Working from home and being productive can be both rewarding and a challenge at the same time. There are many ways to help with productivity when you're faced with a desk or a comfy couch. Make things a little bit easier for yourself with these 3 free tools. They're so easy to integrate into your workflow that you'll be wondering what you did without them. And did we mention they're free?
Go get yourself a free Google Voice telephone number. Google Voice has been around for a while now, but it's an easy and useful addition to the home office that also happens to be free. Aside from saving buckets of money on a landline telephone service, Google Voice lets you dictate the terms of when clients can contact you. Need to run out of the house during the business day but don't want to miss any important calls? The work phone stays with you, routed to your cell phone, ready for you to screen and pick up or ignore. Don't want your phone ringing before 7am while your alarm hasn't gone off? Set "office hours" and only allow the phone to ring within your working (and waking) hours. These and other features make Google Voice indispensable for the home office.
It's not free, but an affordable service to pair with Google Voice is Magic Jack. It's a cheap replacement for your telephone land line. A small dongle plugs into your computer and runs software that routes your calls through the internet. The physical telephone port on a Magic Jack lets you plug in a fax machine and send/receive those odd faxes that we always seem to need now and again but can never find somewhere to do it.
These cloud storage services makes collaborating with others significantly easier. In situations where you might want to share a set of files, it's as easy as sending a link by e-mail. The syncing features let you share all your work among multiple computers, with each user having a local copy so there's no network lag on a shared drive, or version control problems to worry about. It's free, easy, useful, and you should do it now.
Working from home unfortunately often means that you're always working, whether you're actually home or not. Without coworkers to pick up your load while you're on vacation or simply not at your home office desk, sometimes an emergency comes up that you just absolutely have to take care of right then and there. But you need access to your computer. And you're not home.
Remote desktop websites and applications let you connect directly to a computer, showing your desktop and giving you full access as if you were sitting right in front of it. Some versions of Microsoft Windows come with Remote Desktop Connection built right in. Apple provides Remote Desktop for their Mac OS. I'm partial to LogMeIn as a free web based service to directly access any number of computers configured to the account. VNC is also a popular choice.
It's not always as blazing fast as if you were right there at your desk with your high speed connection, but when you absolutely need access to your entire computer and workflow, there's no better way than to remotely connect and just do it on your own workstation.