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Remote Work 101: How to Quickly Prepare and Setup Your Home Workspace

By Paul Thompson, Senior Solution Architect at CTI
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The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has had a tremendous impact on how business gets done. It has caused supply chain disruptions, led to travel restrictions and, of course, has had a terrible human cost.
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With social distancing measures tightening by the day, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are beginning to recommend or require employees to work remotely or work from home. The growth of remote work is nothing new, but the urgency brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus means many of us may suddenly need to work from home, sometimes for the first time, with a lack of formal policies or training.
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Many of us at CTI have been working at home for years now. A little preparation can go a long way to helping you prosper in this new world of work, so here are tips to help get started as a remote employee.
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1. Get your Wi-Fi in order For Your Remote Workspace
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Your success in working from home starts with the quality of your Wi-Fi connection. Since most devices now connect wirelessly, you need to make sure you can get the most out of your Wi-Fi performance. When setting up your workspace, find the location in your home where you get the best Wi-Fi reception. If you will now be replacing face-to-face meetings with video calls, you might consider whether you can make a wired connection to at least one of your devices.  Wi-Fi can be finicky, and a wired connection will lead to better call quality.
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If you’ve had the same router for more than five years, now may be a good time to upgrade. Newer routers offer dual- and tri-band wireless networks. With newer, multi-band routers you can segment your wireless network into two networks: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
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The 5 GHz network is a faster, broader wireless band with less interference — ideal for accessing business applications, teleconferencing, or the transfer of large files. Many newer Wi-Fi routers can also help you prioritize which devices on your home network should get priority throughput.
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At the very least, whether your Wi-Fi router is old or new, it’s a good idea to go into the router’s management software and ensure it’s running the latest firmware, which can help improve the router’s software while also patching any security flaws.
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2. Boost your Internet Connectivity for Virtual Meetings and Streamlined Productivity
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How fast or slow an Internet connection depends on the level of service a customer has from their Internet service provider (ISP).
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Before an extended work-at-home period, check the level of service you currently have with your ISP, especially if you don’t know. You’ll want to know your plan’s upload and download speeds, particularly if your work involves teleconferencing, large file sharing, video editing and other bandwidth-intensive tasks.
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If you think you may need more bandwidth to work from home, now may be a good time to renegotiate your service plan. AT&T recently announced it was temporarily halting caps on broadband service for all its customers, in anticipation of a sudden increase in workers who will now be home officing.
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3. Secure your home office network
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Make sure all devices on your home network, including the ones you use for business, have the latest software updates. Also, update any anti-virus software.
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4. Get yourself a USB dock or hub
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If you use a desktop PC at home, then you might already have everything you need for a productive office setup. Desktops tend to be more powerful than laptops, offer the ability to connect more displays, and provide greater connectivity options. The biggest question is: Does your company allow you to connect to corporate resources using a personal PC? If it doesn’t, then you’ll either need to get permission or use a company-issued PC, most likely a laptop.
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That said, many modern laptops – such as the Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Pro — don’t offer many ports. Fortunately, a dock or USB hub can help you expand the number of accessories you can connect to your computer – things like multiple displays for productive multitasking, and even 4K displays to make the best use of all that real estate.
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A simple USB-C hub will give you extra USB-A ports for your old external hard drive or mouse, or even an HDMI port for displays. There are dozens of good options online, all of which allow you to connect to additional displays — you’ll just be limited in the number and their resolution.
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If your laptop has Thunderbolt 3 (marked by the small Thunderbolt logo by the port), your options grow considerably. Typically, Thunderbolt 3 allows up to two 4K displays at 60Hz, while USB-C is limited to two 1080p displays. You can also daisy-chain monitors or accessories together, for up to six devices.
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5. Buy the right monitor for your remote office
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Nothing will grow your home office capabilities like additional displays. Attach a couple of 4K monitors at 27 inches or larger and, suddenly, your laptop becomes a productivity powerhouse.
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If you’re using a laptop, there are endless options for how to set up your layout. You can prop it up on a stand, or, for an ultra-clean desk, you can even purchase a vertical laptop stand and leave your laptop closed while using it.
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While you’re at it, get familiar with how Windows 10 works with split screens and multiple displays (or Mac, if that’s your platform). Your display might also have its own built-in tools for carving up the screen real estate to make it easier to manage multitasking.
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6. Choose the right webcam and headset for video conferencing with your remote team
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Working from home means a lot more video calls. Teams like to see each other when they collaborate, meaning you’ll want a good webcam and headset to make for a comfortable quality experience. Using your built-in webcam and basic headphones should work well enough, but if you want to upgrade the experience, investing in an external webcam or headset is a good idea, especially if you’re working at larger monitors for remote communication.
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Think about how your workspace will look and sound on an audio or video call. Will there be a lot of background noise? More importantly, what will everyone else on the video call be seeing behind you? Do they see a messy kitchen behind you, a pile of laundry or do they see a tidy, professional background?
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What kind of workspace or coworking space best suits your workstyle? Is the kitchen table going to do the trick or will you need something bigger? Will having other people around help you or will you need to work in a separate room? Does a window looking out on the world inspire you or distract you? Do you want to be near a wall so you can put up some Post-its? Will you need somewhere to store documents? Position your office space in such a way that you can concentrate and have the resources you need.
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If you’re going to be working remotely for an extended period, try to make this workspace semi-permanent, so you can return to it each day and pick up where you left off. It makes it feel like your personal space.
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7. Your keyboard and mouse matter, too
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Investing in a good external keyboard and mouse will do wonders for your workspace. Not only are these input devices more versatile than your laptop’s built-in options, but they’re also often more comfortable to use as well.
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If you want to upgrade to a mechanical keyboard, they are many options for both gaming and typing. Just make sure the volume of the typing won’t bother your family or roommates.
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8. And remember, YOU matter
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Working at home doesn’t just require a physical shift – it’s a mental shift as well. Now that you will be working and living in the same place, resist the temptation to overdo it. Look after your physical and mental well-being. Stand once an hour. Do some stretches. Go for a morning walk or run to start the day, or at the end of the day.
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One way to make a mental shift is to dress in such a way that it feels like work, which likely doesn’t mean sweatpants. You don’t need to go formal, but dressing like you do at work, even a little, will remind you that you’re in work-mode now. If you’re going to be doing video calls, you should be doing this to give the right professional impression to your colleagues and customers.
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If you work at home with your family or loved ones, get an emotional recharge and inspiration from them when you need it. Take advantage of being at home for a beneficial work-life balance.
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Though the COVID-19 pandemic has sent all of us scurrying to find alternatives to our usual way of life, you may already have all that you need to effectively work from home.
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If we can be of any assistance in helping your organization deliver voice and data services to a distributed workforce, please reach out to us for a free consultation at 888-477-4284, or fill out the Contact form below.
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