With better connectivity, working remotely has become a much more viable professional proposition. But with broadband crucial to clocking in, what home office setups perform best?
Working from home is becoming much more commonplace for employers and employees alike.
Companies are seeing value in the remote office and using the distributed team model to run an increasingly digital workforce. Economic, logistical and motivational benefits are among the many advantages that hinge on adequate infrastructure.
If reliable networking and IT are fundamental, then good domestic broadband is essential. So what kind of connection and equipment is worth the investment to make your home office a reality?
What is the best provider for working from home?
Picking an Internet Service Provider or ISP might depend on an employer or business type.
Companies may have preferred corporate partnerships or schemes for staff to use. Installation and contracts might be subsidised or available at discounted rates.
More typically, home workers will either have existing broadband packages or be expected to arrange this privately. Making the right choices here will depend very much on balancing requirements across home and business usage.
Are any packages advantageous to home working?
Some providers such as BT and Vodafone offer mobile broadband backup solutions alongside landline deals.
Often referred to as “hybrid” broadband, this primarily improves connection reliability. Any line drop-outs are seamlessly switched to mobile (4/5G) network to give “always on” service.
Similarly, business broadband packages are an option. These tend to work off new, dedicated lines being installed to deliver a fast connection separate from any other home networks.
Again, the relevance of these solutions will be determined by your type of work.
What speed should I get?
Generally, broadband ISPs try to differentiate themselves on speed versus price.
Standard package offers are often comparable in terms of speed, with entry-level fibre connections (~35Mbps) always a good starting point.
Very often, this is enough, depending on household capacity and expected usage.
For shared connections, it’s worth budgeting an additional 10Mb per person, plus 10Mb for each heavier task user.
Consider any streaming, gaming and large downloads as intensive activity that could throttle bandwidth. A good place to start is to use a broadband comparison service such as Broadband.co.uk. This will allow you to look up and compare deals available at your address.
Time to take a faster route?
Remote workers within a busy shared home may feel faster is necessary.
Likewise, professionals who fulfil intensive tasks like large file transfers or video conferencing as part of their business could require bigger bandwidths.
In terms of superfast UK providers, Virgin Media or a full fibre operator like Hyperoptic will offer the highest speeds. For example, Virgin Media offers Business packages ranging from 400-1000Mbps.
Full fibre options rely on network availability, and keep in mind that superfast connections typically require specialist installation to the property.
What can I do if I can’t get Wi-Fi in my office?
If your home office area is some distance from the main living spaces, the Wi-Fi signal might not reach.
In this situation, there are four viable solutions worth trying:
- Wired connection via Ethernet.
- Powerline network adapters.
- Wi-Fi signal extension kits.
- Add a mobile connection.
Hardwiring the connection with an Ethernet cable is always the fastest and most reliable option. This could be a DIY job or something requiring potentially expensive installation by an engineer.
Powerline adapters are a good compromise here. These plug in to the electric mains to build a wired network between outlets. But they are not always the most reliable solution.
The options for boosting your signals
Wi-fi boosters and mesh systems are used to extend the Wi-Fi signal coverage.
Mesh Wi-Fi kits are powerful and can extend wireless in and around a large home, but can be expensive. Boosters aren’t always the most powerful option but may be enough for extending Wi-Fi to a home office if there’s sufficient signal nearby to boost.
Lastly, adding mobile broadband could be the answer. Investing in a 4G or 5G service could give a home office its own dedicated connection. This also has the benefit of not being shared and compromised by any other home users.
What can I do if my broadband goes down?
When any broadband service drops, it’s never a good time. This can be doubly frustrating and maybe costly if your home working is compromised.
Thankfully there are at least some emergency backup options to try when trouble strikes:
- Mobile tethering to create a hotspot from your phone. Not ideal for lengthy usage because phones are not designed to be routers, and data limits can quickly be exceeded. Make sure your network provider allows tethering also.
- Public services like free general access Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries or cafes could be more affordable than paying for a backup. Similarly, borrowing a friend’s connection is a way around an outage if rarely needed.
In general, prolonged outages should be uncommon. If they are very frequent or are expected to last for a long period, then you may be entitled to compensation.
Check for local issues and keep a diary of problems before speaking to your provider. Some can provide backup options if required or credit onto the account as an apology.
Can I expense my broadband to my employer?
Charging an employer for home office costs will vary by working situation and company policy.
Most shouldn’t expect any financial help, as a rule, but it never hurts to ask politely. Some companies who employ home workers will pay expenses, utility bill, and even contribute monthly for broadband services.
Those who are self-employed as independent contractors are probably less likely to have this additional support. More generally, HMRC tax reliefs for home working are available here, but the criteria for eligibility is strict.
Making good broadband your business
Working from home is only going to become more popular. Even if you don’t plan to operate that way full-time, having the facility is hugely useful when required.
Broadband is fundamental to this and not necessarily business packages. Most standard, fibre-based services are very capable of handling professional demands alongside the recreational.
By considering the environment and usage, it shouldn’t be hard to build a home office setup you can hang your career on.
After editing 80+ issues of Future Publishing’s Web Designer magazine, Mark turned freelance in 2012. Since then he has contributed technology and consumer copy for clients including GetApp, Stackify, Totaljobs and FXhome. His work with Broadband Genie draws on extensive web and IT experience which includes his degree in Software Engineering and Management.