These are some utterly unprecedented times we’re going through, with huge numbers of people being asked to work from home, being forced to work from home or being forced into self-isolation and keen to work from home it raises a whole new range of questions and problems for people who’ve never worked from home for extended periods.
Most of us have opened the laptop at home, or logged into our emails – we’ve all “worked” while at home.
But if you’re stuck at home in self-isolation or as a part of the social distancing measures it presents a whole new set of challenges.
So here’s a bunch of things that might help you get ready, or settle into a working from home environment.
Your home Internet
Everyone has internet at home. The problem is, it’s all different.
Firstly, if you’re relying on your smartphone to tether to your computer for Internet, that’s going to to have a huge impact on your data usage. So talk to your telco about what assistance they can offer. What bonus data deals might be in place for the short term, or what plan you can jump up to. Whatever you do, make sure it’s temporary.
If you have broadband at home, and the majority will be via NBN, take a look at your speed plan and data allowance.
If you’re on the cheapest, and slowest plan – 25Mbps, then contact your telco and consider jumping up to the 50Mbps plan – again, make it temporary. This is particularly important if you’re sharing the home with kids who are home or other family member who are either working from home, or streaming Stan or Netflix while they’re home.
And whatever your speed, make sure you’re not going to hit your Data cap. If your data allowance is low, check your usage regularly to ensure you aren’t going to max out and your whole network gets slowed down or you get charged more.
Your home WiFi
Even the best Internet won’t offer you any help if you’re sitting in the worst WiFi area of your home. The modem/router – that single box your Internet provider supplied you with is only capable of a limited WiFi signal. It’s distance is limited, and the speed it offers reduces the further you get away from the modem.
These systems plug into your existing modem, they are easy to setup, and what they offer is a multi device WiFi network.
One device is at your modem, another inside your lounge room, and one might be upstairs. Basically, they combine together to create a single, high speed internet to every corner of your home.
The internet you pay for that comes into the house, is the internet that’s available throughout your home.
Set aside a space
Once you have connectivity sorted, you need a space. This isn’t easy for everyone, but you need to find your own space. There needs to be a desk or table you go to to work. A space that when others see you in that area – they know it’s your work time.
That’s the real challenge here. If you’re sharing the space with others, those others must respect your worktime. Be that kids, or other family and friends, you have to establish a clear boundary so you’re in the work zone both mentally and physically.
Your Computer & Accessories
So, you’ve got a PC at home. Great. Is it shared though? Have you got complete access?
A Laptop might be a better option – allowing you to choose a clear work space, and not be sharing time with the kids school work.
If you don’t have one, might your work provide one?
You won’t have an OH&S specialist at home, but pretend like you do, because comfort means you stay healthy and don’t develop any bad habits.
Sit your computer at a proper desk or table. Don’t lay in bed or on the couch.
Get a good and comfortable chair which has your arms at the right height for typing.
The Top of your screen should be at eye level, so get a monitor for it, or sit the laptop on supports so its at the right height. Looking down at your screen is bad for your neck.
Can I use an iPad?
Maybe. If you do, get a smart keyboard, or a Bluetooth keyboard to pair with it.
I think you’ll be limited to using an iPad for emails, and for some document creation, and while the latest iPad OS is amazing, it’s just not yet really a content creation dynamo. YES, it’s possible, but in reality, there’s still some way to go.
If you don’t have a PC or Laptop, make sure you set your iPad as dedicated to work time. You can even use Screen Time on the iPad to restrict apps like Stan and Netflix to outside work hours so the temptation is removed.
Making phone calls easier.
You probably don’t have a landline phone. So your mobile is it.
Make that easier by getting a Bluetooth Headset. I use a Plantronics one which offers amazing quality and can sit on the desk all day ready for calls, or keep it in and be able to wander around the house.
You can also use normal Bluetooth headphones, but be warned, they don’t often offer the best phone call quality, they are made for music streaming first and foremost.
While you’re there, consider putting a Wireless Charger on your desk, that means your phone is always with you, always charging, but no messy cables to connect and reconnect whenever you leave the desk.
Video Conferencing? What?
Scary right? Not at all. Laptops all have built-in cameras these days, and if you don’t have one you can buy cameras at JB HiFi for as little as $50, a decent one should set you back $100 at most.
There are a lot of video options. Skype is one and that works well, Google Hangouts is another, which requires nothing more than your browser and a Google account login, and then there’s Zoom – very popular.
Most at worst will require a simple software download and install. Once that’s done most organised meetings are just a click of a link away – really easy to join.
Some tips for Video calls. When there are multiple people on the call, use the MUTE function to cancel your audio so you’re fumbling with papers or typing on the keyboard can’t be heard by others.
When you’re speaking, and everyone is looking at you, don’t look at the screen, look AT your camera – it means better eye to eye contact, otherwise you’re actually not looking “at” people.
If your workplace is smaller, or you just don’t go to a lot of meetings normally, try to make time to use Facetime, or Skype, or WhatsApp to make video calls. That eye to eye conversation is a game changer, and will make the isolation just a little less lonely I hope.
You shouldn’t need one. But, if your kids are home too, you’re probably going to be printing loads of stuff for them to do to.
Buying a printer can be a nightmare, because the cheap ones are GREAT PRINTERS. 100%. But they will have cartridges, and replacing those babies is not cheap, at all.
My advice, look for what Officeworks call “Continuous Ink” ,printers, these ones have loads of ink in them and you simply refill the ink – normally, that happens once a YEAR or longer. So while the up front cost is higher, the ongoing costs are dramatically lower.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.