Like 4.2m others in the UK – and a further 1.8m who’d like to – I often work from home. Once a euphemism for staying in bed and watching hours of daytime TV, working from home is now an everyday occurrence for those developing businesses, working flexible hours around the care of loved ones, or just avoiding spending time jammed into the armpits of their fellow commuters. All you need is a laptop, a reliable wifi connection and you’re set.
But if you don’t have reliable wifi, it doesn’t matter how organised you are, how snazzy your tech is, or which shiny new game you’ve got to occupy your kids with, it will all fall apart. Thick walls, mirrors and even windows can create wifi blackspots that turn your home-working dream into a nightmare. However, Virgin Media’s new Intelligent WiFi with Hub 3, WiFi boosters and Connect app can be relied on to save the day. While the Intelligent WiFi system is designed to deliver the best wifi signal across your home, the Connect app also allows you to pause specific devices – which comes in particularly handy when you need to put the kids to bed.
As someone who juggles writing and editing with social media side projects and caring for two children, my home isn’t just my castle, it’s my office, my gym, my laundry and my sanctuary – so I rely on home tech and some key apps to get it all done.
At the heart of my planning is Trello. For someone like me, who loves a to-do list and also a done list (check out, I Done This), Trello is the dream. You can map out projects – from launching a business to planning your holiday – with ongoing task lists, which you can share with others. A combination of Slack and Facetime means I can stay in touch with colleagues through message boards or visual chats, while Buffer enables me to schedule social media posts that go out while I’m busy on the school run. When I need to give a presentation a creative boost, I turn to Canva – the app that can turn anyone into a designer no matter what their ability.
With digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant or Apple’s Siri, you can delegate domestic tasks while you work. They can turn up your heating, adjust the lighting using smart bulbs, feed your pet with devices such as Feed and go Smart Pet Feeder, or control a video doorbell such as Nest Hello so you don’t have to get up to see who’s interrupting you. If it’s time for a break, your smart kettle can start making a cuppa, while your smart toaster warms a slice. Even better, you can link your assistant to a robot vacuum cleaner such as Roomba to clean your carpet, or iRobot Braava, which will mop your floor, meaning you can ace your deadlines and complete your chores at the same time.
Keep the kids occupied
A bored child trying to join in your conference call, especially at a tricky moment, has the potential to shatter that illusion of professionalism you’ve been carefully cultivating– just ask Prof Robert Kelly, whose four-year-old daughter interrupted a live TV interview with BBC News. My deadlines and reputation have often been saved by a well-timed gaming app for the kids. Minecraft is a long-time family favourite where you can build entire worlds, and Roblox sees the kids connecting with their friends in a bid to run a pizza parlour, adopt a baby or take care of a pet kitten. If emergency strikes, relinquish your phone and let them take selfies with special effects filters until you’re done. Works every single time.
Improve your mental health
When the stress does mount up, even the most dedicated entrepreneur needs a break. Research suggests that having plants in your workspace can improve mental wellbeing and increase productivity by 15%, so buy a calming fern on Patch. A relaxing session of Yoga with Adriene on Youtube will stretch your deskbound body, while Headspace helps you meditate and step away from work worries.
When I need to feel more productive, I listen to the How I Built This podcast’s interviews with successful business owners such as Bobbi Brown for inspiration. Or, for a quick energy boost, the 7 Minute Workout app gets you moving with a set of 30-second exercises. If all else fails, ask Siri to play an upbeat playlist on Spotify at top volume, and thank your lucky stars you’re not in a communal office.
Beat the working-from-home blues
The downsides of working at home can be the domestic distractions (the kettle needs descaling) and feeling isolated (there are only so many conversations you can have with the cat). If things get a little quiet, I switch on Coffitivity or Noisli, which provide background noise so you can pretend you’re strolling through woodland or a Parisian street while you sort out your accounts. To avoid procrastination, I turn to Forest or Tomato Timer. Plant a virtual tree on Forest and it will grow – but only as long as you focus on your work and don’t check any other apps. Tomato Timer helps you follow the Pomodoro Technique where you work intensely for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break when you’ve finished your task.
Looking for faster connectivity? Or just fed up of losing connection halfway through your favourite TV series? Virgin Media’s Intelligent WiFi has you covered.