Whether you work from home or in rented work space – or you dabble in both – you want the same thing when equipping your office: efficiency, clout and flexibility in equal measure.
But with the rise and rise of flexible, mobile working, office equipment goes beyond the physical space and equipment. You need to provide the right software and create a productive, approachable virtual space in which you and your employees can operate.
The bare necessities
In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
– Terry Pratchett
The lesson? Don’t let your purchasing get out of hand. Comfortable as we might feel surrounded by things, they’re not conducive to productivity.
Start with nothing and then get only what you need. In this brave new world that basically means: chair, desk, laptop, a means of backup and a bin. And maybe a pen and paper.
And if you’ve already accumulated a lot of kit – whether physical or digital – purge it. Hack it back to the bare minimum, leaving only the stuff you and your employees use on a regular basis.
Honing it down to just these essentials means that you can afford to invest in a good laptop, chair, desk and– well, maybe not the bin. Any bin will do.
But this isn’t minimalism for minimalism’s sake. Scarcity promotes creativity and maintaining a lean setup gives you something that can be hard to attain as a small business owner – focus.
What’s more, it keeps you mobile, so you needn’t feel worried about leaving your home or office and working on the fly or meeting with a client.
The shopping list
Here are a few places to start looking for each item:
- Best business laptops of 2016 – PC Mag
- Top 10 business laptops for July 2016 – TechRadar
- 20 best laptops 2016 UK – PC Advisor
External hard drive:
- Top 10 external hard drives 2016 – TechRadar
- 7 best portable hard drives 2016 – PC Advisor
- The best external hard drives of 2016 – PC Mag
Also, whether you’re working from home or in an office, don’t forget that you can claim a lot of your outgoings as expenses, including equipment used for business, rent, energy bills, stationary, etc. Although if you use traditional accounting (rather than cash basis accounting), you can’t claim capital allowances on a leased asset if the lease period is less than 5 years (or 7 years in some cases).
The digital office
But what about filing cabinets? A desk phone? A pot plant?
Yes to the pot plant; no to the rest.
There’s a reason I listed a bin as one of your essential items: to remind you to get rid of all that paper.
That’s not to say you should go totally paperless; paper still has its place. A pen and paper is still the best way to get ideas out of your head, and a Moleskine won’t ping with a new email every few seconds.
But you probably don’t need a filing system. Scan – with a scanner or an app like Evernote Scannable – any documentation or business cards that come your way as soon as they arrive and file them digitally. I know filing offers a blissful oasis of procrastination to some, but that’s precisely why you need to be ruthless – scan it, save it in the cloud, and ditch the paper copy.
As for a desk phone, you really don’t need one. Just use your mobile phone or a VoIP service, like Skype or RingCentral. Being in the cloud, such services are cheaper and more flexible, scaling with the size of your business.
The social business
But, as I said at the start, equipping your office means more than just the bare tools to work with – you need to create the right virtual space in which you and your employees can work effectively, communicate and thrive.
First and foremost, this means the usual suspects of productivity software:
- Office 365 or Google Apps for your office suite – or LibreOffice or OpenOffice if you’re after something free.
- Basecamp for project management.
- Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive for cloud storage and sharing files.
- Turbine or FreshBooks for HR and accounting.
If you’re dealing with a team of remote or mobile workers, however, you also need to keep your employees happy and recreate the social aspect of the traditional office – the “good morning!”s, shared jokes and pats on the back – without it becoming a distraction.
There is, alas, no easy answer to this. At Turbine’s sister company, Articulate, we’ve been testing out and tinkering with all sorts of different apps – Yammer, Skype, Slack, etc – to fulfil the social aspect of our remote company and no doubt we’ll go on tinkering. It’s just about finding what’s right for you and your employees.
Equipping your office, therefore, is not something you have to just get out of the way before you can get down to work. It defines the way you work and requires constant experimentation and revision so the tools of your trade can evolve along with you.
Hat tip to William Neuheisel for the bonsai photo.