THE BLOG
21/05/2014 08:38 BST | Updated 20/07/2014 06:59 BST

The Age of the Homeworker: Can You Connect?

Although broadband allows people to work from home, the majority of us still seem to suffer the daily commute to work.

When I started working from home 12 years ago, I was only receiving a download speed of 2 Mbps and 0.25 Mbps upload, compared to my current download speed of 20 Mbps, alongside a 6 Mbps upload connection. How times have changed.

Home working can be a challenge, but thanks to the rise in social media, it's easier to avoid the problem of isolation that can easily creep up on people.

Firms and individuals who want to embrace home working face a number of challenges, such as whether or not their broadband connection will let them work with the same ease at home. In addition, there are firms that take the traditionalist approach to people clocking in and out and believe home workers will just download tools and watch TV all day.

As cost saving measures kick in, some companies provide employees with the choice of working from home or face job loss, although in my opinion, forcing people into home working as the only option is generally a bad idea.

The Right Stuff

Some individuals and companies believe home workers need ultrafast connections such as 100 Mbps download and upload speeds, which are fairly rare in the UK.

In reality, a VoIP phone will provide a decent call quality on a slow broadband speed connection as long as it is reliable and latency is stable. Higher speeds become desirable if a firm is heavily cloud-based, especially if continual access to a remote server is needed. However, in the main, the current generation of superfast broadband connections are capable of keeping up with this sort of cloud-based work.

I am quite surprised that remote desktop applications are often overlooked. These should run smoothly on a 2 Mbps download connection, with just half a Megabyte of upload speed. Remote desktops are ideal when working on large datasets as it avoids the need to download all the data. Instead, you can log on to a server that is located in the company's main office or in a remote data centre; the rise of the virtual server can also help to further reduce the costs to a business too as virtual machines are much cheaper to upgrade.

Staying in touch with colleagues in the office can often be challenging. But thanks to Skype, Twitter and other instant messengers, collaboration is just a click away.

Live to Work

Integrating home working into family life can be difficult, as it's easy to remain permanently connected to work. Converting the spare room into an office where you don't venture outside of work hours for example can help delineate work as well as home life.

In the last few years the humble shed has seen something of a revival. However, the security of PC hardware needs to be considered and home workers must ensure that in the winter they don't end up spending a fortune heating the makeshift office.

Those working from home with slower broadband speeds will impact others in the house who are also using the connection at that time. If you always work from home, I recommend having two connections; one for work use and one for personal use. Having two connections from different providers and different technologies, can help on those occasions when one connection or provider isn't working so well. Also, during the school holidays when children are watching films from a streaming service it will not impact on you.

Other technology advantages include the availability of static IP addresses which make firewalling access to cloud-based resources much easier. It's also worth considering a broadband router that can be configured to support the company's VPN, so your computer is on the same network as those in the office.

When most of us are looking to make cost savings, the money saved from not travelling to the office every day is substantial. A benefit that is often overlooked is if a business has a good proportion of home workers, issues such as weather conditions or transport strikes have far less impact on the company.

It's evident that more organisations are reaping the rewards of remote working which also helps to increase business productivity. I firmly believe it's possible that certain office jobs, such as call centres may in time vanish altogether, as more people work from home.