Once an oddity in the working world, telecommuting is quickly becoming commonplace.
An August 2015 Gallup poll found that 37 percent of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted — a fourfold increase over 1995. And with the ongoing rise of the so-called Gig Economy — a practice in which independent workers take short-term contracts with employers — Intuit predicts that by 2020, as much as 40 percent of American workers could be independent contractors.
That means a lot more home offices, and you're going to need to have state-of-the-art technology to remain competitive. The good news is, there's a regular stream of devices that can help make your home office the envy of your telecommuting co-workers. Here are some of the best and most recent items to consider.
— By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 4 May 2016
Printers seem to have a special sense about when you need them the most — and they use that knowledge to conveniently run out of ink or toner at the most critical moment. Epson's EcoTank line comes with a reservoir that the company says holds two years' worth of ink — enough to print up to 11,000 black pages or 8,500 color ones. Of course, like many printers today, this one also includes a scanner, fax machine copier and is wireless.
With its gorgeous new laptop, HP has put itself in the running design-wise with Apple and Dell's XPS line. But it's more than just a good-looking machine. With a 4K screen and USB-C adapters, it's future-ready and is also an incredibly light device that you can take anywhere.
Samsung has favored Android over Microsoft's Windows operating system in its Galaxy line, but the two kissed and made up for the TabPro S. It's a 12-inch tablet that uses Windows 10 and looks remarkably like Microsoft's own Surface 4, but it also includes an AMOLED screen, with a pixel resolution of 2160 x 1440 — a better than 50 percent improvement over standard high-definition TVs. And it boasts a battery life of 10.5 hours.
Speed is essential when you're working online, and there aren't many routers that can make things move faster than D-Link's AC3200. With six antennas, it also gives you a broad range of coverage. It more closely resembles a spider than a router — and it's not cheap — but it will ensure that you're able to access the web and send and receive files at the fastest speeds possible.
In a perfect world, you're at your desk during a call. In the real world, you often have to wander away, but you can't let anyone know that when you're at a home office. The Voyager Focus UC headset reduces noise distractions no matter where you are and lets you walk up to 150 feet away to take care of whatever emergency has cropped up (even if it's just the dog begging to be let outside).
Unless you're working in high-end video editing or design, odds are you don't really need this monitor, but once you see it in action, you're certainly going to want it. It's big enough that you can open multiple windows with ease. The 4K resolution is gorgeous. And the additional clarity from the eye-popping OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen (which has significantly better color quality than other screens) will blow you away. So, though, will the price tag.
If you only work out of the home part-time (or live in a small apartment), it might not make sense to have a full-sized desk. The Hub 27 is a wall-mounted standing desk that flips down when there's work to do and folds away when you're done. Better still, it's largely invisible when it's folded and you can charge your phone, tablet and laptop in the cubby it creates without cluttering up a tabletop.
Having trouble with Wi-Fi dead zones in your house? Sengled's Boost is an LED lightbulb that also acts as a Wi-Fi extender, letting you surf the web at faster speeds, even in those areas that usually have you cursing at your phone, tablet or laptop.
If your PC doesn't have an SSD drive, it needs one. These superfast hard drives open complex programs (like, for instance, Photoshop) in a much shorter time period and let you boot up your machine significantly faster. Technically, the CS2211 is designed for video gamers, but the extra speed they demand will be especially handy as you get work done.
(Need an SSD drive with a lot more storage space? Samsung' SSD 850 PRO is the best bet, with 2TB of available space, but it'll set you back $920.)
Miinor tasks seem to take no time, but those stolen minutes can add up to hours over the course of a few weeks. Amazon's Echo digital assistant can take care of some of the mundane things for you — like playing music, adjusting the thermostat and even ordering you a pizza for lunch. Just don't get too busy talking to it that you forget to get your work done.