telecommuting tips
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Whether you telecommute or hire telecommuters, keep these tips in mind

Telecommuting is intended to be a great money-saver for both telecommuters and those that hire them; employees save gas and time, while employers save on office space, utilities, and supplies. However, it is possible to telecommute inefficiently, and miss out on some of the savings you might otherwise enjoy. Here are a few tips to help telecommuters save time and money.

Slash your energy costs

This is one of the biggest expenses for telecommuters; running computers, printers, and other office equipment all day can be a surprising power drain, especially if you leave them running overnight. To reduce your home office’s energy usage:

  • Cut out “vampire load”. Hook all your office devices into a single surge protector, and unplug the surge protector when you’re done working. Monitors in particular drain nearly as much energy whether they’re turned on or off, so having everything unplugged at the end of the day can save you hours and hours of drain each week.
  • Be conservative about climate control. While the popular image of the telecommuter sitting at home with no pants on has a certain appeal, heating and cooling your home can be more costly that way. Space heaters and fans can substantially reduce the cost of staying comfortable while you work.
  • Invest in energy-efficient appliances. Before you buy a new printer, computer, or cell phone, check energy efficiency sites to verify manufacturers’ “green” claims. One of the biggest energy-saving moves you can make is to switch from a desktop to a laptop””desktops on average use eight times as much power as comparable laptops, and use more energy when they’re in “sleep” mode than laptops do at full power.

Shop around for telecommunications services

Telecommunications bills also become more significant for telecommuters than others. If you work from home, consider whether you really need both a home phone and cell, and shop around carefully for a plan that allows you the latitude to make as many calls as you need to stay in touch with the home office. Switching over to affordable VoIP providers can significantly cut telecommunication costs.

Encourage co-workers and partners to do as many internal communications as possible over a VoIP service like Skype, rather than calling your home or cell phone. Also be wary of internet service providers that “throttle” your connection after you reach a certain bandwidth cap, particularly if your business involves video or graphics editing, or any other work that involves sending and streaming large files to and from your home office.

Instead of buying new, buy used and upgrade

Office equipment, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a lot like a car; it loses a lot of its value as soon as it leaves the store. Because of the rapid pace of innovation, computers and cell phones become officially “obsolete” just a few months after they come out, but for most office functions like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and databases, you can find more-than-capable computers for under $300.

When your computer starts to strain under the workload you put on it, rather than replacing it with a new machine, consider buying a GB or two of extra RAM, or an external hard drive. $50 worth of RAM, or a $100 professional diagnostic, can be just as effective as a $1000 new laptop.