I have always had a home office, but I never had to work long periods of time from it. I always had a “business” office to go to. However, after my wife got a job in Omaha I had to start commuting between Omaha and Sioux City. My home office, soon became my remote office. How would this work? What challenges would I face? Would I be able to work efficiently eight hours a day from my home and still be connected with my team and clients in Sioux City.
Honestly, it all happened so fast, I didn’t really have much time to think about it. And people work remotely all the time, so why couldn’t I?
I soon discovered for my remote office to become a reality, I needed to overcome a few obstacles:
- Remain in contact with my team and clients.
- Access the agency server without long delays while working on projects.
- Staying focused on work and not getting sucked into random things that happen around the house.
Here are a few of the productivity tools I used to make 1 and 2 a reality:
1. Remaining in Contact With Team & Clients
Slack for Keeping in Touch With Each Other
The team started using Slack for messaging, sending PDFs and video conferencing. When Apple introduced iChat back in the early 2000’s the team embraced instant messaging for communicating internally and externally. However, working remotely required a more robust tool, that’s where Slack came into play. There were other tools out there, but they either didn’t have all the features we needed, or they were very glitchy. Slack just works. I can’t say enough great things about this app. It is the “duck tape” in my tool box of remote working solutions.
Ooma for Keeping in Touch With Clients & Vendors
The next problem to solve was how clients were going to be able to get ahold of me if they called the Sioux City office? That’s were Ooma comes in. Ooma is a VoIP system that is inexpensive and has a lot of features that other more expensive systems lack. I have a VoIP phone on my desk that allows calls to be transferred to me as if I were in the Sioux City office. The system also transfers calls to my cell phone when I’m on the road traveling.
2. Accessing the Agency Server Without Long Delays
Dropbox for "Always On" Access to Our Work
It became clear early on that I was going to need a dedicated server at home. The problem though, was keeping it current with the server in Sioux City. After trying a few different solutions it was suggested I try Dropbox. I didn’t think Dropbox would work. After all, syncing files on your computer is a lot different then syncing a server to another server. It did take a lot of experimenting and there was some frustration, but eventually I got it to work. I’m not going to say it’s perfect, but it’s darn close. Dropbox has been a great solution for syncing our servers.
3. Staying Focused on Work
Regular Breaks Help You Keep Focus
The toughest obstacle to overcome was number 3, staying focused while working from home. There are so many distractions when you’re at home — laundry, dishes, dogs, your daughter on summer break who wants to show you every video on Youtube; it can be overwhelming. My solution has been to schedule my day and to plan 15 minute breaks every 2 hours. Giving myself a break every couple of hours allows me to let the dogs out, change the laundry, grab a snack, etc. I’ve also learned to shut my office door. My family knows when the door is shut I’m working, and shouldn’t be disturbed. Cranking up the music also helps drown out the day to day activities outside of my office door.
So this is just my short list, there are a many more tools and tips I could get into, but I’ll save that for another blog post.