If you would prefer to spend more of your working day based at home rather than commuting to an office, you’re not alone.

Research from remote jobs platform FlexJobs revealed that “remote/work from home jobs” was the fourth most popular job search term in 2017, and that trend is expected to keep rising.

In fact, in the same study, hiring managers predicted that more than one-third of their employees will work remotely in the next 10 years.

And while some large companies have backtracked their remote work policies in recent years and brought home-based employees back into the office, thousands more have moved in the opposite direction. According to FlexJobs, large firms like Amazon, Dell, Cigna, Salesforce, Philips, and Nielsen have actively recruited more remote workers to join their workforces.

Why are Companies Embracing Remote Work?

The move towards remote working, home-based roles, virtual office arrangements and coworking has escalated in recent years.

The big enabler is of course technology. Thanks to advances in mobile devices and wireless connectivity, it’s now incredibly easy, and cheaper than ever before, to kit out your business with the necessary tools that enable you to work efficiently and productively from home.

However, while technology is the enabler, it’s not necessarily the reason for the surge in remote working.

Much of this is down to changing attitudes towards flexible working. Entrepreneurs realize that not only can they do their jobs from anywhere, but often they are happier doing their job in alternative locations, too. A happier individual is a more productive one, and that’s one of the reasons why companies are slowly but surely embracing flexible working practices.

In fact, numerous studies show that flexible work programs result in better employee satisfaction, an increase in employee empowerment, lower attrition rates, and enhanced collaboration. Add to that, working from home can offer significant cost savings for your business, too. It reduces the amount of costly office space you need to lease, and lowers utility bills too (not to mention your carbon footprint).

Another benefit is that remote working offers better work-life balance because you ultimately have more free time. It can reduce work-related stress too, because you are removed from workplace distractions and office politics.

One final benefit. When you are not restricted to hiring people based on their proximity to a specific office location, your company immediately has access to a much wider talent pool. This means you can hire the best person for the job rather than one who lives within a 30-mile radius, and as the war for talent rages, this is becoming increasingly important.

Top 5 Tools for Home-based Businesses

Whether you’re starting a business from home, going freelance, or rolling out a flexible working policy for your workforce, there are a number of considerations you will need to make to ensure that your home-based business provides everything you and your team needs to work happily and efficiently.

Here are the top 5 that we consider the most important:

Ergonomic furniture

There’s now a massive focus on wellness in the workplace, and for good reason. Running a business from home means long hours, often in a sedentary environment hunched over a laptop. Staying healthy starts with basic yet vital measures, such as:

  • A comfortable ergonomic chair with arm rests. It should be adjustable so your feet are positioned flat on the floor while you maintain a comfortable upright position without straining. It should also be pulled close enough to your desk so that you don’t have to lean forward to access your keyboard.
  • Furniture that encourages movement, such as an adjustable height desk. These can help to keep your heart healthy, as standing at regular intervals increases circulation throughout the body.
  • Ample storage. One of the most challenging things about working from home is the lack of distinction between work and home life, and if left unchecked this can lead to stress and even burnout. Good desk and file storage means you can put your work documents out of sight at the end of the working day, which helps to create a clear distinction between your work and home lives.

Reliable Internet and WiFi connection

It’s now a prerequisite of any business that you need to be connected at all times. For the home office, that means a reliable Internet connection with WiFi. You should also check your cell phone signal in the house — are there any blackspots that could lead to dropped calls? This isn’t ideal if you’re going to be talking regularly with clients. If coverage is poor, look into an Internet-based VoIP phone system and consider getting a business number, too.

Flat screen monitor

You might work from your laptop, smartphone or tablet when you’re out and about. But if you’re going to be working regularly from a laptop in your home office, invest in a high quality flat screen monitor. When working from a laptop, it’s common to hunch over or look down; a monitor can be lifted to eye level which will help prevent back, neck and shoulder problems.

Ample lighting

Eye strain can lead to headaches, migraines, dizziness, and generally feeling unwell. If your home office doesn’t have much natural light, invest in good quality overhead lighting or a standing lamp, along with a desk spot lamp to help illuminate your work environment. Avoid screen glare by choosing a lamp that can be easily adjusted.

Digital tools

When working remotely, it’s essential to maintain communication with your coworkers, clients, and team members. There are thousands of digital tools on the market to help you do just that. Some of the best include:

  • Messaging apps such as Slack or Skype. These show others when you’re online and are great for asking a quick question or checking in.
  • Zoom is great for video calls, as is Google hangouts and Skype, while GoToMeeting offers a solid conferencing service for larger teams.
  • For project management, apps like Asana and Trello let you check up on certain tasks and help keep things humming along smoothly.
  • For online collaboration, Google Docs is the obvious choice; it lets multiple people work on the same document with user-friendly tracked changes and notifications.
  • Dropbox is a great tool for cloud storage, and lets you store files or documents online with allocated permissions.
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