About a year ago, I started blocking off Friday on my calendar, calling it a “writing day.” Apart from the odd court date I have no control over, that block of time is inviolable. I use my Fridays to work from home (where I am right now), catch up on reading material, write briefs or blog posts, or catch up on administrative tasks.
It took a little bit of ingenuity to make sure I could get everything done from anywhere, but here is what I use to keep my office functioning on the move.
Remote access to files
In order to get things done outside the office, you must be able to get to your files. I use Dropbox to sync files between my office computer and home (and to my law clerk’s computer, for that matter).
All mobile files—any that leave the office, really—whether on a laptop or flash drive, must be encrypted. This is a rigid policy at my firm.
Warning: TrueCrypt is not secure. See this post for details and information on migrating to Bitlocker or FileVault.
Fortunately, encryption is easy to do. I use the built-in Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption on my laptop. My law clerk uses Apple’s built-in FileVault on his Macbook Air. You could also use TrueCrypt, if you do not have one of those programs built into your operating system. (You need Windows Vista Enterprise or Ultimate for BitLocker, and same will be true for Windows 7.)
Getting phone calls from anywhere
Some Fridays, I want to be able to answer the phone. I use Skype at the office, so it is easy enough to use it at home, too. I have a Philips VOIP 080 handset that I enjoy using, but you can find Bluetooth headsets, wired headsets, and many other options.
Call quality varies, but I get excellent call quality nearly everywhere, including the occasional coffee shop crowded with other web workers.
If you are not using Skype at work, you could just as easily forward your work phone to your Skype account or mobile phone on Fridays—or just wait until Monday to check your messages.
Working from home is no fun if you are tied to the printer. I use a Netgear wireless print server so that if I need to print a letter or brief draft, I can hit the print button from the backyard.
Setting it up is a piece of cake. I finally got around to reconnecting it this morning, so I just did it again. Netgear includes an easy-to-follow walkthrough that mostly involves plugging in your printer, the print server, and your computer to one another so they can all say hello.
Total cost of all this technology, not counting the laptop: about $200 to set up, and about $100 per year, if you get all the premium features of Skype and Dropbox.
So next Friday, get thee out of thy office and onto thy porch!
Edit: my home-office assistant just reminded me how important it is to have a home-office assistant:
A home-office assistant is critical to your home-office productivity and Friday happiness.