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12 things that make homeworking more productive

on 22 October 2009


Posted by Wayne Pope

I work from home a lot. I encourage working from home a lot too. I actively encourage employers and employees to work from home when they can because of the benefits from increased productivity, cost savings and potentially reducing their carbon footprint.

But I couldn't do it without some key tools/ideas, some of which go without saying, others are slightly less obvious. But each one allows my working day to be much more productive.

Firefox - well by this I really mean the Internet and web browsers. Personally I use Firefox... but I would be absolutely stuffed without it. Most of the tools I use require it and certainly require the internet. Without my quick internet connection, it would simply be impossible to do what I need to do. Get yourself a good internet connection, get yourself a great browser (not IE) and suddenly everything is possible.

Skype - probably the second most important tool on my computer. While I use Office, Adobe and online tools, without Skype, communications with my colleagues (who are mainly abroad) would cost so much, it would just be unfathomable. Skype is so easy to use, can integrate with your browser and allows you to IM and make calls at the click of a button.

Glasscubes - while it's part of my job, it really makes my life easier - not just from home but when I'm out at meetings. By keeping my documents in an online workspace I can log in within seconds and recover them, whereever I am, and because it has previews and whiteboards, I don't even need to worry about the applications on the local machine. It has lots of other features which make my life easier, but the true value is not needing to carry my laptop with me when I actually leave the office/home. It also allows me to communicate so simply with my colleagues when maybe a call/IM is overkill.

Blackberry - this is a pain and a pleasure. It means that I can actually turn my laptop off once in a while. I stay in touch with everybody and yet don't have to have my eyes glued to a screen. It's also so easy to use on the road that when I am in transit, I can jot notes, ideas and email people all at once. To prove my point, this entire blog post came to me while I was reading an email on a bus and I wanted to make an instant note about it.

Taking a break - OK, so it's not a tool, but it's vital. It's just unhealthy to sit and work constantly for hours. It's not easy to do though. You want to prove productivity and you want to show you're not away at any time. But if you were in an office, you wouldnt always be available. Take a break.

Google alerts - I've got my Google alerts set up. There might be plenty of alternatives and I do get lots of newsletters to keep me posted, but because I can customise my request, I feel like I'm in control. It keeps me up to date about topics key to my heart and keeps me thinking about ideas. I'll always open them - unlike newsletters - even though the subject line is awful.

Outlook - Outlook is always on. Always. I've been laughed at a bit recently for still using it in light of all things online. But I just like the security it brings. If my internet was down for any reason, my emails would still be there and I'd actually be able to take time to go through and do the nitty gritty. Which is simply not possible using anything webmail.

iTunes - I can't abide a silent room. iTunes quite literally keeps me sane. It's that simple.

Water - concentration levels are hard enough to maintain as the day draws to an end in any environment. But at home I can keep water nearby at all times. When I've worked in an office I barely touch the stuff and I notice the degradation in my attitude and work. Keeping water handy at home just keeps me going like coffee never could.

Positivity - You have to have a positive attitude. It's very easy to let yourself get down and because there's nobody nearby to help snap you out of it, you have to snap yourself out of it. Keeping positive is tough, but will really pay dividends in your levels of productivity.

Blogging - I've got several blogs out there, some of which I use more than others. It gives me a chance to get things off my chest and try to help people. I try to be as helpful as possible and this gives me a boost - especially when I get positive reactions. I also use other peoples blogs as inspiration and thought provoking ideas. It keeps me in tune with the happenings in the world and keeps me on my toes to keep blogging myself.

Twitter - not only is it a great communication tool, you can learn so much from the people on it. It's a great way to get away from your computer, without leaving your computer at all. It can be dangerous, you have to restrict yourself, but if you want to think a little laterally, it won't be long before something has taken your attention. It's uncanny how sometimes, the best ideas come when you've been distracted just a little.

There are of course things which really don't help me at all:

Facebook - I'm never on it anymore. Yet when I was in an office it was my escape and I always had it in my browser.

My cat - when she wants attention anyway. Very hard to shut the door because of noise, and difficult to keep it open because of the nuisance.

Games systems - they're not a distraction, they don't entice me at all, but they would provide a great break. I just don't touch them!

Looking to help your team get more work done without putting in more hours? These nine tips are a great place to start.


About this author: Wayne Pope

Technical Director at Glasscubes. With over 30 years experience in the online software industry, Wayne brings an in depth technical expertise in collaborative tools, technology, and best practices.
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