The Best Internet Setup for Working from Home

Is it time to ditch the nine-to-five grind in favor of remote work?

We feel you. Sometimes traditional jobs don’t offer us the flexibility we need, like picking up our kids from school, maintaining work-life balance, or just avoiding that stressful, mind-numbing commute.

And with the novel coronavirus pandemic upending our lives right now, the ability to work from home may seem more like a necessity than wishful thinking.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, we’re here to help you optimize your internet setup for working from home. Plus, we’ve got tips for working, studying, and entertaining yourself at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as information on how to land a remote job and set up your home office.

Tips for working from home during the coronavirus pandemic

Just last year, the idea of working from home may have sounded like a luxury. But now, with the new coronavirus pandemic looming over our shoulders, working from home may be a bigger challenge than you expected. And for some who can’t work from home, the idea of earning an income from your home office may seem even more like wishful thinking than before. (We have some tips that will hopefully help you too.)

Several companies, including internet, cell phone, and utility companies, are offering aid during the pandemic. We’ve gathered a list of these resources, including waived late fees, flexible payment options, and more.

Whatever scenario you find yourself in as we all face COVID-19 together, we hope these work from home tips will help.

Will my internet speed be affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

If your internet speed feels slower than usual, you’re not dreaming.

While we’re all sheltering in place at home, that means we’re all working, studying, and entertaining ourselves at home too. And with millions more people using the internet at the same time, it’s struggling to keep up.

You may wonder why the internet is slowing down—isn’t the same number of people using it that used it before the coronavirus pandemic? Yes and no.

While we’re all cooped up inside, we’re no longer able to entertain ourselves through as many offline activities as before. We can’t go out to eat, see a movie, or hike with friends in the park. So we hop online and stream Netflix, play video games, or chat with friends and family on FaceTime and Facebook.

All of that extra time spent online means our internet connections are getting a lot more use.

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Want faster internet speed? Use an Ethernet cable.
Wi-Fi is great, but it tends to lose strength if you put a lot of distance and objects between your device and the router. If you want the fastest speeds you can get, nothing beats a good old Ethernet cable.

Pair that with the fact that most of our home internet plans have much less bandwidth, or capacity, than our offices’ internet plans.

Think of it this way: your office’s internet bandwidth is like a four-lane highway with much more room for each person to pass others and even maintain a fast speed while in the same lane.

But often our home internet plans are more like a two-lane road. We’ve got a little bit of room to speed up and pass that slower traffic, but it’s a lot easier for traffic jams to happen when more people start driving down that road at the same time.

So what can you do about slow internet speed? Aside from calling your internet service provider (ISP), you can try the following:

  • Restart your router. Restarting your router flushes out any errors in its memory that might be interrupting your internet connection or slowing it down.
  • Buy a new router. If your router is older, it might be time to upgrade it. Newer routers are better equipped to keep your internet speed moving along quickly. Not sure where to start shopping? Take a look at our favorite routers.
  • Try some of our other tips for speeding up your internet. From repositioning your router to clearing your cache, we’ve got 10 tips to speed up your internet service before you have to wait on hold with your ISP.

Will my internet service be disconnected if I can’t pay my bill due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

More than 550 internet providers around the US signed a pledge to not disconnect internet service or charge late fees if customers can’t pay their bills due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That pledge, issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), extends through May for most ISPs, but we recommend contacting yours directly to see if it’s offering such a program and when that special consideration might end.

Additionally, we recommend that you contact your ISP if you are struggling to pay your bills. Many providers offer flexible payments or plans for low-income families, and it’s best to at least let them know so your service isn’t accidentally disconnected.

If your service does end up going out, whether it’s due to a disconnection or another type of outage, take note of the date and time the outage started and call your ISP. Keeping proof of your calls and how long the outage lasts could help you earn a credit on your bill—though we’d hope your ISP would issue that with no questions asked.

Will my internet data cap stay the same during the coronavirus pandemic?

Along with signing the FCC pledge we mentioned above, many ISPs have done away with data caps and are offering unlimited data through the end of May, at least.

Some notable internet providers offering unlimited data include the following:

We’re glad to see these ISPs offering unlimited data because we’re using a lot more data while we’re all working, studying, and playing at home. And removing those data caps means we can all stream Tiger King, play Call of Duty: War Zone, and download those important PDFs without worrying that our internet speed will slow down or that we’ll be charged for extra data.

Can I get free internet during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Many ISPs are offering free or low-cost internet access as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a list of a few internet providers offering those free and low-cost plans, plus how to get them:

Cox

  • Plan: Connect2Compete
  • Deal: First two months free, plus temporarily boosted download speeds up to 50 Mbps through May 15, 2020
  • Who qualifies: New customers with children in grades K–12 and who are eligible for public assistance programs
  • How to get it: Learn More

Spectrum/Charter Communications

  • Plan: Spectrum plans up to 100 Mbps
  • Deal: Free internet access for 60 days, plus waived installation fees
  • Who qualifies: New customers with K–12 and/or college students
  • How to get it: Call 1-844-488-8395

Comcast Xfinity

  • Plan: Internet Essentials
  • Deal: Free internet access for 60 days, plus boosted download speeds up to 25 Mbps
  • Who qualifies: New customers qualify for the 60 days of free internet, while all Internet Essentials customers get boosted speeds. Internet Essentials plan is available to those eligible for public assistance programs.
  • How to get it: Learn More

You can also find low-cost internet plans from providers like AT&T, Mediacom, and Spectrum. Check out our list of internet plans for low-income families, plus info on how to apply.

What kind of internet do I need to work from home?

More than likely, your current internet plan will allow you to work from home without too many hiccups, but if you’re searching for a new ISP, you’ll want to look for reliably fast download and upload speeds and at least one terabyte (TB) of data per month.

  • Download speeds: Download speeds reflect how quickly you can access things online. Faster download speeds will load your websites, Netflix movies, and work email more quickly.
  • Upload speeds: Upload speeds tell you how quickly you can put things on the internet. Faster upload speeds will not only get that PDF attached to your email in a jiffy but also keep your beautiful smile looking picture-perfect during your Zoom call.
  • Data: Everything you do online uses data, with streaming and downloading large files typically using up the most data overall. Most internet providers allow you to use at least one TB of data each month—but some offer the holy grail of unlimited data.

Here’s a quick look at some general recommendations for how fast your download and upload speeds should be for different work apps.

Recommended download and upload speeds for work from home apps
AppRecommended download speedRecommended upload speed
Zoom11.2–3 Mbps1.2–3 Mbps
Slack2200 Kbps–4 Mbps100 Kbps–600 Kbps
Skype330 Kbps–8 Mbps30 Kbps–1.5 Mbps
Cisco Webex40.5–2.5 Mbps0.5–3 Mbps
Google Hangouts Meet518 Kbps–3.2 Mbps12 Kbps–3.2 Mbps

As you can see, those speeds aren’t anywhere near the 100, 200, or even 1,000 Mbps some internet plans offer. But if you’re working from home while your partner, roommate, or kids are using the internet, too, you’ll want more speed to ensure everyone stays connected and happy.

Not sure whether your current internet plan can handle your entire household getting online at the same time? We recommend checking what your actual download speed is with a speed test. If you’re paying for speeds that are much faster than what the speed test says your download speed is, it might be time to call your ISP or search for a new provider.

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AT&T Fiber earned our pick for the fastest internet provider
We’ve compared the download speeds of thousands of people across the US, and we found that AT&T Fiber generally gives its customers the fastest download speeds around. Find out which other ISPs give you the most speed for your buck in our guide to the fastest internet providers.

What’s a good internet speed for working from home?

If it’s just you working from home and you’re not tackling projects that require you to upload large files, like streaming on YouTube, attending video conferences, or delivering graphic designs to clients, we think you’ll be okay with at least 25 Mbps.

However, as soon as you add more people and more devices that all use the internet with you, you’ll want to start adding more speed too. And if you are a YouTuber, photographer, or graphic designer, or if you hop on a lot of video calls, you’ll want to look for faster download and upload speeds.

Is 50 Mbps good for working from home?

We mentioned that we think 25 Mbps is the bare minimum for working from home, and we think that 50 Mbps is okay too. At least it is if it’s just you hopping online to forward cat videos to your friends or streaming a couple of episodes of Ozark.

At these speeds, you can probably add another person who enjoys streaming and works from home too. But we’d recommend looking for 100 Mbps or faster once you’ve got three people who enjoy surfing the internet during their work from home breaks. (Or if you’ve got a smart home security system in place.)

Is 100 Mbps good for working from home?

Download speeds of 100 Mbps should keep most families productive at home. And when it’s time to hang up your hat and change into your second pair of pajamas, 100 Mbps is perfect for zoning out to episodes of Storage Wars while your partner plays World of Warcraft: Classic and your teenager busts out the Switch to play Animal Crossing.

Is 200 Mbps good for working from home?

If you’ve got a smart home system and a family that loves to spend most of their time online, whether they’re working or not, then 200 Mbps is probably a good internet speed for you.

We’d recommend this much download speed to large households and to internet power users. You know, the livestreaming, Plex-using, constantly-streaming folks. (Wait a second, that sounds like us . . . )

This goes for any speed beyond 200 Mbps, really. And if you’re curious how other download speeds measure up, check out our guide to how many Mbps you need, plus our recommendations for the best internet for streaming and the best internet for gaming.

Where can I find work from home jobs?

Not all of us are lucky enough to work from home, but if you think a remote job might be a much-needed change of pace compared to your current situation, these tips might help.

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A note to those under- or unemployed due to COVID-19
First off, we hope your situation improves soon and that you’re able to stay safe with your family.

We also encourage you to check out these tips and also take a look at this coronavirus pandemic unemployment guide. It offers important information for anyone unemployed, underemployed, or furloughed due to the current situation.

1. Check out freelance sites

If you have a skill you can use at home, a freelance site is a great place to start looking for remote work. And if your original job wasn’t doable at home, you can always dust off your writing, design, photography, or other skills and build up your remote work expertise on the side.

One thing to note, though, is that some freelance sites will take a cut of your commission. So make sure you factor that in along with healthcare costs and taxes when you estimate how many hours or projects you’ll need to accept each month.

Here are some of our recommended sites where you can find freelance work:

  • Upwork: Great for writers, editors, translators, designers, and more, but your commission payment may be steep.
  • Fiverr: Every freelance job on Fiverr starts at $5, making it a great way to build a portfolio and earn some cash.
  • Toptal: Pairs design, finance, and other industry experts with big-name companies, but you’ll need an expert skillset to get accepted.
  • 99designs: Geared toward logo, site, graphic, and other types of designers.
  • FlexJobs: Includes freelance, remote, and other flexible jobs (but you’ll pay $14.95 a month).
  • Freelancer: Features a variety of freelance gigs and gives you eight free project applications before you have to pay.

2. Filter your search on LinkedIn

If you’re looking for a remote full-time job or contract, you can use LinkedIn and other job sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to find work-from-home jobs to apply for. Just change the location you’re searching to Remote.

A screenshot of a job search on LinkedIn with the location set to Remote

Source: LinkedIn

Because of the way the search function works, this may still pull up in-person jobs that explicitly state “no remote work,” so double-check the job description before you apply. You may even find jobs located in other countries—we found a posting for a remote creative writer at a company in the Czech Republic.

3. Check out remote job sites

It’s a good idea to get your resume posted on remote job sites along with LinkedIn and Indeed.

Some of these sites require a subscription. That may seem counterintuitive if you’re currently out of work, but in return, they promise to match you with a curated list of high-quality leads. So it could be worth it if it leads to the job of your dreams.

Here are a few of our favorite remote job boards:

  • Stillhiring.io: A site featuring crowdsourced information about companies that are still hiring during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • WFH But Hiring: A free job board featuring companies that are hiring for work-from-home roles despite COVID-19.
  • FlexJobs: Costs $14.95 a month or more, but also includes job postings for freelance and part-time gigs too.
  • We Work Remotely: A free job board featuring design, programming, copywriting, teaching, and other jobs.
  • Remote.io: A free site that allows you to filter job postings based on your skillset.
  • JustRemote.co: Check out remote sales, marketing, HR, and other jobs on this free job listing site.
  • Remote Work Summit: You’ll find a comprehensive list of companies hiring for remote work, freelance jobs, and other remote job boards here.
  • Remotive: You’ll need to pay to join this remote work community, but it’s currently offering 50% off both the lifetime and annual fee—and the informative email newsletter is free.
  • Remote OK: A free remote job board featuring software development, marketing, design, customer service, and “non-tech” job listings.

Bonus: Catherine’s home office setup

If you’re working from home, chances are you may need to tweak or even create a whole new office setup. You don’t have to go all out and spend thousands to do this, but I say it’s always worth the money to make sure you’re comfortable while you work.

Here’s my current setup when I work from home. And I have to say, I’m missing many of these amenities while I stay at my parents’ house during the coronavirus pandemic, especially my standing desk converter.

For typing and clicking

*Reviews.org utilizes paid affiliate links.

The Logitech K480 keyboard might be older, but it’s a cheaper alternative to some of the other Mac-friendly wireless keyboards out there. I like that you can set it to pair with your PC, too, and it’s lightweight and small enough to move around easily.

But while I swear by this off-brand keyboard, I wasn’t impressed by how “sticky” the sensor was on the off-brand wireless Mac mouse I tried. Using it was not a smooth ride, so I splurged on the Apple Magic Mouse instead. And hey, it works like a charm (except for the strangest charging design that basically renders the mouse unusable).

For my gaming setup, I’ve had my Razer BlackWidow keyboard and Razer Naga mouse since 2012. They’re holding up well, and I love the design on both. Of course, you can’t buy those same models today, but I’d be willing to bet the newer versions of both will still help you snag those skill shots.

And whether I’m using my Mac or PC, I absolutely love my gigantic mouse pad. I think these are a must-have because nothing is worse than snagging your mouse on the edge of your mouse pad.

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Quick tip: Make sure you work and play in separate spaces
One drawback to working from home is that your home office may also be your relaxation center. I enjoy PC gaming during my downtime, but I quickly found that when I worked at my gaming desk, I never felt like I got to fully disconnect from work.

If you have the means to do it, I highly recommend setting up a separate space for working. This could even mean you find a quiet corner away from the living room where your family likes to gather and watch moves. That way, you can physically detach from work when it’s time to “go home.”

For listening and watching

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I think my Sony headset is the perfect compromise between lightweight and functional. The ear cups are padded, so it’s comfy, and the band doesn’t squeeze my head. The audio quality is also pretty great for a low-cost headset.

When I need more than one tiny little MacBook pro screen for work, I use the USB-C hub to hook my little laptop up to one of my Acer gaming monitors.

I love the 27-inch display—it’s the perfect size to see everything coming when I’m in a raid or easily drag, drop, type, and research when I’m working. And the laptop stand makes sure I’m not angling my head down while I work, which is a huge ergonomic no-no.

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What headset do I use for gaming? It’s complicated . . .
I’m actually in the market for a new gaming headset right now, which is why I don’t have a recommendation for one just yet. The Sony headset could work in a jiffy, but I prefer a wireless headset for gaming. Wireless headsets are amazing if you need to get up to grab a snack or swap laundry to the dryer and don’t want to miss the notification that your looking for group queue is ready to go.

But if you want to know, I’m eyeing up the Razer Nari headset (I got to try it on at CES 2019). And if I had the cash, the Astro A40 looks appealing too.

For comfort and organization

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I love my gaming chairs, and I recommend them often to my friends. They typically come with adjustable armrests as well as seats, and the more expensive ones add lumbar pillows and headrests too.

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, I just picked up the mesh ergonomic chair while I work at my parents’ house. (The chair they had before was the same one I used in high school. Yikes.) It’s pretty comfy, and the price was right.

I also wanted to have the option to stand and work, but a full standing desk kit was way out of my budget. So I researched standing desk converters and found one by VIVO. It’s solid, easily adjustable to any height (up to almost 20 inches), and costs less than $150 (at least it did when I bought it).

And with two cats roaming my office, I knew I needed some cable management to hide those tantalizing cords. I grabbed a pack of reusable Velcro cable ties as well as the cable management box made by DMoose. The cable box is a lifesaver because it not only hides everything in an inconspicuous white compartment, but it doubles as a shelf too. Winning!

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