To work remotely, you need good equipment no matter where you are. But you’ll need to pay special attention if you live in or frequent developing countries that are modern-convenience challenged. Whether that applies to you or not, here are 3 things I’ve found to be absolute musts to stay connected as a remote worker.
Frequently referred to as UPS devices, they can come in handy no matter where you live. If you’re in a place where the electricity cuts off intermittently without notice due to inclement weather or for any other reason, you won’t be able to work at home without one.
The UPS model pictured here is the one I’ve been using for the past 12 months. Two car batteries hooked up to it provide an additional 2 or more hours of power supply, adding to the original 60 minute or less duration it’s designed for.
It plugs into any basic outlet in your home and has an inlet for you to plug a power strip into and attach your essential devices. Its sensor detects when the main power source is lost and instantly activates the built-in inverter and any additional battery source that’s been added.
This unit retails for $100 USD. When I bought mine I wasn’t exactly sure how to configure it with the batteries, so I hired someone to do it. It turned out to be easy, and its total cost with delivery and installation amounted to about $170 USD.
While it’s not beautiful, it is useful, worth the investment and the extra trouble to keep it out of sight. I never have to worry about power outages affecting my productivity.
There’s a large price range of UPS models to be considered, so research and shop around, and you’ll find one that fits your needs.
A UPS is not a generator, but a battery back-up. Its purpose is to keep your electrically powered equipment going during power hiccups by converting your DC current (battery power) to AC current (like the current that comes through your home outlets).
Whenever the main power surges or goes out, it kicks in automatically within less than 1 second. This keeps essential electronics like your modem on so that you’re not booted offline. It will not sustain you through the aftermath of a hurricane, e.g., or other events that can leave you without power for prolonged periods of time.
Keep in mind that if you invest in backup power, you shouldn’t confuse a UPS unit with a standalone inverter. An inverter by itself does not kick in quickly enough to prevent the devices it supports from momentarily losing power. A UPS does so seamlessly, hence the part of its name Uninterruptible.
Also know that a UPS is not suitable for on-the-go backup power. The units are large, bulky, and meant for stationary use.
2.USB WIFI From Secondary Internet Service Providers
This is simple.
I never rely on one Internet Service Provider (ISP) while working remotely. Individual ISPs are prone to isolated outages and technical issues, so it’s great to be able to connect to an alternative at a moment’s notice if needed.
Do you remember the last time your internet was down? You may have called customer service or technical support and heard an automated message that said: “We know we’re down, we’re fixing it ASAP, we hope that’ll be soon but can’t make guarantees, thanks for your patience…”
Internet outages will happen. You can mitigate their effect on your productivity by always having more than one ISP, especially one that also serves as WiFi when you’re traveling or working on-the-go.
Case and point: my main ISP, TE Data, provides my cable connection. As a back-up, I purchased a USB like the one shown above from a completely different company, Vodafone. It retails for about $20 USD and you can recharge it as often as you like for as little as $2. Believe it or not, a $2 charge can keep me going for like 4 days as long as I don’t watch any videos online (Ahem, YouTube). Its speed is about 5 MB, and while that’s slow it’s enough to make dials, instant message, and work in a CRM all at once.
Another perk is that it allows me to pick up my laptop and go almost anywhere I want to while continuing to work. I don’t have to check whether a place has WiFi before I go. Lastly, I can enjoy a secure connection which keeps my computer and browsing history private.
There are alternatives to USB WiFi connections that you can also consider such as a WiFi cards or PCI adapters.
Last but not least, if you work at home you may have a noisy dog as a neighbor, be the parent of noisy kids , live in an extreme traffic zone, etc. Whatever the source of noise, they can be distracting to customers or co-workers you voice chat with.
Buying a headset with good noise-canceling technology helps eradicate background noise that might otherwise cause disruptions.
I go through headsets like socks because I’m on the phone 5+ hours a day. If you’re like me, I suggest sticking to top quality brand name products.
Let’s start with the low-budget $20 Plantronics headset models. I know – I said top quality and that is not what comes to mind when you hear Plantronics. Some people are OK with them, and other people hate them. To me, they aren’t great but they do serve their purpose.
For one, background noises are easily picked up by the mic when you’re speaking online. Where I live, people honk their horns while driving like it’s as essential as using the gas pedal. If I’m on the Plantronics headset during meetings, members of the remote team I’m on joke that it sounds like I live in Times Square. But it’s still working after months of use, unlike two other higher cost brands I’ve owned in the past year.
A Microsoft headset cost me a few dollars more had noise canceling technology that worked really well at first. But within two months of purchasing it and even without daily use, it was starting to produce a lot of feedback and static that was audible to the people on the other end of my calls. They were complaining a ton so I had to get rid of it. Another thing it I didn’t like about it was the uncomfortable over-the-ear design. The hard plastic hooks that sat on top of my ears gave me headaches after a couple of hours.
$100 is a good amount to spend on a headset if you want all background noise to be completely silenced. A Sennheiser headset that I bought at that price was amazing at this. However, it broke after a few months.
The problems with the Sennheiser started with the audio going out in one ear. Issues with it mounted until finally, my voice could barely be heard on the other end. It too, is in my headset graveyard.
With all of this said, I am very rough on headsets. I suspect their breakdowns are related to me throwing them around and damaging the wires or metal connections. They’ve also all come with warranties which I don’t bother with, although I should because buying a new headset every couple of months can get expensive.
Next, I’m going to go wireless and try out a Bluetooth headset. Hopefully, it’ll last longer. I’ll let you know whether or not it does.
In all, a UPS, secondary WiFi connection, and a great headset are essential when it comes to remote work life.
If you believe there’s another accessory that’s essential when working from home, please chime in and mention it in the comments!