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Working from home: Getting the most out of your broadband

Working from home: Getting the most out of your broadband

Working from home has quickly become a reality for many us, swapping out our daily commute for a coffee on the sofa before work. And while that may sound idyllic, working from home has been shown to be tougher than we thought, especially if you struggle with slow or unreliable broadband.

To make sure things run as smoothly as possible, here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your broadband when working from home.

1. Run a speed test

If you’re not 100% sure what broadband speed you’re actually getting, then run a quick speed test in order to get a clearer idea. This will help you decide if you need to “ration” your bandwidth.

If you only have access to download speeds of around 10Mbps, you’re going to have to be much more strict with your internet usage while working from home than if you had 67Mbps, for example.

Using the internet for emails and searching Google won’t place a huge amount of strain on your connection, but if your job includes video calling or downloading and uploading large files, then you might need to be a little more strategic.

2. Streamline your computer

Check to make sure you’re not running unnecessary programs on your computer that could be slowing it down or placing excess demand on your broadband.

Program updates, security scans, media player pop-ups, media-rich web pages and chat notifications could all be affecting your broadband speeds by using up bandwidth unnecessarily.

To get the most out of your broadband, shut down applications that you’re not actively using, especially bandwidth-heavy TV and radio streaming services.

3. Make sure your Wi-Fi router is set up properly

In order to make the most out of your broadband connection you’ll need to make sure you’re getting the best Wi-Fi signal in your home.

Firstly, make sure your Wi-Fi router is plugged into your master socket and not an extension. This will be the largest socket in your house, typically located in your hallway or near your front door.

Secondly, make sure your router is positioned correctly, upright and facing towards you, and that it’s in the best possible location. The best place for your router is in the middle of your home and unobstructed by walls or furniture. While that might not always be practical, at the very least don’t put it in a cupboard, on the ground, or anywhere it can be blocked by furniture.

Electrical devices can also disrupt your Wi-Fi signal, so keep it away from cordless phones and microwaves. If you can get your router its own shelf or spot near the centre of your home your Wi-Fi strength should be a lot stronger throughout.

Finally, check that it is set up properly, with all the wires connected securely and a microfilter connected if you need one.

If you’re running into connection problems while working from home, take a look through our more detailed guide.

4. Use a Wi-Fi booster

Powerline adapters use the electricity power lines to boost your Wi-Fi signal around your home, which is especially useful if you have Wi-Fi dead spots.

Some providers like TalkTalk, Sky and BT will provide you with powerline adapters but there may be an additional charge.

5. Limit the number of devices connected to Wi-Fi (if you can)

In an ideal world, when working from home you would ensure your broadband is at peak performance by limiting the number of connected devices.

However, if you have kids who are home while you’re working, this may not be possible. Streaming movies, music and games is going to slow down your connection and potentially affect your download and upload speeds.

One idea would be to plan your day around when the internet will be used the most and try to schedule tasks that require the most bandwidth for quieter hours.

If you need to make video calls or upload large files, try to do so when the kids are distracted offline, and if your kids, housemates or partners love online gaming, ask if they are happy to limit that to outside office hours for the time being.

6. Turn off HD streaming

If there’s no chance of getting your family or those you live with offline, then at least reduce the amount of high definition streaming they’re doing.

Most streaming platforms are set to automatically stream at the highest quality available, but it’s fairly straightforward to change your playback settings and save yourself some bandwidth.

Turn off Netflix HD streaming

Open Netflix on your computer’s browser, select the profile you want to adjust and open the settings menu by clicking on the profile image in the upper-right corner.

Select 'Account Preferences' and scroll down to the 'My Profile' section at the bottom. Then click on 'Playback Settings'.

Netflix account settings

From here you can change your Netflix playback settings to limit the data usage per screen. The difference between streaming in HD and SD is significant. HD can use up to 3GB per hour (7GB for Ultra HD) while standard video quality only uses up to 0.7GB per hour.

Netflix playback settings low

This will change your streaming settings for your computer and your TV streaming. To adjust your settings on your mobile devices you’ll need to do so individually for each one. Navigate to the 'More' section of your app, select 'App Settings' and then 'Video Quality'.

Likewise, this will only affect the streaming settings for that particular profile, so you may need to do this more than once depending on how many profiles are active during the day.

7. Change your wireless channel

If you’re struggling with a poor Wi-Fi connection, you might want to try changing your wireless channel settings. If your Wi-Fi router is broadcasting on the same channel as your neighbours, it could slow your internet down.

Some of the more advanced routers –– such as the Virgin Media Super Hub 3 and BT Smart Hub 2 –– will automatically switch to less congested channels.

8. Plug yourself in

If you’re still struggling with your Wi-Fi, then try connecting your device directly to your router with an Ethernet cable. You should have received one when you first ordered your broadband service, if you can’t find it then they’re fairly inexpensive to purchase on Amazon.

9. Go mobile

If there are moments throughout the day when your broadband connection just can’t cope, there’s always the option to go mobile. If you have a decent 4G signal in your home it’s a simple matter to turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

This is known as tethering, and while it’s not an ideal long-term solution nor necessarily available to everyone, it could help to have another way to access the internet just in case.

To find out more about mobile tethering and how to set it up for your smartphone, take a loook at our more detailed guide.

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