Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and countries began to lockdown, working from home has become the new normal for millions of people across the globe.
What’s more, there are also hundreds of thousands of people for whom Covid-19 has meant a complete change to working circumstances. With jobs lost, countless people are turning to freelancing and starting their own businesses – with many using that spare bedroom or dining table as their office.
Naturally, plenty of companies have jumped on the opportunity to sell you the next ‘must have’ for working from home – but in truth, working from home doesn’t need quirky new innovations – it generally just requires a few fundamentals to keep you productive.
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the tech that’ll keep you connected – whether your current role has been relocated to your home – or whether you’re starting out afresh with a new home-based business.
A stable and reliable internet connection
You might be looking at this and thinking that an internet connection is so important it’s barely worth mentioning – but in truth, there are good connections and there are bad ones – and a bad one can severely impact your ability to get stuff done.
2020’s lockdown has seen most families at home – and that means that internet connections are limited. If you’ve got kids gaming in their bedrooms or streaming Netflix – you’ll be well aware that this limits the amount of bandwidth available for you and your important video calls or work projects, but it’s not just your own family that limit your internet connection.
Lockdown’s seen unprecedented demand for connectivity – and ISP’s wider infrastructure can only provide so much. If you notice that your connection has been slower than usual at the moment, it’s because everyone’s using that same infrastructure, so bandwidth generally needs to be limited to each household.
This isn’t ideal – but there are cost effective ways around all these problems.
The most effective is picking a good 4G/5G router that provides a fast, cellular internet connection just for you.
There are leisure-standard cellular routers that do an adequate job of connecting you to the internet – but if you need something with a bit more speed (essential if you’re running lots of cloud-based applications) then you might want to look at a router that’s got multi-SIM capability.
Such a router will combine the connection from 2 or more SIMs, giving you a connection that will rival the kind of fibre broadband speeds you get to your home. The best part is, because it’s cellular, it’s not limited by anyone else locally using the infrastructure.
A variety of video conferencing applications
Hands up if you’d never heard of ‘Teams’ before lockdown.
You’re not alone. For business users, Microsoft Teams has become the go-to virtual meeting solution – but before lockdown, it was part of the Office suite that most people had never even considered.
Today though, Teams isn’t the only option. There’s Skype (a more single-user focused version of Teams), Facetime, WhatsApp video, Google Meet, Facebook video – and many more.
While some of these might sound like things you’d use to talk to family, plenty of businesses are using them to communicate with customers and staff. As such, it’s useful to get to grips with them – so you’re not trying to bluff your way through if a client or customer wants to video call.
If you’re calling the shots, you can probably get away with picking your favourite and making sure everyone else falls in line – but if you want to be certain that potential customers, businesses you work with, and colleagues are going to be able to communicate with you effortlessly, it’s a good investment of your time to make sure you understand and download most of the options that are out there.
If we’re talking about productivity, there aren’t many tools more useful than wireless headphones or a headset.
Generally speaking, the microphones on laptops and tablets aren’t ideal for handling calls or video calls – often because they’re some distance from your mouth. A Bluetooth headset or headphones however has a microphone within inches – so you can hear and be heard clearly.
As an added bonus, you can get up and move around while you’re working. Probably not a great idea to be doing the washing up while you’re on a client video call – but if you’re a multi-tasker, it means you can be doing sorting/filing/tidying jobs in your office while you’re on the line.
Project management tools
Most big businesses will have a schedule of work for you – but if you’re starting out by yourself, a project management tool is absolutely essential when it comes to staying productive.
You’re perhaps wondering what a dedicated tool offers that your calendar app doesn’t already provide – but in truth, project management apps are a cut above the rest.
Applications like BaseCamp, Plutio, Wrike, Monday, and a multitude of others that are out there offer a kind of ‘digital workspace’ that means you can organise a full project in just one screen. From creating schedules for granular parts of tasks – to breaking a project down into sub-tasks and allocating them to days/team members/or freelancers – these tools offer a massive amount of flexibility and can generally be set up to suit your needs and appeal to your sense of what makes a good layout.
You’ll also be able to safeguard certain parts of projects – so you’ve got areas where information’s on a ‘need to know’ basis. For example, you might not want to share client details with freelancers who you’ve got carrying out smaller tasks – or you might want to give clients access to certain parts of your system – without seeing the communication between your team members behind the scenes.
Finding a good project management tool effectively drags all your files, communications, ideas, schedules, and events into one place – so rather than routing around in email or your diary every time you need to get hands-on with your project or job, you know everything you need is in one, convenient place.