Editor’s Note: this post is intended to help end-users unaccustomed to working from home to have a better overall end-user experience.
Whether you are connecting remotely to a virtual desktop or physical PC (see my article here), there are few things that you can do to make your session more productive. I’ve worked from home for 15 years and have found that with a little planning and common sense techniques, you can have the same desktop experience at home that you have at your workplace. Below are five techniques that I have found useful.
1. Optimize Your LAN/WAN Network Usage
Adjust your expectation about your connection speed. When you connect to a remote desktop, remember that your home has limited bandwidth and that bandwidth may be shared not only by you but by all your neighbors on that network segment. To conserve at-home bandwidth, be judicious of how you and family members are using it during working hours. Here are few things that you can do to conserve your bandwidth:
- Music streaming takes 1-6 Mbps of bandwidth. Video can consume 3-25 Mbps. If you stream music or video while you work, don’t stream it from the device you’re using to access your remote desktop. Better yet, tune in some cool jazz, delta blues, or whatever you like on the radio to minimize bandwidth consumption.
- Web browsing also consumes bandwidth. Do your web-browsing activities on a local device rather than from your remote desktop to conserve bandwidth.
- If you can, connect to your local network by wire rather than wirelessly.
- If you are having latency issues and poor keyboard and/or mouse response, work on your application and documents locally and then upload them to your office system as needed.
2. Optimize Your Workspace
When working from home, try and replicate your office environment as closely as possible. If you use a large 4K monitor or dual monitor setup, try and replicate it at home (can you pick up your work monitor from the office?). If you experience network congestion you can lower your screen resolution to conserve bandwidth. If you need to print out documents make sure your printer is connected to your local system as well as your remote desktop. Make sure that your router or modem is up to date and has the latest firmware loaded on it. A good keyboard and mouse are essential if you aren’t used to using a laptop keyboard.
3. Optimize Your Operating System for Remote Connectivity
I use VMware OS Optimization Tool to optimize my remote Windows desktop and server OSes. It does a great job of enabling or disabling Windows system services to improve performance and enhances the user experience. It is very easy to use, free and can be downloaded here. You will be surprised what a difference it makes. For those that use Citrix, try Citrix Optimizer that can be downloaded from here.
4. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
Does your system administrator monitor your work environment to help identify system issues? If so, he can baseline your remote and local systems and then monitor them for performance issues. Then, if you have resource (network, CPU, memory, etc.) issues he can quickly identify and correct the problem even if you’re working remotely. ControlUp monitors virtual machines but may also be able to monitor the physical machine that you are using for remote connectivity.
5. Work from Home Pitfalls to Avoid
Finally, for those of you that are new to working from home you may (and probably will) be hit by the double-edged sword of working remotely; it is easy to get distracted while working from home and it is easy to end up spending a lot of time working off regular business hours. To minimize distractions, try setting up your home workspace in a separate area – preferably one with a door. You can also tell those that share your living space when your working hours are and that you expect them to respect that time. Then hold them to your expectation! To maintain a balance, I find it helpful to have a set schedule for lunch and breaks — I check my personal email and attend to my other personal business during this time.
One of the other problems with working from home is that you never leave your place of business. It is easy to work late or to pop up to your home office in the evening or weekend just to check something out — and then find out that you spent a few hours working when you should be recharging. Establish regular office hours and stick to them to allow yourself to recharge so you can tackle your work with renewed energy and enthusiasm. One way to reinforce your work-life balance if you don’t have a separate workspace with a door that closes is to make sure that the items in your workspace (devices, laptop, calendar, etc.) are put away at the end of the day. You’ll be less tempted to sit down “for a few minutes” for a quick work check-in.
Working from home is a mixed bag. It’s easy to let work take over your personal time, which ultimately robs you of productivity. But I don’t know anyone that misses their commute after they start working from home! The big downside for me to working remotely is that I don’t get face-to-face contact with my coworkers and probably miss a lot of the over-the-cubicle tribal knowledge that goes on in an office. Ultimately each of us has to decide what works for them.