We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get some work done, deadlines are creeping up, and just like that, right on schedule—the WiFi is down at the office.
Of course, none of the usual quick fixes are working. When you call your provider, they give you the classic “try rebooting your modem” instructions. You try it, but still no dice.
Bad WiFi at work is a serious problem.
It irritates everyone in the office when it won’t connect at all, and it aggravates them when the connection is slow and when every page seems to be taking hours to load. Productivity levels drop, and frustration levels climb.
In this article, we’re going to break down the factors that actually influence WiFi quality at work and how you can set your office WiFi up for success.
Let’s jump in.
The factors that influence great WiFi at work
When most employers think about making sure the WiFi in their office is high quality, the first (and sometimes only) factor they think about is the connection itself.
The truth is, the quality of the internet connection is only one piece of the puzzle.
A great internet connection is an important starting point, but you also need to consider other factors that can impact the quality of your WiFi.
Routers, for example, are the main piece of equipment that connects devices to the internet, and access points placed throughout your space can boost the WiFi signal, spreading the connection to any areas the router can’t reach.
Each plays a key role in WiFi quality. The type of router you use, how many access points you use, and where you place these devices are critical to your WiFi’s overall performance.
As you’re navigating the decision of which router is best for you, keep two questions top of mind:
- How large is your office space?
- How many users and devices will be connected to the network?
Once you have at least a basic understanding of how much heavy lifting you’re going to be asking your network to do, how broadly it needs to reach, and how active it’s going to be, the final decision on which router to use will become a lot less stressful and confusing.
After you’ve chosen a router, the next challenge becomes where to place it and whether that placement will result in the need for access points to boost the signal.
Router and access point placement can be the difference between a common area and conference room that employees actually enjoy using and one that collects cobwebs because the internet connection is nonexistent.
Take a look at this example where the router is placed on the left wing of a floor, with no access points on the right wing:
The left wing, where you see green, is blazing fast. The common area and two conference rooms on that half of the floor are always popular spots for employees to step out into for a change of scenery during the day.
But the right wing is totally gray: a complete dead zone.
The WiFi connection doesn’t even reach the far right conference room and common area. And the office spaces in the middle are likely to have spotty connections at best.
Not an ideal scenario.
Here’s another example of an office space, but in this example, the access points have been staggered throughout to boost the WiFi signal across the entire floor:
As you can see, there’s an awful lot of green connection spaces across the entire floor. Virtually all corners of the space have at least decent internet connections, meaning no space is wasted.
To optimize your connection, get familiar with how far your router’s signal reaches and strategically place access points around the space to boost the connection where needed.
Access point placement
If access point placement is so important to WiFi quality, how should you decide where to actually place them?
The truth is, there are a lot of factors that influence ideal access point locations—many depending on the actual structure and layout of your specific building. That said, there are a handful of pro tips that can generally be applied.
1. Ceiling mounting.
Ideally, access points should be mounted on the ceiling. This keeps the signal free of any physical obstacles (people walking by, desks in the way, etc.) that could create signal loss. If mounting on the ceiling isn’t possible, aim to place the access points above head height, at minimum.
2. Central locations.
In most cases, it’s best to place access points in the most central location, where you want coverage to begin. Depending on the layout of your space, this may not be possible. If your space is more on the open side, try to place access points roughly 1500 square feet from each other.
3. Close proximity.
Regardless of how your space is set up, access point proximity is key. As the heatmaps earlier illustrated, if access points are too far apart, you’ll end up with the dreaded WiFi dead zones.
If your space is not open-concept and is divided into individual rooms, a general rule of thumb to follow is to never place access points more than two rooms or walls apart.
When it comes to router placement, the overall goal is to place your router in the most central location possible. Hiding your router in a far corner of your space and relying on access points alone to carry the signal across your space will result in a sub-optimal signal overall.
Aside from prioritizing a central location, you’ll also want to avoid placing your router too close to walls made of materials like concrete, brick, or plaster, as these can create more signal loss than run-of-the-mill materials like sheetrock.
If it’s not possible to centralize your router (for example, if the office is wired strangely), make sure to prioritize placing access points in central locations if possible. As best as you can, prioritize placing your router in a common area where you think it’ll benefit users the most.
The better your WiFi connection at the office, the happier and more productive employees will be. If you can limit the amount of downtime and boost the overall quality of connection, you’ll be able to build a thriving workplace (and avoid the all-too-frequent “why is the WiFi so slow” questions in the process).
To recap the factors that make great WiFi great:
- The quality of the internet connection itself
- The type of routers and access points you’re using
- How many access points you have in your office
- Where those access points are located throughout the space
If your current WiFi setup is still just an out-of-the-box version of whatever your big-name ISP recommended, it’s time to take a step back and seriously think about whether or not you’re actually happy with the quality overall.
And if you’re in Manhattan, find out if Pilot’s fiber is in your building already. If so, we’ll help you take your WiFi to the next level.