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Working at home technology tips

Today, with many of us suddenly finding ourselves working from home for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic, technology– rather than taking over the world – is helping to keep us connected.

Whether you are a remote working novice or it’s just another week for you, here are some tech tips to help you make the most of it.

Finding the right office

Working from home can summon a tantalising image: rolling out of bed already at work, no traffic, and with technology at your disposal, all you have to do is switch on a computer, all from the comfort of your dressing gown. Studies show it can even boost productivity.

But while working from your bed can seem appealing, setting up a home office can create a more motivating environment – much like getting dressed can psychologically prepare you for work (unless, like 40% of Brits, you prefer working in your pyjamas).

If you’re in it for the long haul, set up a permanent workspace (whether it’s in your spare room, attic or Palo Alto garage). Otherwise, create a temporary office that is preferably not your living room (don’t be scared to get creative).

Technology will be your closest friend while you work from home – but it can also be your downfall. The last thing you need is the added temptation of daytime TV. That being said, take breaks and accept that distractions, just like in a physical office, will happen. Use it to get your eyes that much-needed break from the screen.

Access to the right technology

While we are all unique in the way we operate, having access to the right type of tech will be vital to your ability to work well remotely.  In many cases, you will need access to a reliable laptop, charging point and your company’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) – so make sure these are set up/available in advance.

The other option is a desktop computer (investing in your own? things to consider are the processor, storage and RAM).

Dual monitors, wireless keyboards and smartphones can also help to boost performance and productivity levels, especially for heavy apps usage (many businesses will provide these on request). Don’t forget, a remote worker is only as good as his tools.

Lastly, you may well have heard of the ‘iPad neck’, so make sure your setup is comfortable. A desktop computer can be more ergonomic, even if you can’t carry it to the garden on those hot British summer days.

Check Wi-Fi and connectivity

There are few things that are quite as frustrating as losing internet connectivity – in fact, almost 4 in 10 people would rather go without basic utilities.

Without an IT team at close proximity, however, working from home means you are left to your own devices, quite literally.

Unreliable internet connections can slow down productivity – so it’s important to ensure your broadband is up to speed, especially in households with multiple users:

  • First, run some checks – the GoCompare speed test lets you measure the speed of your connection for free
  • Can you work close to your router? A wired Ethernet connection to your computer can ensure the fastest speeds
  • If you’re using a laptop, check that the room you are using has a strong Wi-Fi signal
  • Have you tried moving it back and forth? A router’s antennae are designed to transmit signal in a roughly radial pattern – try repositioning your router so it’s optimally located between the right rooms

If poor performance persists, have a look at installing an extender or even upgrading your broadband. If cable broadband isn't cutting it, you could try out mobile broadband with a data SIM plan

Video conferencing – use it smartly

With more people working from home than ever before, video calls have been providing a new way to keep us connected – from the Vatican to the boardrooms of FTSE 100 firms – allowing colleagues to collaborate, take meetings online and share videos of their cute cats.

There are many video conferencing apps available that are free to download – including Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom (the virtual background feature is a game-changer).

As well as one-on-one and group video and audio calls, apps such as Microsoft Teams (which allows up to 250 people on a meeting) also offer instant messaging alongside screen and file sharing options.

Find a quiet place, smile – and remember when to switch off your microphone, as Wales’s health minister recently learnt the hard way.

The Routine

Having a routine and structure in place can help get you in the right mindset – especially with many distractions, social media and streaming devices around you.

One of the best things about working from home is flexibility, but it’s also important to manage your time effectively.

Set yourself real work hours, and similarly make sure you distance yourself from work at the end of the day so you’re not constantly in “work mode”.

Saving the best …

It is virtually impossible to imagine what life would be like without technology, which has facilitated many aspects of our lives, meaning we can now work from almost anywhere with a good internet connection.

It also means there are plenty of tools and project management apps available to help you work remotely – including Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and Freedcamp. These apps (available in mobile and web-based versions) offer remote teams a way to collaborate and manage important projects in one place, especially those with complex workflows and time-management needs.

But technology is also subject to failures.

Keep it safe

As the old adage goes, always remember to keep your work safe. Save your files to both your local hard drive and an online drive (e.g. OneDrive), and back them up to an external hard drive or USB flash drive if you can.

Every cloud has a silver lining. But more importantly, cloud storage is cheaper and means you can access your work files wherever you are.

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