Here at the start of 2020, with the world facing up to the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), many of us here in the UK may be working from home for the foreseeable future. It is vital then, for those of us that have the option to do so, that we ensure we have the right software and connectivity to make that possible.
In this guide, we will provide you with the best possible information on what you will need to make working from home as painless as possible, firstly from a broadband perspective (where most likely no action will be required on your part), and then looking at software you may need, how to create a comfortable working environment and what expenses if any you may be able to claim back from your employer.
Broadband for working from home
With all the panic-buying going on at this present time, we're pleased to inform you that in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases, your existing home broadband connection is going to see you through. However, it does depend on what you do for a living. If you're a graphic designer, photographer, videographer or something else that deals with moving very large files around, you may wish to consider an upgrade, or even a 'side-grade' to a broadband package with similar speeds, but that is designed for a small business.
Business broadband packages you can get at home are offered by some broadband providers and offer things like higher upload speeds, cloud storage, free remote working software, web hosting and static IPs. A static IP can be required if, say, you're running a VPN (virtual private network) for yourself and your colleagues, or you need to log into someone else's network (your office's, say). Here are the home business broadband providers we recommend checking out.
- BT Business – Offers two different ADSL packages which offer differing levels of service, with the more expensive package offering IT support, device protection, a static IP and more. The same two levels of package are available on its two 76Mbps offerings
- Plusnet Business – Offers two packages – one ADSL up to 18Mbps, and one fibre up to 76Mbps. Both offer UK-based 24/7 support, flexible contract options and a host of business-oriented features you won't see in its consumer offering
- TalkTalk Business – Offers two business packages, one ADSL, one fibre, upt to 17Mbps and 76Mbps respectively. Static IPs are extra, depending on how many you need, but TalkTalk will provide 7-day support and free network security
- XLN – XLN doesn't do consumer broadband, but specialises in a service exclusively for small businesses. In that sense it has the jump on these other providers. It does one thing and it does it well. XLN offers ADSL and fibre at up to 17Mbps and 76Mbps, at competitive prices and with a service/support promise to answer the phone within six seconds
35Mb average speed
Zero set-up cost
includes line rental
76Mb average speed
£8.99 set-up cost
includes line rental
76Mb average speed
Zero set-up cost
includes line rental
Additional software you may wish to consider
Provided you have a desktop computer or laptop at home to go with your internet connection, there are a number of programmes and programme types that could make life a lot simpler if you have to work from home for a prolonged period. We're not going to recommend specific software, but we will give examples of some you may consider.
Also, remember that in most cases if you need special software or equipment your company is going to have to provide them. In some cases this may involve you procuring these things yourself and then claiming the cost back from your company as expenses. We have a section on that at the bottom of this guide. For now, let's look at the most useful types of software for home working.
- Remote desktop software – This is a platform that allows you to do all the things you can do on your office computer from a laptop or desktop computer at home. It achieves this by synchronising your services – mail, calendar, shared storage and so forth. The most popular and widely used versions of this type of software are Microsoft Office 365 on PC and iCloud on Mac
- Shared cloud storage – If you work as a team and share files, you're going to need a repository for your work. Popular cloud storage solutions include iCloud Drive (Apple), Google Drive, Office 365, Dropbox and others. With a bit of luck your company has its own servers for shared storage, but failing that any of the aforementioned will serve your purposes
- A realtime chat client and/or workflow software – If the projects you work on require people working on them simultaneously, a shared chat app such as Slack really helps. You can also use things like WhatsApp, Skype or SnapChat, but Slack is designed specifically for work and so comes with a lot of useful features in that regard. To keep track of what you're all working on you may also wish to consider shared workflow software such as Trello. Like Slack, it's free
- Shared documents and spreadsheets – If there are multiple people working on specific documents, Google Sheets and Google Docs are the best solution out there. Like much of the software and storage solutions mentioned here they are free, and anything that isn't you should look to source either from your company or to reclaim via expenses
Creating a professional home working environment
If you're used to getting up in the morning to go work in an office or other professional environment, and then suddenly you don't have to move more than 20 feet from your bed to your desk, it can be tough to make the adjustment. By far the best strategy is to treat your home work like your work work, clocking in both dressed and on time and maintaining a high level of self-discipline. Here are our top tips to achieve that:
- Corden off a working space – Find a space in your home where there are no distractions. Sure, you could sit in the lounge with a laptop on your lap and with the TV on in the background, but you're not going to get a lot of work done that way. If you don't have a quiet room with a desk, the kitchen or dining room table can make a good alternative. Be sure to have a chat with other members of your household up-front so they understand they must treat you as if you are at work and that although you are at home, the same threshold exists in terms of when it is or isn't okay to disturb you
- Be at your desk on time – Just treat home work like real work and be at your designated working spot on time – letting this time slip is only going to lead to complications, a less productive day and potential disciplinaries down the line
- Get up and get dressed same as a normal working day – This is usually the first thing people who have never worked from home do as soon as they have the opportunity: Begin work in their dressing gown/pyjamas. Don't do it. Not least of all because video calling is a thing these days, but most of all because it's unprofessional and does not set you into a positive working mindset
- Plan ahead for meals – When we're at work most of us have our eating routines down pat. Lunchtime between 12 and 1pm, for example, sandwich from Marks and Sparks. But when we're working from home we can eat pretty much whenever we want. Try to maintain the same eating pattern your body and brain are used to when you're at your place of work as it will help you to maintain your energy levels throughout the day
Expenses you may be able to claim from your employer
There may be aspects of working from home that are going to cost you more. Meals should be a little cheaper if anything and you may save money on petrol or on train or bus fares. But you also might need to buy additional software, or in the most extreme cases a new computer, printer or other piece of essential gear, or you may need to upgrade your broadband package. If you incur additional expenses such as these, you should agree in advance with your place of work on which costs you can and can't pass on to them.
- Additional computer equipment you need – If you need a new computer, monitor, printer, software or anything else to be able to work from home there is a good chance your company will pay for it. Just make sure to agree with them up-front what you can and can't charge to them. Buying a new iMac and them handing them the receipt is never going to go down well
- Additional furniture – Though you are working from home, believe it or not your company is still responsible for your health and safety during working hours. That means that if you need a proper office chair in order to avoid issues with your back, for example, your company must either supply it or reimburse you for the cost. Same goes for a desk and anything else you need to work comfortably
- Additional services – If you need faster internet, a different package, a new mobile SIM, software services such as Office 365 or anything else that constitutes a service that costs money, your company needs to cover this cost
Frequently asked questions
What equipment must my company provide me for temporary home working?
Your existing work laptop, mouse, monitor, keyboard and headset could be used for temporary home-working. If your employer provides any equipment, it must be in good condition and suitable for the purpose intended.
Do I need a faster broadband package if I'm working from home?
Maybe, but most likely not. If you're likely to be uploading and downloading a lot of large files, you may need the fastest package you can get. Other considerations may be whether or not you need a static IP – something generally only available from a business broadband package and necessary if you intend to work via a VPN.
What sort of work can I do from home?
The short answer is: Anything involving a computer – mouse and keyboard work, basically. It stands to reason that if you're a refuse collector you're not going to be able to continue your duties from inside your home. Examples of the types of jobs that home working suits would be web developer, travel agent, freelance writer, social media manager, data entry personnel and so on.
I'm working from home, but my kids are home too. How can I get any work done?
You will have to establish boundaries with your children in this instance. A good solution is to write down your work goals for the day in the form of a checklist, then work in short bursts to achieve everything on the list. Short, concentrated bursts should ensure you have enough time to manage your kids' needs and satisfy your boss. It also helps to make sure your employer understands your childcare situation.
Compare broadband and TV deals
Back to top