Working from home is the dream for many, but fail to buy the right technology for your home office and it could quickly turn sour.
Share this article
Working from home is enormously popular these days as many more people are either starting their own businesses or employed with a company which allows them to work remotely. And it’s not hard to see why this is so attractive.
It can be a fantastic way to improve work/life balance and reduce stress by eliminating the morning commute. But in order to make the most of it you need to ensure you’ve got a suitable home office.
Your working space
While lounging on the sofa with a laptop might be acceptable now and then, a proper working space is a necessity if home working is going to be a regular occurrence.
A suitable desk and chair are essential for your comfort and health. It’s not usually something we spend much time thinking about when an employer provides them, but home workers will need to find furniture that’s going to help maintain good posture and provide as much desk space as required, while also meeting budget and size requirements.
Tiny British homes don’t always make this easy but there are some neat compact office solutions that can allow you to create a home office even when space is very limited. This is important to help you switch between work and home life.
Home office: this is the sort of set-up you're after
You don’t want to feel like you’re still at the office when relaxing at the weekend, and when you sit down to work it will let you get into the right mindset to concentrate on the tasks at hand and ignore any distractions.
When putting together your home office consider your equipment requirements both now and in the future. If you’re planning on using multiple monitors there needs to be sufficient worktop space, and you may need to account for additional hardware such as printers, graphics tablets, audio equipment or any other specialist tools.
And for safety, convenience and looks it is definitely worth spending some time on an efficient cable management system. There are plenty of off-the-shelf cable tidy systems but a DIY solution can save some money.
Choosing the right broadband service
There’s a good chance you’re going to be relying heavily on a broadband connection throughout the day. So what should you look out for when selecting a broadband service for home working?
Typically it’s the download speed of a service that receives the most attention and while this is important home workers may also benefit from a fast upload rate. This is something that’s often not as well publicised, but if your work involves sending large files out to the internet - whether it’s transmitting files to clients or backing up work to the cloud - then a rapid upstream speed will make life a lot easier.
ADSL broadband (the cheapest and most widespread service in the UK) has a very slow upload speed. Fibre optic broadband is significantly quicker in both directions, so should be your first choice if it’s available.
Data usage limits
Using a connection for eight hours, five days a week and potentially downloading and uploading lots of big files could see you bust through a capped broadband package in no time. Always opt for an unlimited service to avoid extra charges or service restrictions.
Ideally, you want a solution that works as fast as you do
Static IP address
Every device connected to the internet is assigned a set of digits called an Internet Protocol address. For example, 22.214.171.124 is an IP that points to Google.com.
On home broadband connections the IP is usually dynamic, which means it can change periodically. However if you’re planning on accessing the network remotely (perhaps for a home cloud storage server or viewing a security camera) it is convenient to have a permanently assigned static IP so you don’t need to constantly note the address.
Not all ISPs provide this service so check in advance if you require it. Some may charge a small fee. Alternatively, a dynamic DNS (DDNS) service like No-IP can monitor a dynamic IP and translate that to a domain name so the network is always easily accessible.
Having a way to connect to the internet outside the home is useful if your job involves lots of travel, or you just fancy working elsewhere for a few hours. But it isn’t always necessary to pay for a mobile broadband service.
Several ISPs include free nationwide Wi-Fi access as part of the deal, and many pubs and restaurants offer free hotspots. And a smartphone can be used as a modem by wirelessly tethering it to a computer, which is also handy in the event of a home broadband outage. But check with the mobile network ahead of time as it may involve an additional charge or come with different restrictions than regular mobile data use.
Most broadband packages will include a wireless router, often for free. As well as internet connectivity it will provide wired and wireless networking capabilities for sharing internet access and files with other devices in the home.
Ideally the router should be situated in your home office and connected to the computer with an ethernet (network) cable for the best speed and reliability. If the router is in another room then wired network connections can be easily extended using a powerline adapter kit, which transfers data over electrical circuits. These are an inexpensive and straightforward option for creating a wired network without stringing cables around the house.
To use wireless networking you’ll need a device with Wi-Fi support. Laptops, smartphones and tablets have this built in, but most desktop computers will require either an internal Wi-Fi card or a USB Wi-Fi receiver, neither of which is expensive. If the Wi-Fi signal is weak (it is only short range and easily blocked by walls and other obstructions) use a Wi-Fi booster to extend its reach.
The router provided by ISPs will probably be sufficient for most home workers. However, if it is going to be expected to handle multiple devices or users or you’re regularly transferring large amounts of data over the network it may be worth upgrading to a premium model for better performance.
For fibre and cable broadband services it may be possible to switch the ISPs router to ‘modem mode’ so it only provides internet access while the new router handles the network. If you have ADSL, choose a router which has an ADSL modem built in.
A word of warning though - not every ISP allows the use of other routers so this is another thing to ask about before signing up to a new service.