With the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, now shifting into pandemic mode, we're likely to see more restrictions placed on travel, public gatherings and other activities that could lead to the spread of the virus. With schools now looking at closures and workplaces either suggesting or ordering staff to work remotely, chances are you might have multiple people in your household. What do you need to do to ensure your home doesn't descend into a war-zone when packed with people confined to quarters?
One of the biggest hassles will be ensuring that everyone has a space to work that doesn't distract or annoy the other people in the house. Many people will have a home office that accommodate one or two people. But if everyone is home, fitting four or more people in could be a problem.
Designate specific areas for each person to work from. If a couple of people need to share a space, like the kitchen table, sort that out so people won't get on each other's nerves.
I'd also ensure everyone has a decent set of headphones so that phone and video calls can be carried out without disturbing everyone else. And perhaps set a "no speakers" policy during work times.
Designate break times
Everyone needs a break from work. And if the house has a few extra people, the number of potential distractions increases exponentially. Whether that's to watch the latest series on Netflix or marathon every Disney movie on Disney+, there are lots of potential distractions. Rather than forcing everyone to work in isolation all day, set aside a few minutes every hour for a break.
One friend of mine has a ritual with her wife where, if they are working from home together, they bring each other a snack or drink.
I like to exercise so making time each day to get on a treadmill, jump on a spin bike or lift weights helps break up the day and gives me an energy boost.
Stock up on snacks - but don't panic buy
I've been working from home for over a decade. One thing I've learned is that having a range of healthy snacks can help break boredom and give me an energy boost, particularly in the mid-afternoon.
When your house is loaded up with extra people for an extended time, you'll need extra supplies on hand. I'd suggest healthy snacks like fruit and nuts and make sure you have a good supply of coffee, tea or other drinks you like.
Have enough bandwidth for everyone
If school closures come to pass and workplaces shut down, as as some politicians expect, we can expect the already creaky NBN to suffer.
In the meantime, ensure that you have enough bandwidth available to allow for extra people in the house using video-conferencing services, streaming video and cloud applications.
In particular, look at upload speeds as well as downloads. If you're working or studying from home, you may need to send more large files around than usual. You may find that tethering your computer or tablet to a 4G or 5G device will give better performance than your home internet plan.
If that's the case, ensure that you have enough traffic allowance to cover you.
In many homes, PCs and tablets are shared. If your household is confined to quarters then sharing devices is probably not going to work.
It's time to look for options to ensure everyone has access to the tools they need to work or study. A decent laptop or tablet isn't super expensive. For well under $1000 there are lots of options from reputable brands that offer reasonable performance.
Steer away from the really cheap options - they usually have paltry 64GB SSDs for storage, which won't handle the needs of most people. Given you're likely to mainly use the computer at home, battery life isn't a massive consideration. As long as it lasts three or four hours you should be fine.