For millions of people, April 2020 will be a month when their careers changed forever.
Some will have been furloughed, often as a precursor to redundancy. Others have found their entire employment sector has vanished. And many have been instructed to work from home.
If you’re reading this in an urban flat, with a train station nearby and office blocks looming in the distance, home working might have come as an unpleasant shock to the system.
However, if home is an isolated cottage on a windswept hillside, the last six weeks may not have seemed so extraordinary.
Working from home in rural areas isn’t so much a novelty as a necessity. And yet rural regions of the UK tend to have the worst levels of internet connectivity. The best broadband deals are sadly not available everywhere.
Many rural villages and remote communities are still reliant on ADSL phone lines, often limited to speeds of just 11Mbps.
That satisfies Ofcom’s new Universal Service Obligation, forcing internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure everyone has a minimum broadband connection of 10Mbps or more.
However, it’s not good if you need to hold a Zoom meeting while the kids squabble over who gets to watch Netflix next.
As such, it’s important to consider the realities of working from home in rural areas, if you’re planning to relocate far from the madding crowd.
Even people who’ve already traded rush hour for rolling hills may find they’re not following best practice in terms of working from home in rural areas:
- Schedule bandwidth-intense activities overnight. Software updates, large file uploads and synchronisation of folders like Microsoft OneDrive can all be done while you’re asleep.
- Disconnect non-essential web-enabled devices during working hours. Smart speakers and home heating systems are constantly using bandwidth, even on standby, so unplug them.
- Test video calling software prior to use. Don’t schedule a Skype video chat and then discover your bandwidth can’t cope. Trial it first, and revert to audio-only if needed.
- Compress media files. Photographs can be reduced to a fraction of their original file size without damaging image quality, and SD video streams are fine in lieu of HD or 4K.
- Avoid working in the evenings. The ‘internet rush hour’ from 7pm to 11pm is the worst time for efficient home working, since more people use the network during these hours.
- Hardwire key devices. Don’t run PCs via WiFi – it’s slower than a hardwired router connection via an Ethernet cable. Powerline plug adaptors do the same around the home.
- Use a landline. Rural internet connections usually involve a landline, so use this stable connection for work calls. Mobile signals are prone to dropping out in remote regions.
- Maximise email use. As well as providing a permanent record of conversations, emails are small and quick to send. They’re far more efficient on slow lines than VoIP calls.