The novel coronavirus pandemic is causing more people to work from home than ever before. This may be because you found a new remote job or because your employer is requiring all employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. If you aren’t used to working remotely, this may be a tough transition for you, but we have tons of tips and tricks for you to stay organized and productive while working from home, while also making sure your internet is fast and reliable.
In this work-from-home guide:
- Work from home tips & tricks
- What internet speeds do you need when working remotely?
- Recommended internet speeds for video conferencing
- How to know if your internet is being throttled
Work from home tips & tricks
Although everyone’s work-from-home experience is going to be different, there are some things that could benefit everyone. From designating a workspace to communicating with family to establishing a routine and work hours, these remote working tips are going to help you stay productive while also establishing a good work-life balance and healthy work environment.
Choose where to work
In an ideal world, you’ll be able to have a dedicated office space with a desk and chair and whatever else you need, but that’s not always possible. Many of us don’t have extra rooms in our houses or apartments, so we have to get creative, whether that means creating a work station at the kitchen table or devoting a corner of the bedroom or living room to a desk.
Ask for equipment
If you didn’t work remotely before COVID-19, chances are you don’t have all the necessary equipment for working from home. If your employer is requiring you to work from home indefinitely, you should request equipment, such as a keyboard, mouse, printer, chair, and desk. All of these things are going to make you more comfortable and productive while working remotely.
Set your work hours
When you aren’t going into the office, it can be easy to fall into the pattern of working outside of your normal work hours. This isn’t healthy and may cause you to burn out. So, when you work from home, you’ll want to set your daily work hours and stick to them. Whether you decide to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., make sure you’re staying consistent. That said, one of the advantages of working from home is the flexibility—if you need to work later hours or earlier hours to accommodate another time zone or other responsibilities, make sure you adjust your hours accordingly.
Stick to a morning routine
Establishing a morning routine can be really helpful when it comes to working from home, especially if you associate your home with rest and relaxation. Your morning routine can indicate to your brain that you’re about to shift to a working mentality. You may want to make coffee or tea, go for a jog, take the dog for a walk, meditate, get dressed in business casual clothes, or read a book for 30 minutes. Once you finish that activity, it’s time to get your workday started. Sticking to a routine can help provide structure to your day.
Communicate with your family
When it comes to working remotely, distractions are somewhat inevitable, but you can communicate with the people in your household to try to minimize these distractions. Set boundaries with your family members who will be sharing your space. Sometimes, that might mean you don’t want them to enter your office during certain hours. Or it means you’d prefer they text you a question instead of knocking on your door. It might also mean that you can’t do all of the errands and chores during your workday—just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you have endless free time.
Make sure to ask your employer what the company’s policy is on break times. They’re most likely going to allow a certain amount of short breaks per day, as well as a lunch break. If you’re self-employed, make sure to give yourself permission to take several breaks in which you take a walk or have a snack. Too much screen-time can cause headaches and blurred vision.
When working from home, it can be easy to fall into a routine of staying inside the house, but that’s not good for your physical or mental health. And while COVID-19 makes it so you have fewer options for places to go, there are still many safe options. You can go for a walk, go to the beach, go on a hike, or hang out at the park. You can also grab a friend (masks on!) or a family member and shoot hoops or throw a football.
Use your PTO & sick days
Whether you’re sick or need a mental health day, your PTO and sick days are there for a reason—for you to take them! It can be easy to fall into the productivity trap of trying to power through an illness or a bad mental health day, especially when you’re at home, but it’s not worth it. Take care of your mind and body and you will be much happier and more productive when you return to work.
Socialize with your colleagues
Now that you no longer have the face-to-face time that comes with going to the office, you may be feeling a strain on your social life. While nothing is a replacement for in-person socializing, you’ll want to make sure to take advantage of the tools you have at hand. If your job uses Slack or any other messaging system for work, you may want to start a Slack channel for a common interest or topic. You may also want to plan Zoom happy hours to replicate the feeling of going for a drink or appetizers after work. Just make sure you listen to yourself because Zoom fatigue is a real thing.
Have an end-of-the-day routine
Just as you have a morning routine, you’ll want to have a routine that signifies the end of your workday. When you aren’t leaving the office to commute home, it can be easy to stay seated at your computer and work an extra hour or two. An evening routine can help you separate your work and home life. Plan to shut down your computer at a certain time, then do something that helps you transition from your workday to personal time. Maybe you start preparing dinner, take the dog for a walk, turn on a podcast or your favorite Netflix show, or do a workout.
What internet speeds do you need when working remotely?
If you and/or other family members have begun working from home (and your kids are preparing for online school), you may need faster internet speeds than you previously had when everyone was out of the house. That’s because the internet speeds you need depend on how many people and devices are connected to the internet and what types of activities those people are doing. Things like streaming music and video and downloading large files are going to require faster speeds than email and chatting over Slack. And of course, you won’t be using the internet just for work or school—your family will still be using it for entertainment, such as watching Netflix or Hulu, playing online games, and more.
|Internet Use||Number of Users||Minimum Recommended Speed|
|Light work only (video calls, Slack)||1-2||20Mbps|
|Work + personal (e.g., online gaming, video streaming, etc.)||1-2||50Mbps|
|Heavy uploading and downloading for work + personal use||2+||100Mbps|
|Heavy work + personal use||4+||300Mbps|
Recommended internet speeds for video conferencing
While you’re working from home, you’ll find that you’re all of a sudden on a lot of video calls and meetings. Many of the popular group video apps list their minimum internet speed requirements but they are just that—the minimum. And they only take into consideration how fast your speeds need to be for that individual activity. You’re going to be multi-tasking with the best of them and using your internet for work and personal use, so you’ll need fast internet speeds that reflect this.
Minimum internet speeds for video conferencing:
- Zoom: Minimum 600Kbps, 1.5Mbps recommended
- Google Hangouts: Minimum 2Mbps
- Microsoft Teams: Minimum 500Kbps, recommended 1Mbps
- FaceTime: Minimum 128Kbps
- GoToMeeting: Minimum 1Mbps
- Skype: Minimum 512Kbps
Again, if you have multiple people on group calls, whether for work or school, you’ll need much faster speeds than that, not to mention you’ll want your internet to support all of your other activities.
Do an internet speed test
Before you decide to change to a faster internet plan, you’ll want to determine what speeds you’re currently getting by using our free internet speed test. Within seconds, you’ll know what download and upload speeds you’re getting, plus your latency. Latency is important because it determines how long your delay or lag is. Under 100 milliseconds is generally considered fine, but the lower, the better.
You’ll then want to compare what internet speeds you’re getting to what speeds are listed on your internet plan. Keep in mind, internet plans list the maximum speed you can reach on that particular plan, but most customers don’t actually achieve those speeds. For instance, if your plan is a 100Mbps plan, it won’t be uncommon for you to only get 50Mbps, which means it might be time for you to upgrade to a faster internet plan.
Upgrade to a faster internet plan
When you’re working from home, you’re going to make sure you have a fast, reliable internet connection. It might be time to upgrade to a faster internet plan, either with your current internet provider or with a new one. Below you can compare the best high-speed internet plans with speeds of 200mbps or higher.
How to know if your internet is being throttled
If you’re experiencing slow internet speeds, your internet service provider (ISP) may be throttling your speeds. Some providers slow internet speeds when a customer has hit their data cap or when the network is congested, while others prioritize paid sites or apps. Also, an ISP will throttle your internet if you’re doing something illegal (but let’s assume you’re not—you’re just trying to hear everyone on your Zoom call.)
After you’ve run your internet speed test, you’ll want to write those numbers down, then download and activate a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and run your internet speed test again. If your speeds are much faster with the VPN, then your provider is most likely throttling your internet speeds. If your speeds are similar, then there may be another explanation for your slow speeds.
If you believe your ISP is throttling your internet, there are some things you can do to increase your speeds, such as:
- Contact the FCC with your concerns about internet throttling.
- Contact your congressperson.
- Monitor your data use so you don’t hit your data cap.
- Switch to a new internet provider that offers unlimited data.
Switch to a new internet service provider with unlimited data
Every online activity, whether for work or personal use, uses data—such as hopping on a group Zoom call, downloading and uploading files to the Cloud, and streaming music and podcasts and videos. If your current internet plan includes a data cap, you may want to consider switching to a new ISP that doesn’t impose data caps, such as Spectrum, Optimum, Windstream, Google Fiber, RCN, Frontier, and more. That way, your ISP won’t throttle your internet once you’ve used a certain amount of data that month.