What do I need to work from home due to coronavirus?

Guardian Technology 19 Mar 2020 08:00
Working from home will likely be a necessity over the next few months at least, so FranklySwiss wants to know what they need to get work done remotely. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

What do I need to work at home during the coronavirus outbreak? At this rate, we might all be working from home for a year! How will the broadband providers cope? Do we need a plan B? FranklySwiss

Everyone will need their own customised solution, but there are two things to think about. First, will you be working at home for two weeks or four months or possibly forever? I share the view that Covid-19 could cause a permanent shift towards home working.

Second, who is paying for homeworking equipment and services: you or your employer?

If you’ll only be working at home for a short time, you can probably get away with not buying much new equipment or signing up to remote working services. If you’re in for the long haul, try to match or preferably beat the equipment you would normally use in the office. If you can’t afford a ThinkPad T490s (£1,213.71), for example, get as close to the specification as possible.

If you will only be working at home for a short time, you won’t need much in the way of extra equipment. If you have your own laptop, you will only need an external USB keyboard and mouse, and you may already have those. After that, you can think about a separate monitor, an external hard drive for backup purposes, and either a powered four-port USB hub or a docking station to connect them all together.

Much the best way to work at home is to set up a proper office in a spare bedroom, junk room, attic, conservatory, garden shed or David Cameron-style shepherd’s hut. If you have a family, your home office should have a door with a “keep out” or perhaps an “on air” sign. So many people are now making podcasts, video conferencing or appearing on live TV from home offices that studio-style “on air” signs – even neon ones – are becoming a thing. It helps avoid the spouse/partner and/or kids wandering in, to humorous effect.

Broadband shouldn’t be a problem because peak usage is in the evenings when many people are streaming movies or TV or playing games such as Fortnite. Even if everyone starts video chatting, there is easily enough capacity for home workers during the day. However, you should either have an unlimited business broadband service, like me, or a cellular backup based on a mobile router like a Mifi or tethering a smartphone or whatever.

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