How to fail-proof your home office

Many professionals were sent home last week, without knowing when they’d be able to return.

With little time to set up a home office, many are struggling to figure out a solution that will aid their productivity and effectiveness.

Yet, one necessary element that everyone needs? Technology, of course.

As we all attempt to adjust to our new normal, we also all live on a prayer that our wireless internet, laptops, monitors and headphones don’t fail us.

When a glitch happens though, it’s important to take a deep breath, exercise a ‘pause’ and stay calm.

These expert-driven tips will set up your office for success—and help you navigate any hiccup: 

Upgrade to an external camera and microphone

Most businesses are implementing best practices for meetings conducted across many homes and often, time zones. Using video can benefit everyone since it feels more ‘in-person’ than purely voice.

Though built-in cams and mics in your computer will work, for better quality and better reliability, the founder and CEO of Easy Webinar, Casey Zeman recommends upgrading to a higher-quality. He says it’s best to use a camera that offers at least 720px, while 1080px is better.

And for a microphone, looking for ones that offer directional sound is key. As he explains, this lessens background sounds—like your dishwasher or children—so you can actually hear what’s happening on the call. 

Sync data to the cloud

Though it’s important to check with your employer before you upload any confidential or sensitive information anywhere, the director of marketing for Skyroam, Meredith Valentine says using a cloud is a smart way to protect data.

Most companies already work with OneDrive, Google Cloud, DropBox, and other options, so check with your security personnel to figure out the scope.

By having centralized info available to all team members in a secure spot, everyone can find what they need, no matter the device or location.

“The cloud offers the ability to access your critical work files and data from nearly any device, so it ensures you never have a moment of panic if your work computer gives you the ‘blue screen of death’ and allows you to utilize other devices you may have handy such as a personal laptop or a tablet to keep your work going smoothly,” Valentine shares. 

Figure out the best place for your tech to live

When you’re at work, you can sneak into a conference room or phone booth when you need to take a private call. Or, when you need everything to be quiet, your office is a great spot, since it has a door.

When you’re working from home, you may not have this luxury. This is especially true for working parents, couples and roommates.

Though it’s important to remind your employer (and employees, if you’re a manager) that this isn’t going to be a perfect solution, finding a quiet-ish space for meetings is essential.

Samantha Lawrence, the senior vice president of People Strategy at Vettery suggests asking yourself these questions as you choose an area:

-Do you need to set up a monitor and docking station or are you comfortable sitting on the couch with your laptop? 

-Do you need to be near a power outlet at all times? 

-Are you more productive working with background noise or does it need to be completely silent? 

-Are you happier surrounded by natural light or is a lamp all you need? 

“Perhaps you can grab a table and chair from the living room and set up a desk. If you’re using a computer, you’ll most likely need access to an outlet so consider that before moving your kitchen table in your bedroom,” she explains. “Once you’ve determined your layout, consider the other tools you typically use while working. Do you need a mouse and mousepad? What about a notebook and a pen?”

Keep important cables away from everything else

If your router is currently in the middle of the living room, where your children are now rough-housing, it’s time to move it, ASAP. As Valentine says, cables, chords and tech should never be around high-traffic areas, snice hey, disasters can happen.

Once you determine the ‘working’ area, seal it off to everything else—including food and beverage and other folks. “The more you fool with cords and plugs and dongles, the more likely something in your set-up will break.

So try to create a new semi-permanent space for your set-up instead of simply propping up on the kitchen counter or on the couch with your laptop,” she continues. “This also helps avoid issues with roommates, pets, spouses or kids, where food or drinks can be spilled on your precious tech, or cords can be chewed through, rendering your devices unusable.” 

Don’t panic if the WiFi goes out

Everything else feels out of your control right now (because it is), so when the internet breaks, it is 10 times more stressful than normal. Before you freak out, Lawrence suggests going through some basic troubleshooting steps:

-Verify your devices do have power. (This includes your modem, router, and monitor.)

-If not, reboot each device. (Lawrence says this typically fixes the issue like magic.)

-If that doesn’t work, get in touch with your team ASAP so they know to expect delays.

-Then, call your WiFi provider who can walk through troubleshooting issues via the phone, or provide info on outages in your area.

“If you still have work to do online, see if you can connect your personal hotspot to your computer,” she explains. “While this uses up data, it’s a better solution than not being able to submit an important project.” 

Identify your personal geek squad

No, you shouldn’t head into an empty office in search of a lone tech lead to help you. And since the CDC recommends against gatherings of 10 or more, your local Best Buy isn’t smart either. Instead, Valentine suggests racking your brain for the savviest, smartest, tech-focused person you know.

“Figure out who from your office is great at technology, or maybe it’s a brother-in-law, or a neighbor and give them a call for help, and maybe offer to buy them a beer when everything calms down,” she suggests. “Many companies will still offer virtual IT support as well which can be extremely useful, as most can remotely access your computer to identify problems and troubleshoot. Be sure to have the phone number or email address handy to reach out.”

Don’t forget about warranties

Perhaps your company asks you to purchase something yourself ASAP to fix an issue, and they promise to reimburse you. Or, you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur and you have an unexpected spill that leads to a broken computer.

Whatever you buy, say ‘yes’ to the warranty. Especially if it includes a 30-day, no-questions-asked clause.

“That may allow you to have a device to use while you send your broken device out to be fixed, so you’re not stuck at home twiddling your thumbs while waiting,” Valentine shares. “Then, if you can get your original computer, tablet or phone fixed and sent back to you within 30 days—which seems reasonable—you can return the temporary replacement device and get your money back.”