I've worked at home off and on for the past 13 years and have found some essentials that people don't often think about. For many people, working at home is better than the office, even if you have to balance your laptop on your knees, but if you're going to do this long term, let's do this right. Here are nine things that make telecommuting that much better. Your boss may cough up the money for some of this, so ask!
1. Wireless Phone Headset.
Conference calls happen. Sometimes you are the one who is leading them, and you need to be an active participant. Sometimes, you just need to be on the call to throw in your two cents worth if needed. When you have a call like that, a wireless headset allows you to fold the laundry, do the breakfast dishes, or even weed the flower bed. No wires. No hands. Great sound.
2. A Great Chair.
Even if your phone calls allow you to wander the house, most likely you'll spend the majority of your day sitting. Don't skimp on a chair. Try out a ton. Find the one that works for you. This is not a place you want to skimp on costs.
3. A White Noise Machine.
If your spouse, the neighbors, the dog, the children, or even the UPS guy ringing the doorbell can be heard in your office space, invest in a white noise machine for when you need high levels of concentration or when you're on a call. Yes, one perk of being home is meeting the UPS guy, but having him interrupt your important client meeting doesn't work so well. Even if your spouse or a nanny is taking care of the kids, they will scream at an inopportune moment. White noise can be your best friend.
4. A Separate Phone Number.
Back in the day when people had to install multiple phone line in their houses to work from home, this was a big deal. It's not anymore, but you still need a separate work phone number. Your neighbors and friends will think you are not working because you are at home (especially if you're a woman), so will think nothing of calling you during the day. You want the number they reach you at to go straight to voicemail during the day. The school nurse and the babysitter can have your work phone number, but not your friends.
5. A Big Computer Monitor.
If you do a lot of computer work, a small laptop screen can get annoying. If you need four different spreadsheets open at the same time (or if you're watching YouTube clips in the corner of your screen--not that you'd do that during working hours), having a big screen can make your life much easier.
6. A Good Keyboard.
Like the monitor, using a laptop full time can be annoying and hard on your wrists. Invest in a full sized keyboard, preferably an ergonomic one (if you can stand the adjustment period).
7. Printer/Scanner/Copier Combo.
Some offices like to go paperless, but I find that never really happens. There's a contract to be signed, which means you need to print it, sign it, and scan it in or mail in the hard copy. Or you want to edit a huge amount of text, which many people find easier to do by hand, so you need to print. Unless you're doing graphic design work or something that needs fancy colors, this can generally be a black and white printer. But, you need to have good scanning functions--something that scans quickly can be a real time saver.
8. A Lock.
This may or may not qualify as a gadget, depending on your set up. If you have a dedicated room in your house, a nice door lock keeps people out when they shouldn't be in. You wouldn't want your toddler or your dog wandering through your office unattended. If you don't have a dedicated room, you may want to consider a locking space for your computer, or at least some waterproofing. It's not that you're dealing with top secret documents (or maybe you are), it's just that nothing says family like "oops!"
9. A High-Quality Router.
You may be limited in your internet provider options, but you have more choice with your router. Make sure yours is good enough to provide strong connections everywhere you need it. Of course, in your office, but what if it's a beautiful day and you want to work on the back porch? (One perk of telecommuting.) Your plans will be foiled if your wifi signal doesn't reach back there.
There are tons of companies which market things to telecommuters, but most of them are just fun to have stuff. These are the things that make your business soar.