Solve the most common ‘working from home’ problems

The phenomenon of working from home is no longer the provenance of the self-employed and a fortunate few office workers; it has become the lot of millions, whether they asked for it or not. And even though many people prefer it to commuting, the hasty home office brings with it a raft of technical problems that might not have previously been foreseen.

A few tweaks can make your home-office environment a more comfortable experience. (Roberto Nickson/Unsplash)

In particular, an unreliable connection to the internet can suddenly become a business-critical issue, not just a domestic inconvenience.

So here are a few tips to help restore harmony to a household suddenly upended by the need to take your work home with you.

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Broadband is your lifeline from your home to the outside world, and if yours is prone to frequent disconnection, there are several things you can do. The first is to determine whether the problem is at your end or someone else’s. Many home office arrangements involve connecting to your company’s system via a private network, and this may have been designed to accommodate far fewer people than the number currently trying to access it. If you can connect to the “regular” internet on your phone more reliably than your office system, the problem may rest with your company’s IT department.

If that’s not the case, consider the type of broadband you currently have and how many people in your house are trying to use it at once. A fibre connection of around 35 megabits a second is really the least you need for maintaining continuous communication with multiple computers, phones, set-top boxes and all the other online devices in your house. If you find that isn’t enough, your broadband company will usually be able to double the capacity, at extra cost.

But if they can’t – or if broadband is not available in your area at all – you’re going to need to make the best possible use of the bandwidth you’ve got, and the router that came free with your contract might not be best placed to do that.

The addition of an interconnected system of routers like Google Mesh or the much cheaper ranges by TP-Link, Tenda and others will go a long way towards eliminating the “notspots” that make broadband harder to get in some rooms than others.

Mesh systems work by connecting wirelessly to each other and radiating a single, stable wi-fi system throughout your home. This means your devices can switch seamlessly between routers as you move about the house.

For this reason, there is little point in buying just one, but triple packs can be now had for around £75, and of course the high street shops can deliver them to you while their branches are closed.

As a backup, and if you have a good mobile signal inside your house, you can generate a wi-fi hotspot from your phone. This will use a lot of data but it’s a good option if you have an unlimited tariff that allows it.

Some of the problems are ergonomic rather than technical, and they can often be solved by creative use of the equipment lying around your house. An old monitor can usually be hooked up to your firm’s laptop, given the right cable, and will dramatically reduce the extent to which you have to squint at the screen. Just look for a port on the laptop marked VGA; pretty much any monitor will plug into that. A separate keyboard, mouse and headphones will also make your working experience more comfortable.

You can also improve the sound from your laptop by pairing it with any Bluetooth speaker you have lying around, or even plugging an old set of PC loudspeakers into the headphone socket.

Sometimes the best improvements are simpler still. A strategically-placed desk light or a cushion to make your chair more comfortable will make your home-work experience more akin to your office environment; maybe better. You might not want to go back.

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