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Productivity

Ways to improve the home office experience

It’s been a few weeks since the entire office world has moved to work from home. This new reality has forced a lot of companies to adapt their IT infrastructures and assess the possibilities of adding new or expanding existing resources.

In the same way, many people without prior home office experience were pushed to learn about new tools and terminologies, being “The VPN” one of the most popular.

Moving the entire workforce of a company to a home office modality has implied a lot of challenges for both, IT departments and collaborators. VPNs and Home Internet usage have increased deliberately, where in many cases this has caused a negative impact. In this article, we will find ways to improve the home office experience by digging around three pillars: Cloud, VPN and additional displays.

Photo by Jefferson Santos
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Leveraging the cloud to share documents

For over a decade, the cloud has been the preferred place to share files between coworkers. Google Suite and Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) offer tools and a bunch of space to store files and documents. They are also very secure and reliable, adding multi-factor authentication and the possibility to access them from outside the VPN.

Gone are the days of sending emails with large attachments. Today, everything lives safe in the cloud, synced and available to be accessed instantly from everywhere.

Using VirtualBox to connect to your company’s VPN

If you own a computer with a quad-core processor and a RAM amount of at least 8 GB, you can easily set up a virtual machine with VirtualBox. For those unfamiliar, a virtual machine is basically another PC (virtual) than runs within a physical device.

When you are connected to a VPN, all the Internet traffic of your computer is routed through the company’s servers. Meaning that if you consume the scarce bandwidth to attend to meetings, listen to online radio or download content, the overall experience won’t be as good as having your full home internet bandwidth available. The speed will always depend on the VPN resources.

These are the benefits of setting up a virtual machine for the VPN related work:

  • Bandwidth saving: the virtual machine is only used to get access to resources that are only available through the VPN. By having two separate connections, this will save a lot of bandwidth to the company.
  • Full throttle for the rest: we’ll be able to use our home internet at full speed for other work-related stuff: editing documents, attending to meetings, etc.
  • No need to connect and disconnect: even though this a good practice, meetings, downloads and other ongoing activities would be interrupted if we use a single connection.

VirtualBox is free to download and it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. There’s a popular alternative called VMware. Even though it only works on Windows and it’s paid, it has a free version available for non-commercial use.

VirtualBox in action
Having multiple computers is easy with VirtualBox.

Adding another display for US$10

A lot of people consider unnecessary to have a multi-display setup. I used to think that as well. The truth is once you start working with more than one screen, it’s hard to go back to a single display setup.

One day I was thinking that it would be great to use my iPad Mini as an external display. I did a Google search and it didn’t take me long to discover Duet Display, an app that turns an iOS or Android device into a secondary (or third) display for a Mac or PC.

I decided to give it a try despite some negative reviews and fortunately I was gladly surprised. The configuration was a breeze, I connected the tablet to a USB 3.0 port and I turned that tablet that I barely used into an additional display to have the e-mail, chat and To-do-lists always in the foreground.

Duet Display is also touch enabled, so you will be able to interact with your Windows or Mac device with your fingers.

Duet Display in action.
You can give your iPad or Android tablet a second life thanks to Duet Display.

Conclusion

Working from home has represented a big challenge for all of us. Even companies that already had a work-from-home policy saw in this unprecedented pandemic an opportunity to shape their IT resources for better.

As employees working from home, it’s very useful to seek for ways to improve our experience. Ways that will make a positive impact in our daily activities.

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