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Working From Home: Setting Up Your Ideal Home Office

using laptop at homeAccording to Forbes, one in five Americans currently works from home, and that number is on the rise. It’s easy to see the appeal of working from home. You get to make your own hours, work at your own pace and forget all about the commutes that can suck hours out of your day. It’s even been shown to increase worker productivity. In a 2013 study performed by a Stanford economics professor, it was discovered that workers who telecommute routinely outperform their in-office counterparts.

There are, however, some steps everyone who works from home needs to take to ensure a happy and productive work day. None are more important than setting up a home office. Having a dedicated place to work is just as important at home as it is if you were heading into an office each day. So if you’re one of the millions of people jumping into the liberating waters of self-employment or telecommuting, then you’ll want to follow these steps to set up your ideal home office.

Step 1: Keep it Separated One of the big dangers of working from home is that your personal life and your work life will start to blend together. The greater distinction you can draw between the two, the better. Ideally you’d have a completely separate room you could make your office. A spare bedroom, an empty laundry room or, in some cases, even an oversized walk-in closet could work nicely. In a best-case scenario, you’d have a room with a completely separate outside entrance. This would allow clients or coworkers access to your work space without requiring them to traipse through your living space. A dedicated room also gives you the big bonus of being able to write off your home office on your taxes every year. The IRS requires that a home office be use exclusively and on a regular basis for work in order for it to qualify as tax-deductible. That means a desk in the corner of your bedroom probably isn’t going to cut it.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of all that extra space. But you can still do things to ensure your home office feels separate from the rest of your life. You can set up partitions, decorate the area differently or even just position your desk so it isn’t facing the rest of the room. Anything you do to distinguish that space as the only space you work will help you from feeling like your job is taking over the rest of your life.

Step 2: Light It Up Make sure your office is near a source of natural light. A little sunlight will keep you from feeling cooped up for long stretches of time. Add in some artificial light as well for those days where you end up working long into the night. Don’t just settle for your home’s overhead lights; invest in some table and desk lamps to give your work area a warm glow.

Step 3: Office Decorations If you don’t put a little love into how your home office looks, you may end up in a space as drab as any office cubicle. Taking the time to decorate and arrange your space in a way you find aesthetically pleasing and comfortable will go a long way toward making this a place where you’ll be happy to do eight hours of work  (or more) every day. Add pictures of your family, cartoons you find amusing and some plant life to bring a little bit of the outdoors indoors. It’s important to not go overboard; you still want this to resemble a workspace even if there isn’t a stuffy office manager there to berate you for inappropriate accessories and decorations. But it is OK to enjoy a little of the freedom you have to personalize your space now that you work from home.

Step 4: Stay Organized Home offices can quickly get cluttered if you don’t have somewhere to store all your important papers and files. A filing cabinet may not be the most attractive piece of furniture, but without it you might start coming into work every morning with a desk drowning in paperwork. Or even worse, the paperwork could start spreading into other parts of your house. A small, two-drawer filing cabinet is usually enough for most home offices. You can even position it right next to your desk and decorate the top with plants, pictures or figurines to keep it aesthetically pleasing.

Step 5: Stay Comfortable Your house is probably already full of chairs, but none of them are right for eight hours of work. Pain from bad working conditions can lead to bad posture, repetitive stress disorder or worse. So don’t just pull a hard wooden chair from the kitchen into your home office. Invest in an ergonomically correct office chair. Or maybe even consider a standing desk. According to a recent study, sitting all day can seriously reduce your life expectancy. Setting up your home office could also be your first step towards a longer, happier life!

Step 6: Make Good Connections Your computer and your phone are going to be your connections to the rest of your working world, and it’s important they run as efficiently as possible. You’ll want the equipment and bandwidth to handle hour-long Skype meetings or any other surprises your job may throw your way. Don’t settle for the cheapest option when you’re setting up the Internet for your home office; invest in a package that will keep you connected and running at optimal efficiency. You’ll also want to seek out a good landline. Sure, landlines seem about as relevant as a stone and chisel in today’s world, but they’re still very much a part of the modern office. It’s cool if your cell phone drops a social call every now and then, but in business one missed connection could cost you a huge opportunity. A secure landline will keep this from happening.

Step 7: Get Out of There! For the right person, working from a home office can really improve your life. It can lead to a better, happier work day and quite possibly a more successful and fulfilling career. You might end up loving your home office so much that you just want to spend all your time in there. But don’t! If you’re prone to overworking, you could end up trapping yourself in there, especially with no one there to tell you to pack it up and go home. Make sure your home office is just that: your home office —not just your home. After all, what’s the point of being your own boss if you’re just going to work yourself to death!

Ooma Gives Consumers Victory Over the War Against Robocalls and Telemarketers

Blacklisting FACEBOOK_11 16When you play the “Game of Phones” with spammers and robocallers, you either win by being able to block them or you’ll be constantly bombarded by “Rachel from card member services”, potential fraudulent spam calls like those offering “an exclusive, limited-time offer for a free ten-day all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas” or the soon to be just about everywhere, “I’m blankety-blank and I approve of this message”. There is simply no middle ground.

To help stop the nuisance, Ooma just enhanced its personal blacklist feature, allowing our Premier service subscribers to block up to 1,000 phone numbers they simply don’t want to hear from, including entire area codes and toll free numbers.

In the last couple of years, Ooma’s robust blacklisting capabilities have helped our customers block more than 36 million calls, saving consumers time and annoyance and helping the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, avoid scams and fraud. Additionally, Ooma estimates the 2016 Presidential Election will generate a record number of robocalls, especially in swing states, and consumers now can take matters into their own hands and block them for good.

In fact, the top 5 states where Ooma Telo customers blocked the most telemarketing calls in the past couple of years are:

State Calls Blocked
CA 3,849,665
TX 1,852,007
FL 1,681,768
GA 1,247,627
OH 876,114

Here are a few tips to protect you and your family from unwanted calls:

  1. Get Ooma Telo and sign up for Premier* service to take advantage of three customizable methods to block calls for the most robust defense available today against robocalls and telemarketers:
    1. Personal Blacklist: A private, customizable list of up to 1,000 phone numbers Ooma Telo users wish to block. Users can add and remove numbers including entire area codes they’d like blocked or sent to voicemail.
    2. Community Blacklists: Contains tens of thousands of phone numbers identified by Ooma and its user community as sources of spam and telemarketing calls.
    3. Expanded Blacklist: Taps into Nomorobo’s third-party database of suspected telemarketers, robocallers and phone spammers. When enabling the Expanded Blacklist, Ooma Telo customers are protected from unwanted and unsolicited calls from more than 850,000 known sources of phone spam.
  2. List your number in the National Do Not Call Registry: Register for free to help prevent telemarketers from calling you at home, but keep in mind that it does not block political or charity calls, which is why you need Ooma’s blacklisting feature.

*In addition to Blacklisting, Premier membership also provides a number of powerful features including an expanded free calling area, Instant Second Line, voicemail to email forwarding, ringing of your home and mobile phone simultaneously, free mobile calling using the Ooma mobile app, voicemail monitoring and more.

For a full list of features, go to: http://www.ooma.com/premier/

Ooma Office Brings Flexibility to Small Businesses With the Introduction of IP Phone Support

IP phonesOoma wants to help small businesses present a more professional image and run more efficiently while  simultaneously saving them as much as 75% on their phone service. Already, Ooma Office phone service provides big business features like a virtual receptionist and the flexibility to use inexpensive analog phones and fax machines as well as mobile phones, giving employers an easy way of supporting both in-house and remote workers.

Some of our customers have expressed the desire to use IP phones, in addition to analog and mobile phones, as their businesses grow. We believe all businesses should have the flexibility to choose solutions right for them and that’s why Ooma Office now supports three popular IP phone models, including Cisco SPA303, Cisco SPA 504G  and Yealink SIP-T21P E2.

The IP phones will be sold exclusively by Ooma as part of the Ooma Office phone system. In addition to standard features such as caller ID, call waiting, call waiting caller ID, three-way conference and a message waiting indicator, Ooma Office’s IP Phone integration also includes advanced features such as blind transfer (1-step transfer), supervise transfer (2-step transfer), extension dialing and Do Not Disturb.

It isn’t a coincidence that Ooma Office was recently named best business VoIP service by PC Magazine for an unprecedented three consecutive years and we couldn’t be prouder to provide small businesses with enterprise-grade solutions and advanced features that allow our customers to maintain a high standard of professionalism as they pursue their dreams and create jobs, without the high cost.

For more information about Ooma Office visit: www.ooma.com/business.

One Billion Dollars!

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Ooma has collectively saved our customers over $1 billion dollars on their monthly phone bills! Over the years the most frequent feedback we get from our customers is “thank you for saving us money”. That got us thinking; how much money have we saved our customers?

We estimate that Ooma Telo customers typically save over $1,000 on their monthly phone bill in just three years and Ooma Office customers typically save more than $1,800 in the first year alone.

From the beginning our mission has always been to offer an exceptional phone service while saving our customers significant money each month. Not only have we delivered the huge savings, but we’ve vastly improved home phone service by incorporating features such as telemarketer call blocking and 911 text alerts. In addition, the Ooma Telo integrates with popular smart home products and services including Amazon Echo, Nest Protect and Nest Thermostat, Apple Watch, Android Wear, Philips Hue, WeMo, LIFX and Dropbox.

We are so proud to have saved our customers $1 billion and we can’t wait to show you what’s to come between now and the next billion saved!

5 Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Social Media

AMan Writing and Planning Social Media Conceptss a business owner, you are probably wondering how much time you should be investing in social media. Is it even worth all the time and effort? The answer is YES and here are 5 reasons why:

1. Social media can reduce your overall marketing costs

Social networks are a cost-effective way to get your small business in front of both your current customers as well as prospective customers. Consider starting off with a small budget to boost your posts on Facebook to target consumers by specific demographics, keywords, and interests. This will help increase your awareness and the reach of your messaging.

2. Offer better customer service

One of the first places people go to voice their comments, concerns, and questions is Twitter and Facebook. You can quickly answer customers in a public format that lets other customers see the quality of your customer service.

3. Create a voice

Social media is a great way to display your business’s personality. You can do so by sharing behind-the-scene information about you, your employees, your workspace, and more. Remember, you don’t always want to have a sales tone! When you humanize your small business in this way, it makes it easier for consumers to connect with you and develop loyalty.

4. Make yourself visible

Often times, if you are not active on the various social media platforms out there, customers forget you exist and begin communicating with your competitors. Try posting several times a week on the various platforms where your audience is present to remind them of your business. Remember fish where the fish are!

5. Build loyalty and trust

Allowing your customers to share their stories about their experience with your small business on social media is a wonderful form of word-of-mouth marketing. So when customers rave about you to their friends and family, it not only boosts your online reputation, but it increases the chances that someone else is going to give you a shot next time they need your services.

Start with just a few minutes a day, and you will soon see a difference!

Want to see some examples? Connect with us on our social channels today!  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

 

Written by: Anat Hazanchuk, Social Media Marketing Manager at Ooma

Alexa, Use Ooma to Check Voicemail

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When the Amazon Echo launched last summer, I got one to see what all the buzz was about. Expecting yet another voice assistant, like the ones from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others, I set up the Echo device in my kitchen.  Right away, my kids were using Alexa to play music, my wife was asking for the weather, and I was adding things to a shopping list.  We did all this effortlessly while moving about our daily activities – cooking, cleaning, doing homework. Alexa was always there, at our beck and call.  What amazed me most was one evening during dinner we were listening to music and I couldn’t hear my daughter speaking.  I didn’t want to get up to turn the music down.  So, on a whim, I said from across the room “Alexa, turn it down”, thinking there’s no way Alexa could actually do this.  Guess what, she did it. That feature alone made me love Alexa.

Unlike Siri and other voice assistants, Alexa allows 3rd party companies, like Ooma, to develop new ways to use it.  So my team brainstormed some ideas for things we might do.  The geeks in us loved building apps for a new platform.  We were pioneers.  Being first on a nascent platform would create new opportunities for users to discover Ooma.  But more importantly, we realized we could make Ooma home phone service more convenient for customers who had an Echo.  We identified a few key features:  Allow Ooma customers to listen to voicemail over their Echo device.  And allow Ooma customers to dial their phones using voice commands.  We quickly put together a prototype.  We tested it with co-workers, friends, and family, and then iterated to get the voice commands right.  We shared it with Amazon and got excited reactions.  It was a go!

I’m proud to say that through hard work at Ooma and the support of Amazon, we were able to implement production versions of the features in a few short weeks, and then launch them at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Ooma customers can now listen to their voicemail through the Echo device or a Fire TV.  And any Echo owner, not just Ooma customers, can dial their phone using voice commands, using Alexa.  To get started, go to your Alexa app on your smartphone, and search for Ooma in the “Skills” section.  Ooma customers, remember to choose the “Login with existing account” option.

We couldn’t do everything we envisioned.  For example, although you can ask Alexa to dial your phone, you cannot use the Echo microphone and speaker to complete the call.  We hope that in the future Amazon will open up the ability for us to make the Echo a speakerphone.  We’ll be sure to update you if and when it does.  In the mean time, thousands of people are already enjoying the Ooma skill, the very first communication service to launch on the Alexa platform.  Congrats to the Ooma and Amazon teams who made this possible!

Written by: Thad White, Director of Product Management

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Ooma Now Works with Apple Watch, Android Wear, Philips Hue!

IFTTT_Generic_v2If you haven’t heard, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been a hot topic of discussion lately, and we’ve been following it very closely over here at Ooma. IoT is the quickly growing network of devices that interact with each other over the Internet, and it includes everyday devices like your smart phone, watch, lights, TV, and even your washing machine. We thought to ourselves, shouldn’t your home phone be in that list too? Well, now we’re excited to tell you that Ooma can now connect with your favorite devices, including your Apple WatchTM, Android WearTM, and Philips HueTM light bulbs!

In our experience with IoT, the hard part isn’t getting your device to connect to the Internet; that’s the easy part. Where it gets tricky is getting your device to talk to other devices that aren’t designed to talk to you. Recently, we’ve made some friends over at IFTTT that could help us with this problem. IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That,” is a free Web-based service that allows devices that don’t normally work together, work together. After collaborating with them closely these past few months, here are a few examples of what you can now do with Ooma:

  • Caller-ID on your wrist: Have your Ooma Telo sendreal-time push notifications with caller-ID to your Apple WatchTM, Android WearTM, or other iOS and Android devices when you receive a call.
  • Philips HueTM visual alerts: When your kids are sleeping and you need it to be quiet in the house, turn off your ringer and have Ooma blink your Philips HueTM light bulbs when you receive a call.
  • Voicemail notifications: Receive push notifications on your iOS or Android devices when you receive a new voicemail or get visual alerts on your Philips HueTM bulbs.

To activate the features above for free, Premier users can go to http://my.ooma.com/apps or visit http://ifttt.com/ooma. If you want to learn more, you can also look at our support article here.

Leave us a comment with your thoughts and ideas!

Written By: Anthony Hizon, Product Manager at Ooma

 

 

 

How can I market my business on a small budget?

Ooma_chat_1024x512_Twitter_v3The problem many small businesses face is how to market their business without breaking the bank. Marketing on a small budget is a constant concern for small businesses. To answer that growing question, we partnered with Ebong Eka, CPA, small business expert, to provide the answers to the Top Ten Ways to Market your Small Business on a Budget in our Twitter Chat (#OomaBizChat)!

1. What’s the best social media platform to use for marketing?

Depends on where your audience is and where they spend the majority of their time. However, live streaming apps like Periscope and Blab.im have become game changers for the business world!

2. A mentor suggested Facebook ads, what if my customers aren’t on Facebook?

Facebook is the #1 platform for business in terms of impact and users. Use paid ads and start off with a small budget like $3- $5/day. Build strong content marketing assets to share with your audience. Also remember, “Likes” don’t necessarily turn into dollars.

3. I wear many hats at my company. How do I find time to market to my customers?

You either market to your customers or your competitors will market to them. Social Media is cheaper than traditional forms of marketing. Here are some steps:

  • Spend your time and effort where you want to see a return on investment.
  • Designate an hour a day towards marketing- and add more time as you see needed.
  • Join networking groups that focus on Facebook and social media.
  • Hire interns/outsource

4. If I have $200 to spend, what are the best platforms to market my business?

Use Facebook power editor to create dark (sponsored) posts and target it to specific audience (interests, zip codes, income levels, etc.) or even model your ads after your competitors.

5. TV is expensive, are there other areas that I should focus my marketing efforts on?

  • Social Media has an unlimited reach.
  • Original or sponsored content on YouTube depending on your audience and how they consume content.
  • Blog about solutions to problems that your potential customers may be facing.
  • BIG 5 Social Platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook – You can also throw Pinterest in the mix!
  • Youtube and Facebook video ads
  • Video tutorials

6. What are 2 quick ways to get media and marketing attention for a small business for less than $200?

  • Create Facebook ads for $5/day and mirror your competitors’ audience using Facebook Editor.
  • Create lead generation campaigns including free ebooks, workbooks or resources in exchange for a customer email address.

7. Why should small businesses do email marketing? Isn’t email marketing dead?

  • Email is the best way to connect with prospect clients and customers
  • Use auto responder software like Aweber or Mail Chimp to manage your email list
  • Offer targeted specials to your email list in order to incentivize new customers to act too

8. What are the Top 4 mistakes small businesses make with marketing?

  • Focusing solely on one marketing platform without data to support the decision or researching the social channels their customers spend most of their time using.
  • Not staying committed to the marketing process and wanting a quick return on investment
  • Not willing to spend money on advertising and not understanding the platform where marketing dollars are spent.
  • Not paying attention to the analytical data from their marketing efforts. For example, not knowing the cost of customer acquisition in relation to the marketing dollars spent.

9. Are blogs still a great way to market for cheap or should small businesses focus on social media?

  • Blogs are great to tell a story
  • Do both – social media for presence and blogs for personality and trustworthiness
  • Re-purpose content that you’ve seen do well online. For example, re-purpose (reuse) the content that gets the most engagement, shares, likes and comments.

10. What are the best tools to brand your business with a small budget?

  • Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (It depends on your audience and where they are spending most of their time.)
  • Phone system: Ooma Office- includes features to make you sound like a big business without the big costs. You can forward incoming calls to your mobile phone with the mobile app. You can also create separate phone lines for others members of your company.
  • Websites: WordPress – This content management software makes it easier to make changes to your site.
  • Email Campaigns: You can use email marketing software like Aweber or MailChim

Marketing is the lifeblood to any business. Without marketing, you won’t get clients and without clients, you won’t grow your sales! Even if you’re not a techie, social media is a great platform to grow your business and your brand, which leads to growing your sales!

 

Written by: Ebong Eka, CPA
Ericorp Consulting, Inc.
Levyti Consulting, LLC

www.ebongeka.com

 

“Alexa, Use Ooma to Call Mom!”

1That’s right –Ooma is partnering with Amazon to provide advanced voice-enabled calling capabilities using Amazon Echo and its voice-activated virtual assistant, Alexa. As the first-ever home communications solution to enable calling capabilities for Amazon Echo, Ooma continues to lead the way as the communications hub of the smart home.

Here’s how it works:

Free for ALL Amazon Echo Users

Alexa allows Amazon Echo users to initiate domestic phone calls using voice commands over Ooma’s cloud platform. The Ooma Calling Skill can be enabled from the Amazon Alexa App and activated for free.

Even More Features for Ooma Customers

For current Ooma Telo owners, the call destination can be identified by name if the contact information is entered into the Ooma online contact list. Users can also listen to voicemails through their Echo device by using the voice-command, “Alexa, use Ooma to play voicemail.”

In addition to the partnership with Amazon Echo, the Ooma Telo offers integrations with smart devices such as Nest, Philips Hue and LIFX, iOS and Android devices and wearables, WeMo and Dropbox – enabling new ways to communicate and be notified of important events at home and bringing both convenience and simplicity to homes everywhere.

 

 

Home Phones Just Got Smarter

There are more than 1.9 biIFTTT_Generic_v2llion smart home devices in the market today, and according to BI Intelligence, there will be 9 billion by 2018. And now your home phone is one of them. Ooma Telo now integrates with popular connected devices and services including Apple Watch, Android Wear, Philips Hue, WeMo, LIFX light bulbs and Dropbox, in addition to Ooma’s current integrations with Nest.

These new integrations provide Ooma customers with the convenience and flexibility of using their Ooma Telo with their mobile devices and connected home devices, including possible uses such as:

  • Caller-ID on your wrist: Incoming calls on your Ooma Telo generate a real-time push notification of the caller-ID on your Apple Watch, Android Wear, or other iOS and Android devices.
  • Visual alerts let the lights do the talking: Identify known callers and avoid interruptions by setting up visual call alerts on your existing lamps using a WeMo smart plug, or on your Philips Hue light bulbs.
  • Enable a more illuminated life: With LIFX Wi-Fi enabled LED smart bulbs, you can create customized visual call alerts, such as blinking green for known callers and red for unknown numbers.
  • Voicemail notifications: Receive a push notification on your iOS or Android devices when you receive a new voicemail, or get a visual alert on your Philips Hue, WeMo or LIFX light bulbs.
  • Voicemail archiving: Automatically save voicemails to your Dropbox account.

The new integrations complement the Ooma Telo’s integration with the Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide™ alarm and Nest Learning Thermostat™, which have made homes safer by making it possible for a home phone to call homeowners when an event is detected, with the option to immediately connect them with local emergency services using their home phone number and address.

Ooma enables the integrations through a partnership with IFTTT, a free web-based service that allows consumers to creatively control their favorite products and apps to perform functions based on conditional statements.

To sign up for IFTTT and connect Ooma with hundreds of apps and devices, go to http://my.ooma.com/apps or visit http://ifttt.com/ooma – happy connecting!

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