One of the upsides of lockdown is that it ties in nicely with the UK springtime. Although being stuck indoors can be rather depressing, if you are lucky enough to have a garden it will do you the world of good to occassionally get a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air by working from your garden.
Of course, those of you who have tried that will know that it's not as easy as it sounds. Here's how to get around some common problems associated with working outside.
Problem 1: My internet keeps dropping out
Your home Wi-Fi can reach only so far from your router. We always advise that these are positioned as close as you can get to a central location in your home, but when your home also includes your garden that positioning goes out the window. There are three ways to get around this while working in your garden:
- Set up a mesh network and position one of the discs by your back door
- Extend your Wi-Fi using a powerline adaptor
- Connect your laptop to mobile Wi-Fi using a mobile router or by tethering your Android phone or iPhone
In times like these, the desire to obtain the best kit is likely overtaken by the need to find something that will do the job that is both in stock and available for delivery in the near future. Amazon still has a good selection of mesh routers, powerline adaptors and mobile Wi-Fi routers.
Problem 2: My laptop keeps running out of power
There is a tendency to leave laptops plugged into the mains at all times when working from home, but ultimately this is no good for their batteries. If you have an ultraportable laptop, chances are its battery wasn't pegged for all-day use in the first place. If your battery just can't keep going long enough, there are two ways around this:
- Purchase an extension lead
- Make use of a laptop power bank - our top-rated model is now 25% off at Amazon with coupon code TECPB201
In the latter solution do note that your laptop must be able to charge over USB-C. You will also need to know the output of your standard wall charger to ensure that the power bank is able to output enough power to charge your laptop - you'll definitely want a power bank certified for Power Delivery, but not all are able to deliver the same amount of power.
Also see our advice on extending laptop battery life.
Problem 3: I can't see the laptop screen in direct sunlight
Laptop screens can be either glossy or matte in finish, with the latter intended to make them more visible in sunlight, but even these can be difficult to see in super sunny conditions. There are a range of solutions here:
- Invest in a laptop sun shade, or make your own by lopping off the sides of a cardboard box
- Turn up the screen brightness to its maximum level, turn off auto brightness controls, and turn on High Contrast mode
- Move so you are sitting in the shade, or invest in a garden umbrella
Problem 4: My laptop is getting hot
All consumer tech will get hot in use, especially thin and light devices such as business laptops. You need to concern yourself only if it gets to the point that it is so hot it is uncomfortable to touch. Possible solutions include:
- Move out of the sun, preferably to somewhere there is a breeze
- Temporarily stop using the laptop and allow it to cool down
- Ensure optimal airflow is maintained - placing it on a hard, flat surface such as a desk or laptop stand is best
- Clean out any dust from the air vents
- Check your laptop is not working harder than it should be - what apps and processes are running in the background?
- Install a temperature monitor such as SpeedFan
Problem 5: My computer mouse won't work on the garden table
We expect that most remote workers will by now have given up on the trackpad built into their laptop - fine for casual work, but nothing intensive - and opted for a dedicated mouse. Indeed, search data for wired and wireless mice has gone through the roof in the past couple of weeks, and they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. If you haven't already found one, eBuyer still has some stock with short delivery times.
So, next problem: computer mice can be very particular about which surfaces they are used on. The ideal solution is naturally a mousepad, but if you are unable to obtain one you can relatively easily fashion one yourself from any old fabric you have to hand, potentially made sturdier glued to a sheet or cardboard.
Problem 6: My neighbours are in their garden
One of the massive issues regarding millions of workers now operating remotely is the security of company data. It's why we encourage all remote workers to use a VPN at home, and to keep their wits about them with the rise in online scams.
But the need to be careful is also worth considering when you're on the phone or on a video call, talking company business. It's common sense, really: if you're discussing sensitive information, go inside the house and away from others who might be listening in.
Problem 7: Wasps keep bothering me
If you don't like them being near you, peppermint oil is said to be a natural repellent. Dilute it in some water and spray it anywhere that tends to attract wasps.
Remember that if you have a wasp nest in your garden, it is a professional pest company you need to call.
What you definitely shouldn't do is wave your arms around or run away when you see one (easy said than done, I know). And you might want to move your Armageddon snacks and any other food a little further away from where you are working. Try to keep your drinks covered, too - you can buy special gadgets for covering drink cans.
Problem 8: It's raining!
We can help you only so far. If it's raining, hailing, snowing or any other type of adverse weather condition, go and find some shelter. Unless you have a rugged laptop such as a Panasonic Toughbook, it's unlikely to be waterproof.