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Remote working and home Wi-Fi strains

(Image credit: Mediacom)

Around-the-world, as we attempt to minimise the spread of the current pandemic, the ‘new normal’ we now find ourselves in has truly impacted all aspects of our everyday lives. Millions of people globally have been thrown into new daily set-ups and routines. From children logging into virtual school lessons online, and limiting the time we spend outdoors, to finding new ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and well-being, and video-calling loved ones to check-in.    

As we are asked to stay home and limit outings to absolutely essential, some of the most significant changes we’re adapting to is carrying on with our nine-to-five jobs from home, to keep connected with colleagues and clients, and create a productive working environment in the process.

The upsurge of remote working across the world is extraordinary and has served as a learning curve for us all. Naturally, this has put pressure on millions of people to ensure we have the right provisions at home that enable us to carry out our jobs successfully, and allowing businesses to continue as normal as possible.

At the same time, life and work in quarantine has exposed us to just how much we depend on the technology we use on a day-to-day basis. From a work perspective, we need our computers and laptops, email, video conferencing tools and smartphones to run as seamlessly at home as they do in the office. Though outside of this, when the working day is done, we rely on the same connectivity for streaming our favouring TV shows on Netflix, keeping connected with friends and family on social media, and connecting to the world and community outside of our homes.

What was once intended simply for browsing the internet, connecting with friends on social media, and streaming films online must now also the bear additional pressures that we are now putting on the home network. It is therefore inevitable that connection quality and overall performance will suffer, and from time-to-time, we’ll all experience varying degrees of dropouts, buffering and patchy video calls when using home Wi-Fi.

Smartphones in the lead

As lockdown remains in place for the foreseeable future, we will continue to rely on our home Wi-Fi networks and smart home ecosystems more than ever before, to keep us connected as well as entertained. This period will also force us to require a deeper understanding of our home networks and how we can maintain optimum performance.

Understandably, one of the main concerns for those working from home is that Wi-Fi or internet connectivity won’t be able to cope with the number of connected devices, or that buffering and dropouts will impact their ability to do our jobs. Before Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, D-Link Europe conducted research to explore how much people across Europe depend on home Wi-Fi networks, what the modern home network looks like, and if we know how to maintain them properly.

What we found paints a clear picture of Wi-Fi usage before the pandemic, at which time, 30 per cent of people across the continent believed that general internet browsing consumed the most Wi-Fi data in the home. Around one-third of people (30 per cent) felt that streaming their favourite TV shows online used most of their broadband. In contrast to today’s new normal, only a mere 6 per cent of people believed that working from home was where their data was most consumed.

As part of this, we also looked to understand the number of connections in the average smart home, and the impact this had on connectivity performance. Of this, and perhaps somewhat predictably, we found that smartphones took an overwhelming lead as the most connected device at home, as more than 92 per cent of households claimed to have one or more paired to their router at any one time. This was followed by one or more computers (87 per cent), and then tablets, such as iPads, at 70 per cent of homes across Europe.

Essential steps to consider

In fact, at the time of our research, 66 per cent of Europeans admitted they understood that their home Wi-Fi performance sometimes suffers due to the number of devices they have connected. Leading us to believe that never before has home Wi-Fi been as strenuously tested as it is now, as whole households convene to work, play and live stream using the same connection.

We also explored how confident people across Europe were at maintaining their Wi-Fi connection. We found that 20 per cent of people across the continent felt that they wouldn’t know the necessary steps to fix their Wi-Fi – in fact, more than a quarter of those surveyed weren’t 100 per cent certain what a home router was at all. As dependence on home Wi-Fi continues to grow over the coming weeks and months, now is the time to learn about your network set-up, and understand what you can do to get the best of it.

A good Wi-Fi connection is crucial to working at home, but there are other essential steps to consider, as well. Working from home while using modern team applications, such as Google Suite or Office 365, it is easy to overlook things which in a work environment second nature, like remembering to take regular breaks, since it is easy to cascade from one call to the next, compared to being in an office where a trip to the coffee machine or water cooler is a habit. 

Creating and sticking to routines is equally important, as is creating a dedicated work area.  This creates routine and this normality. Weaving a few exercises into the working day during these uncertain times is also a worth considering. Even if it is as simple as doing a circuit of the living room, the act of walking and stretching has therapeutic benefits.

On top of this, there are also some small, simple, and quick changes to our everyday IT set-up we can take to improve and better maintain a decent connection in the home, such as:

  • Monitor and minimise the number of connected devices
  • Understand what online activities require more data than others
  • Place your router as centrally in your home as possible
  • Make sure your router is up to date with the latest firmware (identify the age of your existing router, and explore options to upgrade it to a newer model)

If you’re running a business or working from home, for example, you might want to consider separating work and home internet traffic. One way to do this would be to deploy a dedicated SSID for each and applying bandwidth restrictions; one for internal use and the other for business use (with higher bandwidth and better SLA).  This prevents kids from hogging the whole wireless network bandwidth to watch a Video on Demand service during a critical conference call, for example.

Around the world, millions are acclimatising to new routines, and adapting technology to suit how they live and work from home is fast becoming a priority. Yet, as we demand more from our home Wi-Fi, we also have the opportunity to learn more about how they can be improved or updated to accommodate the requirements of today and tomorrow.

It is also important to understand that distinguishing work from home life whilst working from home is part of the challenge as the two become more convoluted than ever before. From running a business to maintaining internet for a busy household, it is crucial, in these times, to be as prepared as possible for the best work-life balance in quarantine.

Paul Routledge, Country Manager, D-Link