Tips For Working Remotely
What You'll Find Here
Finding Reliable Internet As A Digital Nomad
ISPs like Comcast, Terrared and others, all show up in their Sunday best for sites like fast.com and Ooka.
That means Comcast may give Ookla and fast.com 60mbps, but not any other sites.
Here’s 2 ways to check your true wifi speed.
How To Test Actual Internet Speed
For reference, I pay for 60mpbs, and here’s what Ookla tells me.
Nice! Get what ya pay for, right?
Negative. This, as I’ll show you below, is simply not my true internet speed.
Method #1: Dev Tools
Don’t be intimidated by “dev” here – it’s pretty easy.
Step 1: Open a Chrome browser
Step 2: Right click and then click “inspect”
Step 3: Click on the “Console” tab (example below)
Step 4: Type “navigator.connection” (without quotation marks) into the console bar
Step 5: Find your true download (denoted as “downlink”) speed (as below)
Method #2: Terminal
Step 1: Open your command terminal (cmd+space on Mac, Start>search, “command” in the search bar for Windows)
Step 2: Type, “networkQuality” (without quotation marks and just like that, with lower case n and upper case Q)
Step 3: After you get a Matrix-style list of numbers and tests, check out the Summary (as pictured below) for your actual download and upload speed.
As you can see, my actual download speed is around 10 Mbps.
This is super useful if you’re a developer or need very strong wifi for video calls. Grab your computer and ask to connect, so you can get the actual wifi you’ll be working with.
How To Find Work-Friendly AirBnbs, Hotels, Apartments, Cafes & Coworking Spaces
Just because it’s a coffee shop, doesn’t mean it’s a good work setup.
When you're searching Google Maps or other review sites for coworking spaces, a good way to find a work-friendly space is to search the reviews for certain keywords that denote good/bad work spaces.
Search Terms To Use:
(some of these search terms are commonly misspelled variants of useful search terms)
10 Productivity Tips For Digital Nomads
You’re in a new place, with new people, and it’s very easy to get caught up in that and neglect your work responsibilities. Some of these are just general productivity tips, but most of them are geared specifically to helping digital nomads be more productive.
^Photo by Barna Bartis on Unsplash
- Wake up early
- Use noise canceling headphones
- Create consistency in your workspace despite continually visiting new places
- Have a plan for what you want to do after you get your work done.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique
- Travel with your own coffee so you’re not stuck with a caffeine-free instant coffee
- Research coworking spaces and cafes before arriving
- Have data, and know how to use it, if internet cuts out
- Research lunch spots you want to try that are around your work space (whether that’s your apartment, hotel, a cafe or a coworking space) before you get hungry.
- Set hard times for work and play with your travel buddies.
Hacks To Improve Internet Speed While Working Abroad
As a digital nomad, finding reliable wifi is like finding an airline that gives you points you can actually redeem. Here are some hacks that you can use to improve your wifi speed;
Tips To Improve Wifi Signal While Working Remotely
- Use an ethernet cord to directly connect your laptop to the router
- Use your laptop in a place with direct line of sight (no walls or obstructions) to router
- Use wifi extender
- Orient antennas vertically on wifi router
- If you’re able to reposition the router, place it in a central location and, if possible, as high up as possible
- Travel with your own “high-gain” wireless router antenna.
If You’re Able to Access Your Wifi Router:
- Update your router’s firmware
- Choose 5GHz band, over 2.4GHz band if available
- You may also be able to add this frequency as the default by connecting to the router
- 5GHz is ideal because it doesn’t use overlapping wifi channels, whereas many channels on 2.4GHz do.
- Add a QoS rule (Quality of Service) to your router to prioritize video calls over downloads or background app updates, or your VPN
- Change Your Network Channel
Modern wireless routers are configured to automatically select the best wireless network channel with minimal congestion. BUT, old or cheap routers can sometimes be stuck on the factory default network channel, regardless of whether it’s a good network channel.
Here’s how to find out which network channel is the best for you, and how to make sure your router connects to that channel.
Steps To Finding And Selecting Optimal Network Channel For Wireless Router
- Heads up – you’ll need to be able to access your wireless router via ethernet cord for this.
- Hold “option” and click your wifi icon
- Select “Open Wireless Diagnostics” from top menu
4. Select “Window” from top bar, then “Scan” from the dropdown menu
5. On this menu, you’ll see which the optimal 2.4GHz and 5GHz network channels are at the moment.
6. Then plug your ethernet cord into your router to access your router’s interface, and look for “channel” or “channel selection”, and input the optimal channel on whichever is your preferred frequency (5GHz is almost always preferred).
7. Keep in mind, the “best 2.4GHz” and “best 5GHz” channels are the best only at the moment you scanned”. If you see a wifi slowdown, you may want to hit “Scan Now” (bottom right in image above) to see if the best network channel has changed.
There’s a great walkthrough of how Windows users can find the best wifi network channel here.
How To Configure Wifi Router For Faster Wifi
Step 1: Get IP address for your wireless router. Here's how to do that below;
- Go to the Apple (top left) and tap “System Settings”
2. Tap “Network” on the left-hand panel
3. In “Network” tap “Details”
4. Click on “TCP/IP” on the left-hand column, and boom. There you have your router’s IP address.
Here’s a great piece on finding your router’s IP address using Windows.
Step 2: Drop that Router IP address (above) into your URL bar on any browser.
Step 3: Now you’ll get a login screen to input your router username and password.
**Again, please note. We’re sharing this information only to allow you to improve your wifi connection for remotely working. Modifying a router for any other purpose is illegal and it’s very easy to tell who made those modifications.
Because this sits well below the threshold of hacking, and because this info is publicly available on the web, we don’t feel like we’re crossing a line in sharing this**
Most people don’t bother to set their username and password on their router. The default username and password for most routers is “admin” and “admin”. Try this. Another common combination is:
- username: ‘admin’
- password: ‘password’
If these don’t work, search your router model on routerpasswords.com – this may turn something up.
However, if this person did set their router username and password, you’ve hit the wall, and unfortunately there’s not much else you can do without crossing some serious ethical (and legal) lines.
Step 4: Now that you’re in, go to your router’s Wireless Settings and look for “channel”. If it’s not set to “auto”, make sure it’s set to the recommended network channel.
How To Improve Hotspot Speed
In some places, wifi is as fickle as that Tinder date that will, “let you know” (ie – seeing what their other options are) if they’re down to meet up tonight.
If you rely on video calls or heavy download/uploads, you need a mobile hotspot as a backup. And, assuming you’ve got a local SIM card for data abroad, here are some tips to ratchet up your hotspot speed while you’re traveling abroad;
- Turn off Maximum Compatibility (iPhone 12 and above)
- Connect your device to your smartphone via USB instead of bluetooth
- Make sure your smartphone is oriented vertically (so the internal antenna is vertical) to improve signal
- Close out all unnecessary apps on smartphone
- Turn off app “Background Refresh” (iPhone)
- Place your phone high up, ideally with an unobstructed view toward the outdoors (i.e. next to a window)
- Travel with a cellular signal booster, like weBoost
Staying Productive While Working Remotely
5 Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Digital Nomads
Life as a digital nomad can be loud. Barking dogs, rumbling trucks, crying kiddos. Sometimes you need to be able to shut out the outside world to put your head down and get shit done.
2 Crucial Things Digital Nomads Should Look For In Noise Canceling Headphones
Mid To High Frequency Cancellation: Digital nomads need noise canceling headphones that perform very well at canceling mid to high frequency noise. Nearly every noise canceling headphone on the market does a decent job with lower frequencies. But crowded coffee shops and barking dogs are mid to high-frequency sounds, and that’s mostly what you’re going to be dealing with while you’re working remotely.
Size Matters: Guys – it’s true. Digital nomads should almost always opt for earbuds instead of over-the-ear headphones. Why? Luggage space is at a premium, and earbuds save tons of room over the over-the-ear headphones option.
Here are our top 5 picks for noise canceling headphones for digital nomads;
Best Overall: Sony WF-1000XM4
These are the headphones I personally use and I love. To me, the most important thing is mid to high frequency noise cancellation and portability, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds crush it on both of these accounts.
- Great mid-high frequency noise cancellation (largely because of the foam eartips that passively block out incoming noise)
- Long battery life (8 hours)
- Water resistant (IPX4 rating)
- Good audio quality
- Transparency mode
- USB-C charger
- Decent mic quality
- Spatial-audio enabled
- Great companion app
- Foam tips can be uncomfortable for extended periods
- Mic quality not quite professional-grade
2. Best Over-Ear: Bose QuietComfort 45
Some people are willing to sacrifice the space for the comfort of over-the-ear headphones. And, for what it’s worth, the Bose QuietComfort 45 do pack down to a decently small size, and come with a durable hard case.
- Very good active noise cancellation (ANC)
- Extremely comfortable
- Transparency mode
- ~24-hour battery life
- USB-C charger
- Good quality microphone sound (can be used for professional calls)
- Good app for the headphones
- Audiophiles don’t love the audio quality
- Some people report a “cabin pressure” sensation when using full-powered noise cancellation
- Can be frustrating to connect to multiple devices simultaneously
3. Best For Phone Calls: Apple Airpods Pro 2
The Apple Airpods Pro 2 are a must for any finance bro closing deals or customer service rep using their most polite indoor voice when dealing with grownups that checked their “please” and “thank you” ’s at the door.
The voice quality, both incoming and outgoing, on the Airpods Pro 2 is simply unmatched.
- Best microphone on the market for wireless earbuds
- Very high quality noise cancellation
- Great transparency mode
- Industry-leading incoming call sound quality
- Can easily find headphones if they’re lost
- IPX4 water resistance
- Industry-leading auto-wear detection
- Easy to program audio controls by touching headphone stems
- Seamlessly switches between Apple devices
- 5 hours, 45 minutes battery time
- No EQ adjustment
- Lightning port charging
- Not as easy or stable to connect to non-Apple devices
4. Best For Music Quality: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
For audiophiles that need sound quality and noise cancellation – the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are your best bet.
- 7+ hours of battery life
- Very rich sound quality
- Rich bass quality
- Great companion app
- Decent microphone quality
- Industry-best active noise cancellation – however, when accounting for passive noise isolation, Sony WF-1000XM4 still beats it out in overall noise cancellation
- The plastic earpieces sometimes move, unbeknownst to the user, which prevents them from charging
- Quality doesn’t match price, especially when considering the competitors in the field
5. Best Budget Pick: Anker Soundcore Space A40 Earbuds
If you’re a digital nomad and want a solid pair of budget noise-canceling earbuds that can be daily drivers, but that won’t leave you crestfallen if lost/stolen while on the road, these are a great pick.
- Solid mid to high frequency noise cancellation
- Ambient noise option
- Good sound quality
- IPX4 water resistant
- Lots of EQ options to play with
- 8 hours battery life
- Good companion app
- Comes with 6 different sized earbud tips
- Case doesn’t always stay closed
- Doesn’t cancel high frequency sounds quite as well as higher quality earbuds
- Microphone quality is not quite professional quality, though close
How Digital Nomads Can Create A More Comfortable Work Environment
Creating a comfortable environment isn’t always easy, especially when you’re consistently moving from place to place. But, there are a couple things you can take with you, wherever you go, to make your environment significantly more comfortable.
1. Inflatable Lumbar Support Pillow
There’s a movement in modern interior design and architecture right now. It’s about being “cheap” and masking it as being hip and minimalistic.
Many hotels and AirBnbs have opted for cheaper seating, with poor back support, in order to maximize profit. Throw in all the flights and long bus rides you take as a digital nomad, and it takes a toll on your lower back.
An inflatable lumbar pillow is crucial – you’re able to use it on plane rides and bus rides, and it packs down super small.
Here’s our go-to inflatable lumbar support pillow.
2. Desk Mat
So many AirBnbs and hotels have tables that are made of glass – which is very uncomfortable to work at for 8+ hours per day.
That’s why a quality desk mat, particularly a cork desk mat, is such a crucial part of any digital nomad’s arsenal. It makes work so much more comfortable, because instead of touching uncomfortable, hot, hard glass all day – your arms rest on cool, comfortable cork.
We’re a little biased, but this is our favorite laptop desk pad.
3. Wireless Mouse
A lot of work is just more comfortable with a wireless mouse. And while there are tons of wireless mice on the market, we like a classic bluetooth, rechargeable mouse.
If you’re not gaming, you probably don’t need a really high tech, really expensive computer mouse. Here’s the wireless mouse I’ve used for the past 3 years as a digital nomad. Slim, rechargeable, bluetooth, and it absolutely gets the job done.
And if you’re going to get a wireless mouse, you’ll need a wireless mouse pad to go with it.
4. Blue Blocking Glasses
Remote workers have to hop through, and sometimes work in different time zones, and many times this means working nights.
Wearing a good pair of blue blocking glasses will help mitigate (although definitely not negate) the effects of blue light streaming into your eyes at night. If you start wearing them 2 hours before you’re set to get to sleep, you should see an uptick in sleep quality.
5. Palm Pads
As a digital nomad, you want to set up up a comfortable workspace everywhere you go. This means protecting your palms from that buzzy electric current while your laptop is plugged in abroad. A good pair of laptop palm pads is a must for digital nomads to protect their palms while working from anywhere.
While we certainly don’t advocate dishonesty…if you’re getting your work done well, with no issues…does anyone need to know where you are?
While the below couple steps won’t 100% hide where you’re at…it’ll at least put a couple extra layers of onto the onion, if someone insists on pulling it back.
How To Get Virtual Backdrops For Video Calls
How To Get A Virtual Background On Zoom:
- Go to Settings (Preferences on Mac)
- Select “Background And Effects”
- Choose a pre-installed background or upload your own image by clicking on the + sign
How To Get A Virtual Background On Google Meet:
- Open Google Meet
- On the bottom bar, tap the 3 dots
- Select “Apply Visual Effects”
- Select your background
How To Get A Virtual Background On Microsoft Teams:
- Open Teams
- Below the video image, there’s an icon for “Background Filters”
- Select your background
How To Get A Virtual Background On Skype:
- During a meeting, select the 3 dots for “more”
- Select, “choose background”
- Then, you can either blur your background or add a video background