Why You Need a Killer Work From Home Computer
Most work from home positions require you to provide your own computer and other equipment. Sometimes a company will send you an IP phone to make internal communication easier and present an identifiable block of phone numbers to clients but what you spend most of your day typing on and looking at is up to you.
This may sound like a bum deal since the cost comes right out of your paycheck but it’s not. It’s a better deal for you. A high-end setup will make you more productive every minute you spend on it, be more reliable over over the years and become obsolete much later than any compromise system you can name.
Before you write this off as referring only to programmers going to walk the dog while code compiles, think about how many programs you need open at one time to stay productive. Even if you don’t code or produce cool artwork in Photoshop for a living, chances are you have at least one browser open (I always have two and sometimes three open at once) plus an email client like Outlook, plus word processing and spreadsheet programs, instant messaging like Slack and a time tracker. Periodically with all that open you need to jump on Google Hangouts or Skype further taxing your system. Then there are all the background processes you never think about for backing up, checking for updates, syncing files, handling peripherals, etc. You expect your computer to handle all this concurrently, without delay and without crashing.
If having a high-end computer is so important then why don’t brick and mortar offices provide their cubicle monkeys with the best systems? Seems like a no brainer, right? Well, no.
When a company has to provide dozens or hundreds of complete computer systems plus provide support and backup, the economics are completely different. When everyone gets an okay system then the IT bill is lower up front and the ongoing cost is palatable. Systems are replaced in waves, with the slightly better systems going to the power users first.The penny-pinchers are happy and the drones are content.
When it’s just you, your productivity is linked to your computer’s ability to handle what you throw at it. Each frustration, each delay and every time the OS forces you to think about it instead of your work slows you down. Wouldn’t it be great to take 15 minutes each hour to clear your head and still get the same amount of work done?
So what are these miracle machines? In theory you could just go to any hardware retailer, sort by price and compare what comes up at the top end. In reality you need to consider whether you want a screamingly fast machine with multiple monitors but be attached to a desk or do you take a slight hit on performance but get a very fast, portable system in a laptop or tablet layout. There is a third solution that works for some people where you optimize the laptop selection for portability and also set up a slower, but still much faster desktop for processor-intensive tasks for the same amount of money. Look for a future article on the pros and cons of each setup.
Meanwhile, if I had to recommend one solution for the work from home warrior ninja gunslinger, it comes as no surprise that it’s the MacBook Pro. Even buying used or refurbished will get you a better setup than 90% of the rival laptops and a better choice than most desktops. They are almost all on the faster side of the equation, reliable and hold their performance levels and value for years longer than the alternatives. OS X is still the reigning champion for the least-frustrating, most reliable, most feature-rich OS award. If you have ever had to restore from a failed hard drive event on systems other than OS X you should know that Time Machine is as close to a “click restore and walk away” solution as you can get.
Next time you go into a coffee shop frequented by telecommuters and entrepreneurs take a moment to categorize the systems that people are using. Chances are they are mostly MBPs.
And one more point. It’s not unusual for a discussion of your work setup to come up during a work at home interview for a fully distributed workforce company. How serious your setup is reflects on how seriously you will take your job. And don’t overlook the ability to describe and talk about your setup. Even if you don’t know much about hardware, learn how to accurately describe the hardware you are working on. Ask friends for help or do some research. You’ll be glad you did.
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7 Steps to hiring the best work from home employee
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