12 hours a day to be specific. So if you’re just sitting in your chair for 50 minutes in the hour, your watch gives you a little nudge to get up and walk around for a minute. This is usually a good cue to get up and get a refill on my water or do a quick house lap. Turns out sitting at your desk all day isn’t a good thing.
The Apple Watch also keeps track of your overall activity for the day, so in addition to not sitting in your chair – you need to get up and actually move. I try to accomplish that on my treadmill desk first thing, but if the weather (and my pending to-do list) are conducive to me walking outside, I’ll take the time to get out and enjoy the morning.
Aside from my computer, my standing desk & treadmill are the most important things I have in my office. They’re also second and third most expensive things I have in my office. But that’s OK, because as mentioned before, sitting on your bum all day is a recipe for all sorts of health issues. Having the ability to dual-task work and work-out has improved my overall health and productivity.
I try to focus on the tasks that are more simple-minded while I’m on the treadmill. I set the speed at 3.4-3.6 MPH and that allows me to not be walking at such a pace that my body is moving all over the place so I can’t type, write or use my trackpad. I can do more complex tasks, like talking and chewing gum at the same time (I’m pretty coordinated.) But I’ve found that I’m able to be more productive with smaller tasks while walking.
My goal is to get 10,000 steps in a day on the treadmill but, as my wife can attest, I definitely miss my goals there more than I hit them. But the other nice thing about my standing desk is that it’s motorized and adjustable. So if I get tired of sitting, I can easily stand and it’s a great change of pace. I have more energy and am less likely to do internet wandering (I see you there Facebook notifications). I bought this standing pad for a little extra comfort when I am on my feet.
This app runs my life. If something were to happen to my to-do list, I’d break out in cold sweats and cry uncontrollably. Perhaps an over-dramatization, but I’d definitely be lost without it.
Omnifocus certainly isn’t the cheapest option out there for your to-do management. The mobile app is sold separately than the desktop app and you’ll break $100 to use them both. But to me, there’s no better option.
I have my whole project workflow as a template, so as I get a new prospect or client, I can copy that to their folder and know what tasks I have in front of me to get started, get moving & get done.
I am also able to easily separate home tasks with work tasks, because part of the deal with working at home means there’s a moderate amount of home tasks to do throughout the week to keep the ‘boss’ happy.
Another cool function of Omnifocus is the ability to Geolocate tasks. So if I have a few tasks that can be taken care of downtown before or after my meeting, Omnifocus will remind me to get those done while I’m there. Same goes for sorting tasks by estimated time. So if I’m on hold with tech support or in line at the bank, I can pull up tasks that require 5 minutes or less to complete and knock one (or more) of those little tasks out instead of having them add up later.
The fact that I, the Apple fan boy has something on here about ANYTHING Microsoft shows you how honest I can be. Especially as a web designer, when I say Microsoft, I think Internet Explorer and then I go into a deep cry for all the hours I’ve spent making sure a website is compatible with someone’s version of IE6 & Windows XP.
But now they’ve turned me into a Microsoft advocate. I’ll tell anyone how much I love my mobile version of Outlook and the comparable love I have for my Mac desktop versions.
The mobile version does some of the things that Gmail’s Inbox now allows you to do, like one-swipe an email to schedule it for later or for deletion. The ability to clear out my occasionally-cluttered inbox is a big relief, especially when the amount of emails in my inbox start to pile up. The iOS version also separates (with a pretty good accuracy) emails that I would think are more important than others. With the ‘Focused Inbox’ feature – I see emails from clients and not coupons to Macy’s. Again, Gmail and other apps do this too – but I like Outlook. There, I said it.
I’ll be honest – I wish it integrated better with Google Calendar (it doesn’t, really) – but I can work around that.
Working from home has its benefits too. One of those is Netflix on a lunch break.
I try my best not to sit at my desk and work through lunch. It’s been proven not to be a great use of your time or productivity. I don’t always watch a screen during my break, sometimes I’ll go sit outside on the patio or just sit in calm silence downstairs. In addition to sitting all day not being a great plan for my health, staring at a screen probably isn’t either.
With the growing libraries of Netflix (and HBO, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) – there is so much great content available at your fingertips. I try not to get into a feature-length film during break, because that often turns into watching the whole movie, which can turn into a mid-afternoon nap. Watching some of the ESPN 30 for 30’s or catching some or all of a documentary is usually my plan of attack. Getting a little education on a subject that I’m not familiar with is a good use of my apple eating time, I think.
Working from home has its benefits for sure. And using some of these companies/services/tools will hopefully make it all the easier for you.
Keep your eye on this post for an update – I’m going to launch a video series of working from home tips & tricks. This will be my first in that series.