Homeworking: a broadband guide

Homeworking is one of the most popular forms of flexible working and its popularity is rising. According to the TUC, the number of women employees regularly working from home grew by 35% between 2005 and 2015.

workingmums.co.uk’s latest annual survey shows there is a huge demand for homeworking, with 76% of mums asked what makes a family friendly organisation saying it is one which allows regular working from home. Moreover, homeworking for some of the week was the most likely policy to encourage working mums to work full time rather than part time.

That’s not to mention the fact that many women choose to opt out of employment and go down the self employment route and work from home so they can get the maximum flexibility possible. Mums are one of the fastest growing groups in start-ups, contracting and freelancing.

But to make homeworking possible on a regular basis requires more than just employer say so. One important prerequisite is good connectivity. So what broadband is best for homeworking? A new guide has some advice.

Choosing the right broadband package

Broadband Genie’s guide to broadband and working from home says the first step is to pick your provider wisely to make sure you choose the most suitable service and get the most for your money.

You need to ensure that the connection is fast enough for what you want to do. If you only want to email and browse the web and you’re mainly sending text emails without large attachments, an “up to” 17Mb ADSL broadband connection is probably all you need, says the guide.

Similarly Skype or similar audio call facilities use little bandwidth so you do not need a superfast connection.

But video calling is a lot more demanding. Skype recommends a minimum speed of 300Kb down and 300Kb up for the lowest quality video, and 1.5Mb (down and upload) for the highest, says the guide. Other video chat services recommend even more – up to 3Mb for Google Hangouts and Apple Facetime, for example.

The bandwidth requirements also increase the more people are involved. The guide says that it’s not just the download speed you need to consider with video conferencing: ADSL broadband may struggle in terms of upload speeds. Fibre optic broadband is far better suited to video conferencing as it can provide upload speed up to 20Mb.

It’s also best if your  job requires regular large downloads or uploads. This may be particularly important if you use cloud-based storage for file synchronising or back-up, as this could involve very regular uploads of lots of data, says the guide.

Another thing to check is whether your broadband package has a monthly usage limit. An unlimited deal may be best since using broadband for work and home will consume a lot more data and could mean extra charges or a slower service.Another restriction to watch out for is an ISP’s traffic management policy as it can limit how much you are permitted to upload at certain times of the day.Moreover, sharing your broadband with others during the working day will put more strain on it.

Hardware requirements

In addition to selecting the right type of broadband, home workers may have additional requirements for the hardware used to access the internet and share the connection.

Most free wireless routers that come with a broadband package will be sufficient for homeworking, but some home workers may want to buy their own to get more advanced features and improved Wi-Fi speed and range, the guide says. However, not every ISP allows you to use your own hardware so you need to check this.

Whatever type of router you use, security is vital. That means Wi-Fi should be protected and default passwords should be changed to prevent unauthorised access, the guide counsels.

If the Wi-Fi signal is poor at home, you can get a Wi-Fi booster. These amplify an existing signal to extend range. You could also consider upgrading your router.

The guide also contains advice about powerline adapters that turn your home’s electrical circuits into a network and about homeworking in rural areas where fibre optic broadband might not be available and ADSL broadband can be very slow. The guide has several alternative suggestions, including mobile broadband, Wi-Fi broadband and satellite broadband.

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