Broadband deals for working from home
In this guide
- Choosing the right broadband package for home working
- Upgrading your existing broadband connection
- How to maximise your existing broadband connection
- Providers offering the best broadband deals for home working
- Tips for working online from your home
- Frequently asked questions
If you're either working from home or are transitioning to working from home, either due to recent events concerning the coronavirus pandemic or for some other reason, knowing your home broadband connection can cope is important. In this guide we'll look at the factors involved in choosing the right broadband package for working from home, how to maximise the potential of your existing connection, which providers offer the most suitable deals, and also cover some general tips for those working from home for the first time.
Choosing the right broadband package for home working
Residential broadband packages usually provide decent download speeds, poor upload speeds, bog standard technical support and a dynamic IP (internet address which changes over time). Business broadband packages, on the other hand, even those you can get for your home, often provide better upload speeds, a static IP address (an internet address that doesn't change – useful in some circumstances) and enhanced 24/7 tech support.
Beyond that important choice, there are a number of factors you will need to consider when choosing a broadband deal intended for home working.
- Speed – Download speed is important. But when working from home, if you're intending to send a lot of large files or documents, you may want to factor upload speed too. A good general rule is simply to get the fastest package available if you're working from home, because in your household it's unlikely you will be the only person using the connection
- Availability – Almost every household in the UK can get fibre broadband on the Openreach network (used by all providers except Virgin Media). Still, speeds vary from location to location. If you're switching or signing up to a new provider, your new provider will let you know the actual speed you personally are likely to get. Virgin Media offers much faster speeds than other providers, but it's still only available to around 60% of UK households, so you'll need to check if you can get it
- Usage – There are very few limited broadband deals available in the UK – that is, deals where your data is capped similarly to your mobile phone tariff. You won't save much money if you find one, and they're pretty unsuitable for home working. Make sure whichever deal you choose is unlimited
- Price – No broadband package is 'expensive' in the grand scheme unless you bundle the fastest broadband and the best TV package. But that doesn't stop you taking some time to find a good deal. Happily, we have everything you need to compare and choose on this very page
- Contract length – Broadband contract lengths vary from 30-days (also called 'no contract broadband') to two years. The shortest contracts are the most expensive and if you're willing to sign up for two year, your provider will often guarantee no price hikes during that time. Most providers offer a standard contract length of either 12 or 18 months
- Offers – When choosing a new deal, either to work from home or just generally, keep an eye out for special offers that include cashback, gifts and so on. At the same time it's probably not wise to choose your broadband deal on this basis only, as quite often you will find the most generous offers come with the most expensive deals
- Business or residential package – Several home broadband providers offer a business version of their packages which often include a static IP address and improved tech support. If your home business absolutely must stay online 24/7 you should consider one of these packages. If you merely work from home a good residential package will probable be all you need
Upgrading your existing broadband connection
Aside from switching, another way you might choose to crank up your home broadband to cope with working from home is to upgrade the package you have with your existing provider. If you're not already on your provider's top speed, this should be simple and straightforward, demanding nothing more of you than simply calling your provider or logging into your account online and selecting the desired upgrade. Speed upgrades are instantaneous in most cases, however some providers will need to supply you with a different router if you're switching from old-fashioned ADSL to fibre broadband. It sounds great, but there are a few catches you should be aware of.
The first catch is you won't benefit from any new customer offers that broadband providers use to entice new customers over. These can often be quite substantial, involving cashback, vouchers, gifts and other offers, so by not switching you will be missing out.
The second catch – and one that may have you thinking again entirely – is that your broadband provider will sometimes use upgrading as an excuse to renew your contract. If they do, you will be tied in with that provider for the full contract length (12 or 18 months, say) from the moment you upgrade. Worth considering if you've still no made up your mind whether to switch or upgrade.
How to maximise your existing broadband connection
Not everyone can switch or upgrade. Plenty of folk are on the fastest speed they can get from their provider, and still under contract. So they're stuck. If that's you and your broadband is struggling to cope with you and/or your family working from home while still serving all your other home broadband needs, there are a number of ways you can ensure you're getting the best out of your connection.
- Disconnect devices you're not using – Devices such as mobile phones, tablets, computers, smart speakers and so on all take up a little bit of bandwidth (speed) in the background. If you're struggling for enough speed to go around, switch everyone's mobile to mobile data, disconnect tablets you're not using and perhaps even consider giving Alexa a rest
- Switch off microwaves and fairy lights – Any electronics that generate strong electromagnetic fields can and will interfere with your wifi. You probably don't use your microwave all day long, but if you have fairy lights switch them off and you may find your wifi speeds improve
- Connect computers over a LAN cable – The computer you use for your home working – or any other computer for that matter – should be connected to your router via a physical LAN cable if at all possible. It puts less strain on your wifi, and you'll get better speeds to the computer itself
- Schedule downloads for the nighttime – If you or anyone in your household downloads a lot of movies and/or games, schedule these to take place overnight as they will hog your entire connection otherwise. Most services (both games and movies) do let you schedule downloads, but where you can't, just set them downloading last thing before bed
- Purchase a backup mobile broadband connection – If you can find no other way to alleviate your slow broadband woes, consider buying a mobile broadband package. Mobile broadband comes in the form of either a dongle (USB stick serving internet to one computer), a MIFi or personal hotspot device (usually battery operated and serving multiple devices like a wifi router), or a dedicated 4G or 5G home router. You can get mobile broadband deals on rolling 30-day contracts if you're only looking for a temporary solution
Providers offering the best broadband deals for home working
Generally-speaking, any broadband connection with a good speed is going to be suitable for home working. For this reason we recommend forgetting about standard ADSL broadband and going for a fibre package. Whether or not you choose a residential or business broadband deal then comes down to whether you need a static IP address, faster upload speeds and/or round the clock tech support. Here are the providers we recommend.
- BT – Perhaps the best-known provider in the UK, BT is often a little more expensive than some other providers, but you will get an excellent router and a host of handy extras. BT also provides broadband specifically for small or home businesses
- EE Broadband – Offers your standard range of broadband packages and doesn't have any packages specifically for small or home businesses. There are benefits to be had if you also have an EE mobile plan
- John Lewis Broadband – Offers your standard range of broadband packages. Most people who take out a broadband deal from John Lewis do so for the brand. Make of that what you will. John Lewis Broadband does not offer any packages specifically for small or home businesses
- NOW Broadband – Is a brand owned by Sky. It offers a standard range of broadband packages with none aimed specifically at home businesses or home working. However, it is usually well priced
- Plusnet – Is owned by BT, though it identifies itself separately, has a different range of packages, and does offer some packages specifically for small or home business users
- Post Office Broadband – Doesn't offer any packages aimed at small or home businesses but has a reputation for being a good choice with older people
- Shell Energy Broadband – Is a new player in the market, but was formerly First Utility Broadband, which had been around a while. It offers your standard range of packages and does not offer any specifically for small or home businesses
- Sky – Offers your standard range of home broadband packages and does not offer any packages specifically for small or home businesses
- SSE – Is also an energy provider. It offers home broadband packages similar to other providers, is generally on the cheap side, but doesn't offer any benefits for taking out your electric and gas with them too. SSE does not offer any packages specifically for small or home businesses
- TalkTalk – Is usually relatively cheap, and offers a separate range of broadband packages specifically for home working and/or small businesses
- Virgin Media – Has by far the fastest widely available speeds in the country. If you can get it and want the best connection out there, Virgin Media is it. It also has a wide range of packages aimed at businesses of all sizes
- Vodafone – Is both cheap and high quality – a rarity. It offers the standard range of packages you'll see with other providers and in addition has range of packages designed for small or home businesses
Tips for working online from your home
If you're new to working from home there are a few things to consider which you might not immediately believe important. Take it from us, though, these things are pretty vital.
- Corden off a working space – If you can't find a space where you won't be disturbed you're going to have trouble with your focus. Try to find somewhere in your house to work that isn't in the path of household foot traffic. If you can set up a small room especially, then great. If you haven't got that kind of space, a bedroom is a good alternative. Avoid living rooms and kitchens. Too many distractions
- Be at your desk on time – Depending on whether you're a freelancer or not, and indeed whether you are being paid by the hour, you need to muster the self-discipline to be at your desk on time. It's important to treat a home working day just like any other working day if you want to stay in the right mindset
- Get up and get dressed same as a normal working day – Folk have been known to plonk themselves down in front of their desks at home while still in their dressing gowns. Working well at home is as much about mindset as it is the work you're doing. Treating your home working space like a company office space puts you in the right frame of mind to be productive
- Plan ahead for meals – It's very easy to spend a lot of your day fussing about food when you work from home. Your options are less limited. So to avoid wasting a lot of time going back and forth to the kitchen, it's good to have an idea of what you're going to eat before your day starts
Frequently asked questions
What broadband speed do I need to work from home?
Depending on what your work involves, the general rule is the faster the better. After all, at home you're probably sharing your broadband connection with other household members. Our standing advice for home workers is to get the fastest broadband that's available.
What type of internet connection can I use for working from home?
A standard residential broadband deal is perfectly suitable for working from home. However, if you need a static IP address, better upload speeds, or 24/7 tech support, a small business broadband deal might better suit.
Do I need a business broadband package to work from home?
No. A residential broadband package will do everything that most people need. The additional features of a business broadband deal are usually a static IP address and 24/7 tech support are only going to be useful in a handful of cases.