The Work From Home Experiment

April 10, 2020

Like many Americans, a few weeks ago I started working from home. I recognize I am very fortunate to be in a position that allows me to do so and I do not want to overlook that. The company I work for, and the team I am a part of, was able to be agile and move quickly to a work-from-home situation and that is in part to tooling that was already available and great leadership to make it happen. Without that tooling and leadership, this post wouldn’t exist so I want to recognize that first. I can only hope that those who have fallen ill recover quickly, and that economic recovery is as swift as the downturn has been.  

The adjustment to working from home has been straightforward for me and I wanted to review the highs and lows of the situation so far. I have some advantages right out of the gate. The first is my job is all about the digital space which is like starting on third base. I have a mostly private space to work from and am not responsible for children or elderly parents. All of these points give me an extreme advantage that I recognize not all have. 

Let’s start with the computer. A couple of years ago, my MacBook Pro from college was really starting to suffer so I replaced it with a Dell Inspiron 5566. 17 Inch screen, 6GB of RAM, an Intel Core i3 processor with a TB of storage. For what I do, this has worked out pretty well. I’ve connected an old Vizio TV to act as a second monitor and for the most part I can’t complain. However, I would probably do 2 things differently if this were a longer term solution. The first is get something with a better processor. I use Photoshop on almost a daily basis and have been using Premiere Pro a few times a week and opening this software is a time suck and prevents most other programs from running while they open. To this end the second thing I would do is upgrade to something with more RAM. 6GB is ok but if you’re going to move to a better processor, you need the RAM to make it worth the money. I could probably trade off on hard drive space. A full terabyte wasn’t a great choice. I move so much to an external that I just don’t need to store that much on the hard drive itself. As for performance for everything else, it’s been pretty good. 

The physical space is where it’s a little more interesting. Before going full time WFH, I used this space to work on a number of different projects so I do have a dedicated workspace. It’s nothing you’d see out of #AdobeCreativeSetup but it’s doing the job. The chair is a Wal-Mart chair from college. The desk is from Target. Working on a laptop keyboard with a second monitor has created some strain in my neck so I’ve been working on making sure that the second monitor is just an area I throw windows I don’t need rather than turning my neck to look at it so that’s less than ideal. One thing I do have here that I really appreciate is my whiteboard. I have a small whiteboard on my wall that is great for really trying to work out problems. At the office, I have a notepad that I use for that purpose. I prefer the whiteboard as it’s easier to erase something than to cross something out and I’m using less paper which is always a good thing. 

As far as tools go, Microsoft has been getting a lot of my business. I use VSCode at work and at home so nothing changed there. We use Microsoft Teams at work so I’ve been using the web app at home and haven’t had any issues. It’s a great all-in-one solution for businesses. Having the video, chat, and file storage, all in one is really unmatched. The Outlook web app doesn’t “feel” as smooth as the traditional desktop app. I often have to mark emails as read even if I’ve opened and read them numerous times. Maybe I have too many folders but they don’t fit as well in the browser window so that hasn’t been great. Teams has helped offset this but so has OneNote. I used to throw a lot of notes into emails but now I’m using a tool that is far more fitting. Correcting a bad habit for sure. The one problem I am noticing is that I have a lot of notebooks. Definitely need to bring that number down. Google has been very helpful here as well. I’ve used Google Tasks to keep track of my day to day operations and Google Keep to throw ideas into as they come up. 

There have been a few advantages to working from home. The biggest one is probably that my commute has turned from 30 minutes to a 10 second walk. I am not in the camp of “roll out of bed and start working” so I have still woken up early enough to get some form of a work out in and watch a bit of news before starting work but it’s nice to not have that ramp up time + 30 minutes of drive time. With this extra time, I’ve been working on a couple of certifications. Right now I’m working on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations certification and will be starting the Google Tag Manager certification after that is complete. 

There are a few disadvantages as well. The biggest one is, I come from a long line of workaholics and am a bit of one myself. Work being so readily available is most certainly a trap and it’s one I have fallen into quite a bit. It doesn’t feel bad. I feel like I have been very productive actually but I’m definitely not starting or stopping work at my usual time. When I do stop, I actually do what I do from the office and just fully shut down the computer. It prevents me from cracking it open and doing “one more thing.” 

Another big disadvantage is, I just haven’t seen my work friends in a while and that is a bummer. We communicate a bit on teams but it’s definitely not the same as seeing them in person. The last disadvantage, and it’s not even really work related, is I’m not sure about anyone else but at home workouts simply do not feel the same as going to the gym or using some type of equipment. 

At the time of writing this post, the IHME model shows that the U.S. is one day away from peak resource use and my state, Ohio, has already passed peak resource use. We’d all like this to end as soon as possible and it appears to be trending the right way. I’d love to hear about your WFH experience. Maybe we can trade some tips. 

Best to you and your loved ones. Stay safe, and I’ll see you on the line

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