Slow Wi-Fi? How to boost your internet when everyone is working from home

WATCH: Slow internet connection: Why your home office is slowing down work and play

Millions of Canadians have been working from home for months now, setting up makeshift home offices until all workplaces are allowed to reopen amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But as many office employees know, most work now relies on technology — a reality which can often come with its fair share of difficulties. From slow Wi-Fi to bad webcam quality, there are plenty of ways your workflow can be interrupted.

READ MORE: Will coronavirus kill the traditional office as we know it?

So what do you do when you have a tech mishap but no I.T. department to visit for help? Here, tech experts recommend tips and tricks for making your home a better place to work.

Slow Wi-Fi

When millions of Canadians were forced to work from home due to the pandemic, Wi-Fi connectivity was quickly revealed as a widespread problem.

Whether your internet is slow or spotty, tech expert Winston Sih says there are easy ways to improve it.

“Coverage is one of the biggest factors in connectivity and speed,” Sih told Global News in an email. “If you live in a two-storey house or a house with a basement and large backyard, the router placement will impact the reliability of your home internet.”

To combat slow and spotty internet, Sih recommends moving the router to a “higher traffic” part of the home. If you can’t move the router, consider a “Wi-Fi mesh network.”

“(This) will allow you to easily and strategically place connection hotspots for the same network on different floors and areas within your home,” Sih said.

“Your device will automatically connect to the point closest to (you) to give you the most reliable and fastest speed possible.”

He recommends Eero and Google Nest Wifi.

READ MORE: Working from home? Household expenses may be deductible, say tax experts

It might also be useful to speak with your service provider to ensure you have the right speed and data allotment for your needs.

“With the increased work from home and (other) presence around the house, some people are unknowingly exceeding data caps which may result in overage fees or reduced speed,” Sih said.

“A good rule-of-thumb for Canadian homes … is 50 megabits-per-second download and 10 upload.”

If you live in a more remote or rural town, you may want to consider creating a schedule with others in your household to improve connectivity, said Janette Hughes, a professor at Ontario Tech University.

READ MORE: For some, working from home can cause ‘loneliness, isolation and depressive symptoms’

“I schedule most of my meetings in the (morning) because my teenage children are still asleep and I’m not competing for bandwidth with them,” Hughes said.

She also recommends keeping your microphone muted and your camera off if you find your connection spotty during video calls.

Define your workspace

One common struggle of employees who work from home is the absence of a clearly defined workspace or home office.

“This is a space (where) you can mentally separate yourself from home and … zone into the tasks you need to complete for work,” Sih said.

He recommends creating this space close to the Wi-Fi router for optimal internet connectivity and giving yourself “just enough space” for your computer and any other documents or items you might need, to avoid distraction.

Adding extra monitors to your space can help support your head and neck by keeping your eyesight level, but Sih finds these can also leave room for distraction.

If you find yourself filling your screens with non-work related tabs, Sih recommends downloading a Google extension like StayFocusd that enables you to define time limits for “time-killer websites” like Facebook or YouTube.

If you have several video call requirements, investing in an HD external webcam may be worth it. Noise-cancelling headphones with a built-in microphone can also improve your sound during meetings while keeping you focused if family makes noise elsewhere in the house.

READ MORE: Canadians think they’ll continue working from home when pandemic ends: poll

Hughes, who has taught online for more than 20 years, finds a good way to combat restlessness is to find a space where you can stand when desired.

“Consider standing at the kitchen counter for a change, if possible,” she said.

“Most important is to arrange your equipment so that you are not hunched over, or looking up or down too much. This can put strain on your neck and back and contribute to terrible posture in the long-term.”

Combat tech fatigue

If you’re feeling “Zoom-ed out” or tired of constantly using your phone and computer to connect with colleagues and meet your expectations, that’s normal.

“All of my colleagues are feeling this, as am I,” Hughes said.

“I would never recommend working all day on a computer and then taking a break by watching TV.”

READ MORE: Canadian employers using thermal cameras, location-tracking smartphone apps against COVID-19

Instead, she recommends spending your break by taking a walk around the yard, your neighbourhood or even your house if you can’t get outside.

Sih abides by the “20-20-20” rule: “Every 20 minutes, I look 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” he said.

“Look out the window, look at a wall … anything to ease the eye strain. Create tech-free times (like) when you eat lunch to just zone out and be with family or take a walk.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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