Loo rolls and laptops: working from home

The coronavirus has compelled everyone who can to work from home for at least the next few weeks – but those without a fast broadband connection and businesses that don’t have a VoIP service may be struggling to maintain their productivity.

As a result of the coronavirus crisis, everyone who can is now working from home. This has led to a run on IT products, such as notebook and small form-factor PCs, displays, keyboards, mice, and other accessories. In the consumer world, it’s loo rolls and hand gel. In the business world, its laptops and screen wipes.

But it’s important to remember that home working is simply not practical without good connectivity and VoIP services. If you can’t connect to the Internet at a decent speed, you will not be able to work effectively. If you can’t stay in touch with your customers and suppliers over the phone, communications are bound to break down and that lead to all kinds of problems.

Consumer broadband speeds are generally very good these days. However, they were not designed for situations where everyone is working at home, all day, at the same time. The chances are, if you have already been working at home for a few days, that you’ll have noticed a slow-down in response times due to everyone is trying to use connections at the same time.

No guarantees

I had a perfect example of this earlier today. I was on a call with someone from a big IT company, which had already instructed all its staff to work from home. He wanted to demonstrate something to me and shared his screen (we were using a collaboration app and VoIP). But the demo would not load – at least, not until he asked his son to stop downloading a film that he was planning to watch that day.

“Ah-ha” you say, “I can use 4G data on my smartphone instead”. Well, yes, you can, assuming you can get a good enough signal. But how much of a data allowance do you have? How long will it last? Do you need to preserve some data just in case you need it later? Also, you can expect 4G networks to be pretty busy right now, so there is no assurance of good performance. For all these reasons, you may not be able to use your smartphone as an alternative to your fixed line connection.

Keeping in touch

The crisis has also highlighted just how important and useful business VoIP services are; the current situation has highlighted how hosted voice provides workers with a way to stay connected on their usual number or extension, even though they are working from home. With VoIP, it does not matter where you are – you can still access all your contacts and all the services and features of the phone system, and still be contacted by customers and suppliers.

For managers, full reporting means that they can see what calls have been made and received, and the bill won’t change – even though staff are working from multiple locations.

Of course, you also need a good connection for VoIP services and voice will use up some additional bandwidth.

People who are working from home during the crisis may find that their home broadband is not quite up to the task of running productivity and collaborative apps, and supporting quality voice as well – especially when everyone else is trying to work from home too.

If you need a faster connection you simply need to upgrade – but you can’t just do that at the drop of a hat, at it were. Even so, the sooner you place your order, the better. We’ve already seen a flurry of upgrade orders over the last few days and we expect that to continue. Fibre-based services are available in most business and residential areas now and will deliver much higher speeds. It’s well worth subscribing to these services if you want to make sure you can work at home efficiently in the future.

Time to upgrade

That’s well worth thinking about because, while we hope that nothing like this ever happens again, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that some disruption will continue for many weeks or even months. This crisis also shows us that there really are situations in which people will need to work at home and stay connected using collaboration tools and VoIP. It’s also demonstrating that home working can be very effective and that may persuade many more people to practice it more often in the future.

However, anyone that does not have a good, fast broadband connection at home may be finding the current situation challenging – as will any business that does not have VoIP. Once the current outbreak is under control and we can return to our offices, it may be time to order an upgrade.

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