CPAs were among the earliest adopters of home offices and remote work as many would drag home their tax files and audit binders to review at the kitchen table after the kids went to bed. This led to many accountants formalizing their remote work environment by setting up home office workspaces so they could work more efficiently. The advent of the computers, Internet, and digital files brought this capability to another level, and while many have now adopted cloud and remote access technology, they are often working in the original home office environment that was setup back in the day of paper files. Below are five items (beyond your computer) to consider updating to get more productivity out of your time in your home office.
A top priory is getting a larger monitor with a higher resolution screen comparable to or better than what is being used in your office. Today that means at least two 19” or larger screens that allow you to view full documents in their native format and/or one oversize screen (26” or larger) that can replace two or more older screens. It is estimated that most home monitors are used for more than five years so it is worth the investment to go up to 4K or higher resolution, and Dell and Samsung have 27” or larger ultra-high definition monitors for approximately $600.
Studies have shown that standing while working improves personal productivity by at least 10% so we are seeing firms adopting standing desks across the country. For home use, the automatic one-touch systems from Steelcase and Uplift that would replace your entire desk are extremely convenient but can get a little pricey as it may lead to replacing all your home office furniture. However, there are options that will add standing capability to your existing desktop for $400 or less. We successfully transitioned to a VariDesk, which has a number of spring-activated units that manually adjust the keyboard/laptop and screens, so you can quickly go from a sitting to standing work position.
Wireless Multi-Function Printer (MFP)
If you bring your work laptop home and have to plug into a variety of printer/scanner cables, it may be time to upgrade that device to a wireless unit that can be shared throughout the house. This unit should not only print, but also copy and scan, as early home offices were traditionally setup with each device functioning separately on its own. The latest MFP’s from HP, Canon and Brother also include the capability to print directly from your tablet and smartphone in addition to your laptop. Newer units also have Wi-Fi direct technology allowing users to connect directly to the device over a peer-to-peer connection making using it easier than ever. Whether your preference is color or monochrome, there are both laser and inkjet models under $200 that are vastly superior to older units for both quality and capabilities.
Noise Cancelling Headset
Another great home office investment is a new headset/microphone that has built in noise cancelling that allows you to hear and speak clearly even when there is significant external family or neighborhood noise. These can also be used to listen to CPE webcasts, which helps maintain focus. Wired (physically connected) models from Sennheiser and Logitech are great choices for under $100 if you don’t move around the office much and the headset can often be interchangeable between your PC and smartphone. For people that want mobility when working in the home office there are great wireless units from Plantronics and Jabra that allow you to move freely while either on the phone or on the computer, but be warned that switching between them can be complex with some models so verify that capability before buying.
Surge Protector/Power Strip
Oftentimes the power strip is the oldest piece of equipment in the home office and may not have the protection capability needed for the increased volume of equipment you plug into it today. While this will not necessarily make you more productive, it will protect your other equipment in the event of a lightning strike. APC SureArrest, Belkin, and Tripp Lite have units under $30 that also include USB charger ports which minimizes the space needed for all those odd sized plugs that impede on the next plug, making them unusable, so you can often replace older units which plug in more devices in a smaller form factor.
Next time you go into your home office, stop at the door and take a moment to seriously look at how it is laid out and the actual equipment you have in place. Ask yourself if this is the setup that optimizes your personal productivity or if there are some antique technologies that need to be updated. The reality is that your time working, whether in the office, at a client site, or at home is just as valuable and you should treat it as such!
Roman H. Kepczyk is Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with accounting firms to implement today’s leading best practices and technologies.
Last updated: 21 October 2019