Many times, people who occasionally work from home miss access to the nice technology tools that they have in their “corporate” office. Modern phone systems, high speed internet, fast printers and copiers, etc. If you’ll be working from home a lot, there’s no need to do without anymore.
High Speed Internet. It’s not just about Netflix anymore. Zoom video calls, shared spreadsheets with thousands of rows, and other business-type applications can suck up all your bandwidth (and more). And with the unexpected millions working from home now upsetting the apple cart of “good times to be online”, this can be a challenging minefield. A couple suggestions;
- Make sure you have an internet connection rated at at least 40 megabits (Mbps) per second. Try running one of the many available checks of upload and downloads speeds, like this one at Speedtest.net
- If possible, connect your computer to your home network using a physical “wired” cable, as opposed to a WiFi connection, which can increase speed quite a bit.
- And experiment with how your actual internet speed at home varies at different times of the day. You may want to consider scheduling high bandwidth tasks (like video chats), or rationing internet usage of other household members (like the cat who plays Minecraft).
If you’re a bit geeky and want more info, check out this Popular Science article;
Video Conferencing. Just because you’re not at the office doesn’t mean you can’t have personal meetings with teammates or groups. Online video chat has come a long way in the last several years. My personal favorite platform is Zoom, but there are lots of good options. Start learning the features of the one your company prefers; this may become a mission-critical skill real soon!
VoIP phones. Voice Over IP basically means using the internet as your phone system wiring. Our company switched to a VoIP phone system about 5 years ago (well before we started doing work-from-home) to save money on long distance calls. So when we started doing significant home work, we just had to pick up our office phones, take the home, and plug them into our home internet router. And “bingo”, we could do things like buzz extensions and forward calls to people in another county just like being in a traditional office.
Group Work. If your team frequently collaborates, and uses documents like spreadsheets or word processing files, using tools like Google Docs or Microsoft 360 can be a game changer for a distributed group. We love using shared Google Sheet spreadsheets and more. Asana and Trello are online collaboration tools your team can use to keep track of progress on projects, assign tasks to one another, set reminders, and meet deadlines on time. There is a small learning curve to both, but once you get comfortable, they can be life-changing!
Group Chat. Do you miss being able to just shout a question to your customer rep? Or maybe lean back in your chair and ask the accounting department a question? Online tools often have group chat features that allow you to do just that, virtually. Google offers a chat feature that can be handy when you have a quick question, but don’t want to type a full email to someone. Slack is a very popular online chat that can be used for hilarious memes or actual status updates on workload. There are also text messaging apps like GroupMe or What’s App that allow you to speak with large groups over text messages. The good news? You can control notifications.
Even if you’re a tech has-been like me, it’s pretty easy these days to set up your home shop so it appears you actually know what you’re doing!