I’ve worked out of three home offices in the past ten years. I’ve been able to get a lot accomplished in these offices, including writing a graduate thesis, managing a virtual team, and starting my own publishing company. However, if Melanie Pinola’s The Successful Virtual Office In 30 Minutes had been available at the start, I would have been able to get a lot more done in terms of getting the best possible home office setup. This blog post will serve as a review of the book, albeit a biased one — while I really did get a lot of useful information from Melanie’s guide, I am the publisher of the In 30 Minutes series.
Melanie is the author of a top-selling LinkedIn book and writes about home offices, telecommuters, and virtual work for Lifehacker. She’s also About.com’s mobile office expert. As a virtual worker for decades (she started working from a home office in the 1990s) she knows the virtual mindset and what’s required to have a successful virtual office. It’s not just a matter of wanting to work from home, or assuming a Wi-Fi connection and laptop is all that’s required. She methodically works through the different aspects of setting up and maintaining a high-performance virtual office, starting with legal and technical requirements and finishing with a list of Top Tech Tools for home offices. Specific topics include:
Finding the best place to work and creating an efficient home office or remote workspace (Chapter 1)
- Recommendations for setting up the ideal virtual office, based on the latest research.
- How to use alternative offices such as coffee shops and libraries to get more done.
- Four elements of a productive home office.
- Ergonomics (or how to stay healthy)
- Must-have supplies for your home or mobile office.
Learning strategies to help you work more effectively on your own and as a virtual team member (Chapters 2 & 3)
- How to ward off roommates, spouses, children, pets, phone calls, and other daily distractions.
- Crucial time-management tips.
- How to work well with other virtual team members.
- Best practices for effective communication across a distributed team.
- Dealing with resentful coworkers.
- Coping with isolation.
Using technology to help you stay productive and connected (Chapter 4)
- Useful apps for real-time collaboration.
- Software that can make you work more efficiently.
- How to secure your digital data.
Applying the tips for the best home office setup
Reading Melanie’s book, I immediately picked up some tips that I could apply right away to my home office setup. They included installing a door to keep out family distractions (especially in the evening, when I am most productive) and dusting off an old space heater to keep my home office warm in the winter months (much cheaper than cranking up the heat for the entire house). The recommended applications included a few that I want to explore further, including Slack. There was also an extensive list of tools and apps relating to coworking spaces, which is a popular mode of work these days (see my review of the Cambridge CIC).
This new book practically pays for itself, in terms of the increased productivity and better insights into virtual offices. Whether you are a freelancer, consultant, small business owner, or are interested in telecommuting, this is a wonderful and effective guide for getting the most out of your home office.