Jul27

The Home Office Comes Of Age

There are many advantages to working from home…

The lack of a commute can save huge amounts of time and money, while being in charge of your working environment means there’s no need to put up with uncomfortable office furniture or limited cafeteria facilities. Moreover, it’s possible to choose your preferred hardware and software, rather than having to accept whatever equipment the IT manager deems suitable.

With over four million people across the UK working from home, technology has helped to bridge the gap created by the physical absence of colleagues or managers. Despite its many uses to home-workers, email is increasingly being supplanted by cloud-based platforms like Google Docs. This is a word processing platform that enables centrally-hosted documents to be edited by anyone with the relevant access credentials, eliminating the need to email the same file back and forth until everyone is satisfied with it. Nor is this concept restricted to word processing: Google Sheets is a cloud-based rival to the ubiquitous Excel spreadsheet, and many Adobe products are now cloud-hosted rather than being installed on a particular device.

Cloud storage itself can be beneficial to the home worker since it allows people to access files and documents whether they’re at their desk or propped up in bed. The elimination of bulky hard drives can save space, and there’s no risk of data being accidentally or maliciously lost. However, it is essential to have a stable broadband connection to use cloud storage platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive. As the UK slowly moves towards fibre optic broadband, those living in certain towns and cities can already get fibre-to-the-premises lines capable of delivering superfast download speeds. Smaller broadband providers are often reported as offering the most reliable service, which is perhaps the key factor to consider if your income depends on being able to access the internet at all times.

Another area that necessitates a dependable broadband connection is VoIP – the process of making audio or video calls via the internet. The market leader here is Skype, although plenty of other firms like Viber and Voxox offer similar connectivity with additional functionalities. For instance, Jitsi can record and encrypt calls, while Google Hangouts can automatically upload content onto YouTube. Speaking of which, a YouTube channel can be a useful method of communication for the home-based worker. It provides a readily-accessible platform for colleagues or clients to access data and information, and allows the self-employed to promote their products and services to a global audience.

Compact technology has enabled home workers to operate even in confined spaces, with today’s flatbed scanners and laser printers capable of outperforming those bulky floor-standing workplace photocopiers. Electronic data is rendering bulky fax machines and heavy filing cabinets obsolete, while tablet devices are ideal for working on a train or showing a presentation to clients after being transported to the meeting in a handbag. Smartphones increasingly act as PDAs, with apps like Microsoft Office Mobile and Evernote transforming mobile phones into replacement desktop computers. Any device being used to send confidential information should be thoroughly protected with antivirus software, while more diligent home-workers may wish to establish a firewall that can block harmful content from getting through.

Ultimately, the concept of home working is only as good as the people who adopt it. Company directors and creatives often thrive in a peaceful domestic environment, whereas other people may end up being easily distracted by home comforts or the presence of family members. Technology can play a key role in avoiding the need for soulless open-plan offices and rush-hour commuting, but working from home certainly doesn’t suit everyone.

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