Misc

8 Weeks of working remotely, and all’s well

I am now at the 8 week mark of working remotely, and I have to say, not only do I really like working from home, I would be fine if we kept working this way.

I have really adapted to this change and much prefer how my day is now structured.

Not being stuck in traffic has given me back 2 hours of my day. Every day.
I take multiple breaks during the day to take a short walk around the house, or stretch, or lift a set with the kettle bell, or use the resistance bands.
When the sun is out, I can eat lunch on the deck.
At the end of the day, I can exercise and be done before I would normally get home.
I am probably more productive than I was before since I really can't be interrupted. I know my automation project gets new features each week.
I can't be late for work or a meeting.
My dedicated internet connection is faster than the shared one in the office.
Slack and Zoom are pretty awesome.

I'm not saying I hate the idea of going back into the office. Or that I don't like working with my team.

The fact of the matter is, I spend 90% of my day with my headphones on either testing something or writing code to test something. I attend 1, maybe 2 meetings per day. When I need to ask for clarification, it's done in Slack. We are a very collaborative group, but even that is done through written communication. To that end, almost nothing has changed about the way I work. I test and communicate in almost the exact same way as before.

With technology like Slack and Zoom, if I need to "see" something, it's as easy as sharing the screen.

Taking all that together, my standard work day has barely changed. However, by working from home I've gained a dozen fringe benefits. The biggest win is more time overall and using that for exercise.

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Still playing Godville after all these years (10 to be precise)

Huzzah! Happy 10th anniversary to Godville!

My goodness has it been that long? And when I look at my stats, indeed it has. My little hero is 8 years and 9 months old. For all that time he has been slogging it out, battling monsters and bringing glory to my name. Except for the times when he's caught drunk in the tavern. I can excuse that though, I would have done the same thing.

So, congratulations to the great folks behind Godville. This really is a game that runs 5 days a week on my work machine. My little hero sits in a dedicated window on my screen, and keeps me up to date with all his adventures. I'm amused by his little puns. I appreciate the sculpture of empty beer bottles in my likeness as a tribute. And during these trying times, I love his eternal optimism.

Now, if we could just improve his battle skills in the arena.

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Chin up! It could always be worse

Even with the doom and gloom, you need to look on the bright side, things could always be worse. Not only could you work for a POS company like Wells Fargo, it could actually be the year 2000, which is the technology they seem to be using.

If this were 20 years, or even 10 years ago, things would truly be in upheaval. We have tools like Slack, Zoom, and others so we can hold conferences with dozens of people not only in different parts of the city, but different parts of the country. The technology to host that was abysmal 10 years ago.

We have an Internet backbone that can actually support this traffic. We previously had DSL, which was great at the time, and fast compared to dial-up, but egad, there is no way you could conduct business over that connection.

Sure, it can be a little saturated at peak times, but it's working 95% of time, so it's easy to host meetings, see people, share screens, draw on a virtual white board, and discuss complex topics, in real time, as though you were in the same location.

Sites and services are so easily connected through web portals. Even using a VPN solution is so much better than it used to be.

Let's not forget, we have the old standby of email, which is damn near instantaneous. It doesn't have the word instant in the name, but email still makes it across the country in seconds.

And we have file sharing like never before. With Google, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, you can give files to people in the blink of an eye.

With that, we also have online Office. Google and Microsoft both have cloud versions, so you can still get on with tasks regardless of how powerful or not your computer happens to be.

Go back for a moment. Think back to 1999, and ticking over into 2000, when people thought their machines were going to reset, shut down, or explode because they weren't sure machines could handle the new year.

Make no mistake, it is tough for certain sectors of business. All the technology in the world doesn't help serve food to an empty restaurant.

But, let us be thankful for what we do have. We can easily connect to work. We can still do our jobs. We can still talk with our team. We can still write code, query databases, share files, and get work done. It's different, but it's working. And in my opinion, it's working well.

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Week #3 of working remotely – Build your workspace

We're at the start of week 3 for working remotely and I think just about everyone has found their rhythm. But, it has taken awhile, and one thing I heard from multiple people, they weren't prepared to work remotely for an extended period. The main problem? Nowhere to work.

We have people who work remotely and that's no issue. But, that's for a day. They can handle calls, or attend meetings, or put together a client proposal, but not everyone has a dedicated work machine or a dedicated work area. Working from the couch or kitchen table is fine for a few hours, but it's not going to do for several weeks.

Many people spent the weekend getting themselves set up for the long haul. Some just had to clear off a desk, while others had to race out and actually get a desk. Several people had to get full sized monitors. Some retrieved equipment from the office, others ended up ordering them. That's why so many monitors, mice, keyboards, headsets, and even full systems have been disappearing from inventory. I know Woot did a brisk trade for computer equipment.

Many people had to make a place for themselves. They needed a permanent work area in order to get back into the routine.

I'm lucky in this regard. I've already made comment that my home machine and work machine are the same. I rarely work from home, but when I've needed to do something, I wanted a familiar environment.

That's the problem a lot of people have just solved. They now have an area that is familiar, that allows them to have a routine, something puts them in the mindset of begin at the office.

It's the idea of, when I'm here, I'm working. This is my work space. You're not going to get that by wearing sweatpants and sitting on the couch.

Further, sitting at the kitchen table looking at a laptop screen for days on end is maddening. It will make being at home a dozen times worse. Setting up a space that feels right and works well will make this ordeal far more tolerable.

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Week #2 of working remotely

So here we are at the tail end of two weeks of working remotely. I had to make a dash into the office late Wednesday as our building would be closed until further notice due to the stay at home order. I figured it was better for me to have the machine here than it collecting dust in an empty building.

Oddly, there were far more people on the road than I expected. Maybe they were out and about doing the same thing, grabbing machines and necessities from their place of work, which could be confused with looting. Rest assured, I totally had permission to get my own machine from work.

Other than the laughable toilet paper situation, I find things to be going quite well. We are communicating regularly through Slack and use Zoom to have team meetings. This was already the norm since we've had people working remotely for various reasons for a couple of years.

I have to say, the morale is still very high, people are still getting work done, it hasn't all turned to doom and gloom, or a why bother attitude. That is good to see.

From my perspective, I am testing the same way I have always done. I have the same tools at home as I did at work. And now I have the same machine again. Problem is, I don't actually have room for it. I would have to turn something off to put it in place. Not sure that's possible.

I have noticed a lot of software companies dropping prices, extending trials, and making accommodations for people to work remotely. Unlike Wells Fargo, or people selling sheets of toilet paper on eBay, not everyone is out to screw over the public in this time of need.

Who knows how long the current situation will last, but we are operating under the guise of this as the normal for at least 6 months. Even when we do decide to head back, that office will need to be scrubbed. There was already dust piling up because we obviously didn't want the cleaning crew in there either.

Hopefully everyone is coping with the new normal. I haven't noticed much of a difference. I still work with the same team members, and still talk through Slack. I would even Slack people who sat next to me because I didn't want to totally interrupt their flow.

I have noticed one thing. Some people are working more now than before, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you still need to keep boundaries. Just because our machines are on longer than they used to be, and we are in fact home, doesn't mean we need to work 10, 12, or 16 hour days. The schedule remains the same. Starting at 8:30am vs. 9am because you don't have traffic is fine. But, being "logged in" at 10pm is no good. Now more than ever, people need to take a break and separate work life and home life.

Block off time to spend with your kids. The sun is out, the birds are singing, the trees are blooming, take a break and go outside for a few minutes. Get yourself some exercise, and no, pacing doesn't count. Have a virtual lunch through Slack. Stay safe, but don't allow yourself to get cabin fever.

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