With an increased emphasis on a healthy work-life balance, it’s easy to see why so many people are now exchanging working in an office with working from home either all or some of the time.
The non-stop march of improving technology is helping us ditch the commute and work remotely more and more. So, here are our tips for choosing the best devices for working away from the office, along with some other handy pointers you may not have considered.
Best Buy laptops – these are simply the very best computers around
What type of computer should I buy for remote working?
Aside from installing faltering air conditioning and watching YouTube clips of David Brent on repeat, the obvious way to bring that office feel to your home is by buying a desktop computer. These come with a full keyboard and mouse and large monitors. You can pick from the cream of the crop with our full range of all-in-one PC reviews.
The clear downside is that you’re confined to one room, as you wouldn’t want to lug one around the house with you. And if you want to work outside, you’ll need to buy a second device.
Laptops offer the portability that all-in-one PCs can’t. And with their attached keyboards, mouse-like trackpads and solid processing power, they’re an excellent choice.
You may be tempted to go with a large powerhouse of a laptop with dimensions that match the desktop computers you’re likely to see in an office. These usually have keyboards that include a full number pad, Ethernet ports and DVD drives. If this sounds like the PC for you, see our full list of desktop-replacement laptop reviews.
But if you think you’ll be keen to replace the four walls of your home office with the café or a local library from time to time, you’ll need something that doesn’t take a Herculean effort to carry. You can easily find impressive 13-inch models that weigh in at 1.5kg or less, don’t want for processing power and have batteries that keep you going for longer – check out our ultrabook reviews.
If you thought tablets were just jumped up smartphones, think again. We’re seeing more and more models that are built to take on laptops. And because they’re easy to carry around and don’t have heavy chargers like most laptops, they make handy remote-working companions.
Computing giants such as Microsoft, Apple and Samsung have all released so-called ‘pro’ tablets with large screens, rapid processors and keyboards that clip on when you need them. Plus, some also come with 4G capability, so you can get online even when there’s no wi-fi connection available.
But don’t get the impression that these are cut-price options – most pro tablets will still set you back more than £500 and then you may have to splash out more for the keyboard. And those keyboards are often far less comfortable to use than the ones on a laptop, which could get annoying if you use a lot of spreadsheets or need to type lengthy documents.
Tempted by a tablet? Then take a trawl through our tablet reviews.
Super-lightweight and affordable, Chromebooks rely heavily on being connected to wi-fi, but you can still work without a connection using a limited range of offline apps. Any work completed while away from wi-fi is instantly synced and saved to the cloud once you reconnect to the internet.
This could make a useful compromise if you don’t want to carry an expensive laptop around while maintaining all the functions you need for work. The battery life generally lasts longer than on laptops, too. Attach a mouse via the USB port and you’ll feel like you’re in a home away from home… or office. We have over a dozen Chromebook reviews on our website.
But, remember, you can only do on a Chromebook what you would be able to do within the web browser of your familiar PC. You can’t install standalone programs, which means no Microsoft Office, Word or Excel – only cloud-based alternatives like Google docs. So if compatibility is crucial to your job, Chromebooks are probably best avoided.
What mobile phone should I go for?
Once upon a time, the only work phone to have was a BlackBerry, but now there are loads of smartphones you can choose from. Screen sizes have increased in recent years, making it much easier to type lengthy emails and edit spreadsheets if you need to. And you can download an array of work and productivity apps, including Microsoft Office and Dropbox, which are vital for flexible working.
There’s nothing smart about a phone that struggles to get a signal or runs out of battery halfway through the working day. And the best have bright, vivid screens that are easy to type on and don’t lag every time you open an app. To make sure your device is a lifeline that won’t let you down, head straight to our Best Buy mobile phones.
Is my internet connection fast enough?
You’ll need a fast, stable internet connection to work effectively from home. If that doesn’t sound very much like your current broadband (do you experience webpages that take an age to load up and video streaming that’s constantly interrupted?) read our tips to speed up your internet connection.
Is it safe to work on a shared network?
Over the last few years, free wi-fi hotspots have popped up all over the place – from trains and airports to your local café and shopping centre. It’s certainly a nice perk if you like to vary your work surroundings.
But no matter what device you’re using, it’s important to take care when using public wi-fi. On unsecured networks you can fall victim to ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks, where hackers can intercept your login details, passwords or even financial information. And you might not realise you’ve been targeted until sometime after the scammer has stolen your personal data.
To ensure that you’re completely safe when using a shared network, take a look at our dedicated mobile phone security advice first.
What if I need the loo?
Sorry to get personal, but it’s important that we talk about this one. What do you do with your computer if you need to nip to the toilet at a café? Even if you feel safe leaving your device on the table for a few minutes under the neighbouring coffee drinker’s protection, it’s best to make sure you have already registered it with a police service such as Immobilise. That way if your property is stolen or handed in there’s a record of its serial number against your name.
And if it’s a tablet you’re using, most mobile security apps have additional features to help you retrieve your device in the event of theft or carelessness. Some even let you remotely take a photo of the tablet’s surroundings so you can see where you left it or snap a picture of the thief’s face.