By Christy Nelson
Working from home sounds simple enough, just need a WiFi connection and a laptop, right? Maybe. When you’re working day in and day out, technology can make or break your success working from home. Here’s my list of technology considerations:
1) Network bandwidth: If you work on large online files or participate in video calls, bandwidth is important. If you are experiencing connectivity issues, delay, poor sound quality on video calls, or time-out issues you may have a bandwidth problem. There are free websites available to test your bandwidth speed (both upload and download), you can call your service provider and ask what you are paying for.
GOT KIDS? Tell them to stop streaming videos or playing XBox online with their friends during your scheduled work time. A common phrase in my house: “My job is paying for that internet, and all the internet is mine until 5 p.m.” Reminder: you get better bandwidth using a LAN cable vs WiFi.
2) External peripherals: I’m talking keyboard, mouse, and monitor. I can work on a laptop for a while, but to be comfortable all day long I rely on my peripherals. (I get carpal tunnel issues using a touch pad on a laptop for more than a few days). If you have peripherals at your office, ask if you can bring them home during this shutdown period.
3) PC Audio quality: If you are taking calls through your PC be sure to check your audio quality. I’m talking about how well you are heard by others on a call. If you are using the microphone built into your computer, call a co-worker and ask how audible you are.
If using the native microphone here are things to watch out for:
- You may find that you need to lean into your computer to be heard well, or do something to adjust your background noise.
- Typing on a PC while using the native microphone? Speaking from experience, people will hear your typing over hearing you.
- If you have your speaker volume too high, others may hear an echo of themselves when talking — your speaker output may be picked up by your microphone.
All the above can be mitigated by using earbuds, a headset, or an external speaker phone.
4) Video quality. I cannot stress this enough: USE YOUR VIDEO CAMERA. Want to guarantee a personal connection with others? Turn on your video camera. No one cares what you are wearing, if your cat is in the background, or if your kids walk into view. Those things make you human, and the human connection is important right now. If you aren’t familiar with the video camera settings on your PC or with whatever system you’re using for calls (Skype, Teams, Zoom, WebEx), spend the time to get comfortable. Instructions exist online, and you can set up a test call with a colleague to trouble-shoot. Make sure you are visible and that you don’t have too much light behind you (backlight) making it hard to be seen.
5) Mobile versions of apps are the best backup technology. If your company supports use of mobile apps (e.g. Outlook, Zoom, Teams) use them. I’ve had times when my internet goes out in a thunderstorm and I rejoin my call within a minute through my cell phone. I’ve joined calls from various locations when I’m with my kids but need to participate in a call (such as swim practice). I openly admit to participating in calls from my bike trainer (but only calls where I’m just a listener and have no speaking part; these are usually training calls). Mobile apps are my secret weapon to being flexible.
6) Know your company’s security policies. Whether it’s mobile access management for mobile app use, or two-factor authentication to access company content from a home PC, or using VPN to work from home, educate yourself on the policies so you can be prepared to set yourself up to follow them.
7) USB Hub – If you have more USB peripherals than USB ports … get a USB hub. They are relatively inexpensive.
Christy Nelson has 25 years’ experience in IT program and project management, leading globally distributed teams. She has been working from home since 1999 when you needed 2 phone lines to support a dial-up modem and a phone call at the same time. She works for one of the big 5 consulting companies.
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