How to Build the Perfect Virtual Office
I've been working at least once a week in a remote location for a dozen years. (It's usually my local coffee shop, but that still counts, right?) In most cases, the main goal is to get away from the same computer in my office and out into the real world to talk to actual human beings.
Over the years, I've noticed a few essential virtual office gadgets make all the difference. These gadgets help me get real work done. If you have found better choices for your needs, please post in comments.
1. Booq Boa Brief ($150)
First, you'll need a smartly designed laptop carrying case so you can take your office with you. I've used the Incase Messenger Bag for a while but recently upgraded to the bigger Booq Boa Brief. Here's one secret: slim totes with a messenger bag design like the Boa make you more agile than a larger backpack. There are a few extra perks: a seatbelt-grade strap, water-resistant material, and the Terralinq system for finding a lost bag. The bag works fine for a MacBook up to the 17-inch model or a 16.4-inch PC laptop. It gets bonus points for a large compartment that would fit about three college textbooks and for sitting upright by itself.
2. Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam ($200)
You might wonder why a webcam is second on my list. The reason is simple: because it helps me connect with the world. In a pinch, I can set up the Logitech Broadcaster quickly and videoconference with people over my iPhone, iPad, or laptop. The camera comes with a carrying case that doubles as a stand. It streams and records in 720p resolution. While I can always use my laptop webcam, this portable model gives me flexibility to capture an entire room.
3. Jabra Revo Wireless ($250)
A webcam brings the world to me; these wireless headphones tune out the world so I can stay productive. Truth be told, I can't work at all unless I'm listening to some music. The Jabra Revo Wireless has a few interesting features to improve my work. First, they cancel out background noise using two built-in microphones. They use Dolby Digital Plus for great sound. And they're lightweight so they don't feel uncomfortable after working all day. The Revo Wireless, which lasts 12 hours per charge, syncs over Bluetooth so there's no cable clutter. It works as a Skype headset as well--so, no need for one of those clip-on Bluetooth earpieces. Plus, I like how the Revo looks (it even won a RedDot design award this year).
4. G-Drive Mini 1TB ($200)
There's one thing that comes up constantly when I'm working remotely: a lack of storage options. I don't mean local storage on a laptop or storage in the cloud, using a service like Dropbox. Files seem to be getting bigger and bigger, so I need a way to offload them. The G-Drive Mini has a USB 3.0 port so it gives me flexibility for videos and photos. I know I can transfer the files quickly and give the drive to a colleague. This portable model runs fast at 7200 RPMs and has two Firewire ports (for Mac) and one USB 3.0 (for PC). I prefer having a real drive in my bag and skipping a thumbdrive, which is too easy to lose.
5. Motorola Moto X (Price varies)
The most brilliant feature on the Moto X next-generation smartphone is that you can talk to it without a pressing a button. As I'm working in my virtual office, I can ask my phone a question without picking it up. I can say "Ok, Google Now--what will the weather be like tomorrow?" and the phone will speak an answer. I also really like the Moto Connect feature. Since I use Google Chrome as my browser, I can sync the phone and see text messages and calls coming in without having to look at the phone. Plus, you can design your own using custom colors. Makers, rejoice!
6. Sony Xperia Tablet Z ($500)
I almost always have a tablet with me, mostly because there are times when I want to "work" and chat with someone at the same time. A tablet gives me the flexibility to pop up a document from my Google Drive archive or show a YouTube video to a colleague. (There's something clunky about using a laptop for that.) One of my recent favorites is the Sony Tablet Z Xperia. It's just .27-inches thin and weighs 1.09 pounds. Plus, it's fully waterproof! Using the thinnest and lightest tablet you can find saves space in your bag (and back pain) when you go virtual.