Baby It’s You

Diagnosing and Addressing Remote Working Connectivity Issues

It’s week two of UK lockdown, and many of us are trying to adjust to stringent restrictions coupled with working remotely with pets and children. We’re silently celebrating the first week of being home with the kids. Successfully writing emails and code with a baby bouncing on knee is still a work in progress for me. Practice will hopefully make perfect. In the meantime, any tips others can provide are definitely appreciated!

One achievement I am proud of is that I finally have an isolated work setup and generally good remote connectivity. Having persistent connection freezing, pixellated video calls and disconnecting sessions leaves you feeling powerless and useless. With all the negativity and worry ebbing through the world, the last thing we should be worried about is performing at work.

I am thankful that this means I can now focus on supporting colleagues and trying to build software from home. Yet, the journey to isolate the source of my issues has been far longer than I would like to admit. There is a struggle to figure out if it’s down to my own home environment, work capacity, or some weird combination.

To help support the wider community, here I list the key external items I investigated in improving my own work connectivity. Hopefully it helps others find remote workspace nirvana and further promote the work environment empathy I have previously advocated.

The Original Wrapper

There are many different remote working configurations adopted by organisations. From dedicated laptops, to remote connections via a personal machine, there are several options provided to the workforce. If you rarely work from home, it is easy for versions of remote tooling to become obsolete. There are definitely security and other implications of not keeping this software up to date. Yet the last thing we think about when browsing our personal laptops at home is updating work related software.

As we are facing a considerable period of working from home, now is the time to update the relevant software. Connectivity software is one. Be mindful of other tools such as video conferencing, media extensions and other collaboration software. All should be updated to the latest and greatest.

Speed of Sound

This next item may seem obvious. Yet it has several nuances that are worth investigating. It is definitely worth checking your broadband connection. This may be a challenging item depending on the number of people remote working from your home. Those in flatshares may be vying for bandwidth on a low speed connection. Irrespective, it’s worth investigating broadband if you’re struggling to connect.

The first aspect of your connection worth investigating is the overall speed. Many ISPs have an online checker that you can use. Regardless, using an impartial tool suitable for your region such as UK Broadband Speed Test is a good method of testing your speed.

A secondary yet less obvious item that I didn’t initially consider is evaluating your broadband router settings. Particularly the frequency settings. The last thing we tend to focus on at home is whether our router is using 2.4 GHz or 5GHz for our devices. As long as your favourite streaming service is working while you’re on the couch glued to social media on your phone, you probably don’t care very much. Yet if you are still struggling with connectivity, it may be worth investigating the best potential frequency for your connecting device.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Much has been said in numerous articles on the importance of a dedicated workspace. Many posts I have read in recent weeks strongly encourage us to find an isolated space. There are many advantages to a dedicated area for working. These include establishing a physical separation between work and home and encouraging focus on work. Finding such as space is easier said than done

Your chosen working location can also be impacting your connection. Wireless signal strength can be impacted by the proximity of your space to the router, wall thickness or other aspects of your home. For me, working from kitchen table was difficult for reasons other than the usual distractions. I definitely did encounter the standard challenges such as battling the siren call of the fridge, the lure of another cup of tea, and the tempting giggles of my son on the changing mat. Nevertheless, I also found my connection was dropping off when WFKT, or work from kitchen table. Thanks for the tip Lucian Stan!

Adding a desk to the spare bedroom has been a salvation in connectivity improvement. While it was the best choice for me, it is possible to find an inventive solution by reusing some furniture. Both a colleague and my sister-in-law advocate the surprising effectiveness of work from dressing table, or WFDT for short. With space for a second monitor and your legs, it proves to be an ingenious solution. I definitely approve of the creativity used here!

Shiny Toys

With the amount of negative information; concerns for friends and family; worries about food, toilet paper, social isolation; and the various other worries buzzing around our heads, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the newest gadget. Yet an ageing personal laptop could be causing your connectivity issues. The various reasons for why this could be the case are outside the scope of this article.

For me this was literally the last resort. If you only use your home machine for the occasional browsing, upgrading to the latest laptop may seem like a frivolous expense. If you already have your eyes on a shiny new toy, and have the means to cover that expense now, it may be worth bring that purchase forward.

Join Together

Slow connection issues can be exceptionally frustrating to rectify. Sympathy can be difficult to find. Particularly where things just work for others and not for you. Quite often it is difficult to know where to start. By ruling out your home configuration, it is easy to identify when it’s not you.

I’m sure there are many other diagnostics you can perform to rectify your own personal remote connectivity problems. Hopefully some of the steps I’ve had to execute will boost your connection and allow you to work at a productivity level closer to your native office. If you find any more, do share and help the community remote work together.

Thanks for reading. Do share your own experiences and tips on how you have improved your own connectivity. Claps and comments are always appreciated!

Lead software engineer with a strong interest in UI, UX, Usability and Agility. Lover of cooking, tea, photography and gin! All views expressed are my own.

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