The shift to remote work was jarring for companies and their team members who were new to the process, but many quickly adapted and came to appreciate the flexibility of working from home. However, one aspect of remote work remains a source of anxiety for many: troubleshooting and fixing the tech issues that inevitably pop up.
When working in the office, it’s easy to fall into the habit of automatically pinging IT when your computer or software isn’t behaving as you’d expect. Tech team members are always willing to help out, but remote workers would be well-served to learn some troubleshooting basics — you’ll get back up to speed much more quickly if you can diagnose and correct the issue yourself, and sometimes fixes can only be carried out by someone on the spot.
Fortunately, the tech products we use are more resilient than some of us believe, and many of the problems remote workers encounter are common and relatively easy to fix. The next time your tech acts up when you’re working from home, try the solutions below, recommended by the experts from Forbes Technology Council.
1. Start with the simplest steps.
The solutions to many of the most common technical problems have become tropes and memes, but only because they work. Step back and pause for a minute. Try to reset or turn your equipment off and on. Unplug things and plug them back in. And if that fails, step away for a minute — or five — and revisit the problem with fresh eyes after a break. If you try that, you may surprise yourself! – Jeff Richardson, Accelerated Enrollment Solutions
2. Keep calm and do some research.
There are a series of steps you can take to help yourself. One: Remain calm. It’s just a computer. You probably didn’t kill it, and you are not doomed. Two: Reboot. This solves an amazing number of problems. Three: If the reboot didn’t work, Google or search YouTube for information about your issue. Make sure they are talking about roughly the same operating system you have, then go ahead and self-serve. – Claire Rutkowski, Bentley Systems
3. Make a list of potential problems.
Write down all the possible things you think could be wrong. Prioritize the list with the most likely issues on top. Then, go down the list one by one and test each possible issue until you find the problem. This might sound obvious, but most people don’t troubleshoot problems logically and methodically and just get mentally overwhelmed. – Adam Ayers, Number 5
4. ‘Crowdsource’ a solution with your contacts.
Remote working is “the new normal,” but that “normal” often presents many new challenges. It’s tempting to go to a dark place when we’re trying to troubleshoot on our own. I’d encourage you to remember that you’re working alone, but you aren’t alone. Reach out to colleagues, friends or online communities for help and advice. We’re all in the same boat, and chances are someone else is having the same issue. – Aaron Ward, AskNicely
5. Make sure your software is up to date.
Make sure you are running the latest version of the software, including all updates. Software is developed with the notion of continuous integration, continuous delivery (CI/CD) and rapid changes. One common mistake is not keeping software up to date, which results in communication failures, corruption or security issues. – Geeman Yip, BitTitan
6. Provide clear, thorough information to your IT team.
My tip is to be clear and concise when reporting your issue. Many times end-users fail to provide the necessary information that an IT expert needs to diagnose the problem. Make a habit of providing the OS, software and browser type/version. Take a screenshot or screen capture to show the specialist how to re-create the problem. Just saying “My internet doesn’t work” is not providing enough information. – Junior Bernadin, The Ron Clark Academy
7. Learn how to enable remote assistance.
When all else has failed, knowing how to enable remote assistance so that the person on the other side can gain access to your terminal and do whatever is needed is very helpful. On the same note, it would also help you to know that tool well so that it is secured when it’s not needed. – Suresh Sambandam, Kissflow
8. Turn to in-house help channels.
A meta tip for anyone dealing with remote work tech issues is to find the right people who are ready to help. If Slack is your company’s most-used community tool, make sure everyone is fluent in Slack and knows how to search channels. Get to know the “IT Room,” the “Zoom Tips Room” or the “Mac Hangout” — the channels you might need when dealing with issues. There’s likely even a “Slack Help Channel” (to get meta-meta about it). – Eve Maler, ForgeRock
9. Get involved with product communities.
Today, many tools and companies have a Discord, Reddit or Telegram channel for various issues and opinions — tech troubleshooting included. This is a more interactive and community-oriented way to conduct tech self-help, and remote workers may even be able to expand their professional networks while doing so. Join a group, and don’t be afraid to speak up. – John Shin, RSI Security
10. Don’t forget to reboot.
Life is busy, and many of us are doing a thousand things at the same time. We have many apps running on our computers and many tabs open on our Web browsers. This slows down a computer, and we sometimes go for weeks without rebooting our laptops. You would be surprised to know how many “phantom” issues go away by doing a simple reboot of your system before calling IT. – Mercedes Soria, Knightscope
11. Invest in reliable high-speed internet.
When it comes to remote work, one of the things that can most impact your ability to work efficiently and productively is a reliable, high-speed internet connection. That will take care of a lot of your potential issues. When issues do pop up, start with a reboot of all affected equipment — firewall/router, computer and so on — as the quickest possible fix before having to call IT. – Charles Lobert, Vision Computer Solutions
12. Set up your home office the same way a business would.
Treat your home office as a mission-critical business network node. Make sure cables have labels showing source and destination. Take simple, proactive steps to ensure redundancy, starting with power and network (internet) failures all the way down to having a spare headset if it’s needed. Remember that the internet itself has a plethora of easily searchable how-to solutions, often with video. – Philip Samson, Ericsson
13. Get to know your home network.
Because remote workers are essentially bringing their own network, I would suggest developing a basic level of familiarity with your home network configuration. Understanding the hardware and connections that are involved, as well as learning to troubleshoot connectivity, is imperative. I would also recommend getting a sound grasp on connecting to your company’s VPN — and try a reboot before contacting support. – BJ Sievers, Cedar Point Federal Credit Union
14. Invest in simple performance-boosting equipment.
Common tech issues include poor AV quality during virtual meetings or unreliable home Wi-Fi, so relatively small investments such as a headset or range extenders can help. There are ways to boost home Wi-Fi even without having to buy new equipment, such as updating your router’s firmware or just relocating the physical router to a more open space in your home. – Venkat Viswanathan, LatentView Analytics
15. Run a check on your internet speed.
The spike in usage of meetings platforms is creating bandwidth and latency issues. Ensure your network is performing well by going to fast.com to check your internet speed, and turn off video if you are experiencing a choppy connection. In many industries, latency issues can create a significant problem, as real-time connections create a dynamic view into production operations. – Naveen Poonian, iBASEt
16. Remember that technology has limitations.
Aside from turning your equipment off and on again, it’s good to develop a bit of perspective around the wonders of modern technology. Yes, Zoom will drop, Wi-Fi will slow to a crawl and you’ll likely have to restart your computer, reread the manual and refresh your router. Bake a few extra minutes into your meetings, and try not to take it too seriously. Everyone else has the same technical issues, too. – Rich Waldron, Tray.io