Many of us work from home on a part time basis. A couple of my good friends get to work from home every Friday because their employers offer them that option as a perk.
Now, with the COVID-19 crisis, most people are stuck at home. A lot of these employees don’t have any experience in working from home so here are some helpful tips.
Most of us that can work from home rely on an internet connection to do so. While some people can get by with using their smartphones to check their emails, most will need a reliable internet connection to be able to work from home.
To be on the safe side, I recommend a broadband connection of at least 25Mbps. You can get by with a slower connection if your household doesn’t have a lot of users or devices. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has this helpful article that can help you figure out what you actually need in order to have a decent experience.
You can check your broadband speed by running a speed test. My internet provider is Comcast and we (family of 4) use their 75Mbps plan.
On my desktop computer with a wired network connection I just got 73Mbps download speed and 5Mbps upload speed. My laptop (wireless connection) got 45.7Mbps down and 1.15Mbps up. Wireless devices usually get lower speeds. Running a test directly from my router resulted in 87Mbps down and 6Mbps up.
I recommend finding a dedicated spot in your home to work from. That doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up your laptop and go sit outside for a bit.
If you are about to work for hours in one place, you should make sure that you are comfortable, have access to the wired network connection if you need it, have a good wireless signal if you are on a laptop and have a power outlet near by.
If your wireless signal is not great, you might need to either change some settings in your wireless router or access point (AP), re-adjust antennas or move the wireless router or AP closer to your location.
There are two bands your WiFi can run on: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. 2.4Ghz band has better range while 5Ghz has better speed. Adjust the settings according to your needs. If you can’t do any of this then you will have to move closer to the wireless router or AP.
Cyber Security: network, devices and data
Whether you are working for someone else or for yourself, the data you interact with is very valuable. Whatever device you are working from home on, you have to take some measures to protect it.
Ask your employer if they can set up a VPN connection for you. A VPN connection creates an encrypted tunnel over the internet from your device to your work network. Once it is running, you can access all the work resources as if you were sitting in your office at work.
If work VPN is not an option, you can sign up for a VPN service like ExpressVPN. This service will encrypt your connection and protect you from bad guys intercepting your data. I especially recommend this if you are using a public/free internet connection. This does not give your computer access to your work resources the way a VPN connection from your work does.
You should also keep your computer updated and have an antivirus installed on it. For more information read my Cyber Security: Protect Your Home Devices Right Now post.
Work provided devices
If you are working from home, your employer hopefully provided a laptop for you. This laptop should be secured because your IT department configured it to be as such. It should at least be password protected, updated, have antivirus installed and it should come with a VPN connection configured.
In order to limit the security risks on a work laptop, you should avoid using it for anything but work. If your work laptop does not have any of the basic security options listed above, you should implement what you can with your employer’s permission.
At the very least set up a secure password to access the device and install antivirus on it. I use Avast Free Antivirus on my devices. Just un-tick some checkboxes to limit data collection.
If you are only occasionally working from home, you might not need any additional equipment to make your experience more comfortable. If you are working from home a lot, some of the following suggestions might make a lot of sense. Check with your employer to see if they can cover the cost. They usually will if they require you to work from home.
A docking station will make your life much easier if you’re working on a laptop. Most people will need a universal USB 3.0 docking station with 2 display ports. If you have a newer laptop with USB-C ports then you will need a USB-C dock. In addition to the display ports to expand you screen size, docks come with a network port, USB ports and a headset jack.
Make sure that the dock you choose fits your monitor connectors and your other needs. This Dell USB 3.0 dock has great reviews and works with non-Dell laptops. Confirm that it will work for you before you buy it.
Multiple monitors help with productivity. 2 are great but having 3 or more might not be worth it unless your job requires you to have a lot of windows opened at once. If you are getting a dock make sure that the monitor ports match the ports on the dock. Here is a list of a few well reviewed monitors on Amazon.
A good headset can keep you sane when working from home. Unless you live alone or have a quiet nook to work in, consider playing music to drown out outside noise and keep you from being distracted. It also comes in handy when you need to jump on a Zoom call with your boss.
Finally, if you have a dedicated space with a desk, a standing desk option will keep you healthier. It can help with back pain and it can improve your mood and energy levels among other things. If you do get a standing desk, you should look into getting a standing mat as well, but only if you actually spend a good amount of time using the standing desk and not sitting down.
It is a good idea to set yourself up for working from home if it makes sense for your job. If you spend most of your day working on a computer you should work towards being able to do your job from anywhere.
The flexibility to do so can come in handy during unexpected events. In dire times it could be the thing that saves your business. The key is to stay secure and comfortable.