Home office tech is ‘the new loo paper’
Office supplies have become the new supermarkets and computer monitors the new toilet paper as Australian workers rush to set up home offices in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus in Australia.
The race kicked off across the country this week, with retailers reporting huge demand for everything from stand-up desks to printers.
And it's expected to continue over the next month as more companies and government departments direct their workforces to operate remotely.
Experts say the push for gear is warranted, as they recommend stay-at-home workers invest time setting up comfortable workspaces, ensuring they can stay connected during peak times, and that they have the means to video call colleagues, both for work purposes and for social contact.
The nationwide run on home office supplies from Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks intensified early this week as many businesses closed down open-plan workplaces.
A spokeswoman for Officeworks said the company had witnessed a surge in demand for office gear since measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus were announced last Friday.
"We have seen a spike in (sales of) technology and home-office products such as monitors, home printers, computer accessories, cables and sit-stand desks; products that all help our customers work remotely," she said.
Parents were also preparing for the possibility of schooling their children at home too, she said, with sales of "education resources" also high.
Sales of laptop computers, office chairs, wi-fi extenders, and even mobile internet hot spots are also expected to be big in the coming weeks, and Australian Institute of Management WA chief executive Professor Gary Martin said the purchases would be well placed.
Many employees could struggle when asked to work away from their colleagues, he warned, and would no longer be able to meet others at coffee shops as they had done in the past.
"When you're working from home for an extended period, you really need to be able to use teleconferences more often," he said. "Face-to-face contact is critical in terms of working from home. The technology also forces you into work mode."
The founder of virtual workplace Fifty Acres, Jo Scard, said Australia's new work-from-home employees should embrace communications tools including Skype, Slack, Zoom, and GoToMeeting to stay connected to one another, and should try to avoid falling into lazy traps.
"As tempting as it may be, working in your PJs can have a serious effect on your mindset," she said. "Getting dressed each day as if you're going into the office, perhaps minus the heels, will help you get into a work frame of mind and you'll find yourself more productive and less of a slump on the couch midmorning."
Mr Martin also said having a dedicated space for business at home was "critical" to ensuring this new breed of workers knew when to clock off.
"It needs to be a place where you can go to work and you can pick up your technology and leave your technology as well," he said.
"You need places in your household that are work-free zones as well, otherwise you'll burn out and end up being less productive."
10 ESSENTIAL WORK-FROM-HOME GADGETS
Extra monitors: Described as the 'toilet paper of the home office world,' these devices can make home computer use more comfortable. They range from Samsung's 32-inch Space Monitor that promises to take up less desk space ($797) to models from Acer and Phillips that will cost you less than $200.
Wi-Fi extenders: You can't work from your home office if the wi-fi doesn't reach it. Devices to help extend its reach include the Telstra Smart Wi-Fi Booster ($216) and Google's Nest Wi-Fi packs that come with up to three devices to spread internet access through larger homes ($269-$549).
Wireless kit: Having a smaller desk makes cords tricker but wireless mice and keyboards can eliminate the risk. The Logitech MX Master 3 ($150) will work with Apple Macs and PCs, for example, and its MX Vertical mouse ($170) to limit wrist strain.
Noise-cancelling headphones: If there's more than one person working in your home, or neighbours and construction are distracting, a headset can be your best investment. Comfortable models include the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless ($600) and Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones ($450).
EXPERT TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
1. Make sure you have a dedicated home office location. This will ensure you're ready for work in the morning and can leave it behind at the end of the day.
2. Schedule lots of face-to-face meetings using video services. These will give you social contact, ensure you're kept in the loop, and encourage you to put on work attire.
3. Make sure your workspace is comfortable and fit for purpose. You may need to invest in a second monitor, an office chair, laptop stand, or wireless mouse to achieve it.
4. Boost your home's wireless internet. Even if you have a good broadband service, you need to make sure the signal to your office is strong, and wi-fi boosters may be required.
5. Keep a clock nearby and set boundaries. You still need to take regular breaks, eat lunch, and stretch.