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5 things everyone forgets about working from home

Posted: 20 May 2020 12:00 pm

Overhead view of woman working in home office

Keep these issues in mind to make your home office productive and comfortable.

For millions of Australians, working from home has become the new normal. But in the race to set up a home office, it's easy to miss some details. Here are five issues you might not have given much thought to which can make a big difference to your productivity, comfort and sanity.

This guide is sponsored by Telstra mobile broadband, keeping you connected during COVID-19 with extra data, bill assistance and discounts. Work from home on Australia's largest and fastest network, based on national average speeds. No lock-in data plans, no excess data charges and a range of devices to choose from.

1. Making sure your Internet is up to speed

Woman checking cables under desk
Finding that your video calls are lagging? It's time to make sure your home broadband connection is actually up to scratch. Run a speed test to see what you're actually getting. If the speed seems too low, check our detailed guide to how to deal with Internet congestion. My top tip? If you can, use an Ethernet cable to connect to your router rather than relying on Wi-Fi.

If you're already connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN), then it's worth considering whether you should upgrade your plan to a higher speed tier. Many Australians are still on Standard (NBN 25) plans, which won't cope well with connecting multiple people working (or schooling) from home. Switching to a faster Standard Plus (NBN 50) or Premium (NBN 100) plan can make a big difference, and doesn't require a new installation. You can learn more about the speed options in Finder's detailed NBN guide.

If you're in a neighbourhood where NBN is available but you haven't switched, it makes sense to do so. NBN installations are continuing and NBN Co has offered extra capacity to ensure the network isn't overwhelmed.

Mobile broadband can also be a good solution for working from home. As well as potentially offering higher speeds than some older copper connections, it means you're not competing with the rest of your household for precious bandwidth.

2. Ergonomics really matter

Woman with dog on desk
After the first two days of working at home during isolation, I was suffering from hideous neck pain. The reason? In the office, I normally use a standing desk, and I wasn't well-adapted to sitting down all day. I invested in an extension to turn my home desk into a standing option, and I've been fine ever since. And yes, I take breaks to stretch every hour.

Your needs will differ, but it's worth making sure you've got the most effective space possible. Use a proper office chair, not the spare one from the kitchen. Looking at a monitor will strain your neck less than staring at a small laptop screen. Our detailed guide to setting up your office can help you source any gear you need. Also remember that costs for setting up your home office may be tax-deductible.

3. Keeping your work apps and tech secure

Shot of a shady-looking young man holding a laptop
Working from home doesn't eliminate IT security issues. Indeed, it often creates new ones. Make sure you're following good basic security principles:

  • Have a password set on your work computer, and don't share that password with other household members.
  • Password-lock your computer whenever you're not using it (including during your lunch break).
  • If you're out exercising, make sure your residence is fully locked, and put your laptop away if feasible. Burglary is still a possibility, even during isolation!
  • Make sure you keep all your software, including your computer operating system, up to date. While it's often tempting to dismiss update notifications and think "I'll do that later", that puts your machine and your business data at risk.

Many employers have implemented VPNs, 2-factor authentication and other security measures to ensure that business information remains secure. Make use of these if they're supplied.

A final tip? If you can avoid it, don't perform personal tasks on your work machine. Do your online banking and shopping on your phone, tablet or a home computer.

4. Setting up a separate space for work

Kitchen office setup
If you want decent work/life balance, then it's crucial to be able to separate your working space from your personal space. If you're lucky and have a spare room or home office, then use that – and shut the door on the room once the working day is over. My study is a no-go zone after 5pm on weekdays.

If you don't have that option, it still helps to work in the same place each day. Don't blur the lines between the couch (for relaxing) and the table (for working). And if you are working at the kitchen table, then pack up your gear at the end of each day. That establishes a routine and helps to keep the boundaries distinct.

5. Keeping your video calls secure

Business video call at home
Video calls make communication in isolation much easier. However, they can also pose major security risks. Here are three key tips to bear in mind, especially if you're having meetings with people outside your own organisation:

  • Keep call links private and set passwords. News reports of "Zoom bombing", where video calls get invaded by strangers, have become commonplace. Don't share details of any gatherings on social media, and set passwords so unexpected visitors can't get in. In Zoom, you can also using the Waiting Room feature so you can vet guests before admitting them into the main conversation.
  • Consider using a separate connection. For calls involving confidential information, not relying on your home broadband can make sense. For a one-off call, try tethering to your phone or use the conferencing app on the phone itself and rely on the 4G/5G connection. If you regularly want to make secure video calls, consider mobile broadband solutions.
  • Be cautious when sharing your screen. Screen sharing is useful, but you don't want everyone on the call to see your email or personal chat channels. If available, choose the option to share just a single app screen, not your entire workspace. If you're sharing something in a browser, open it in a separate window rather than showing off all the other tabs you have open.

Working from home isn't always easy, but these tips will help. Stay productive!

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