Work from Home: Week 17


Two days before the Governor issued the stay-at-home order, I left my office and hadn’t returned to work there since. Seventeen weeks later, the state ordered offices for non-essential sectors in Santa Barbara County closed once again. With a third of a year spent working from home, I felt it was an appropriate time to write up my experience so far.

I have thought about the possibility of telework long before the pandemic forced the issue so I jumped into this eager to make it work.

Being a small team of three in a small company who have worked together for years, things were pretty ad hoc. We spent our last Monday in the office together sorting out expectations, communication, and technology. To our advantage, we were used to working autonomously even in the office.

The most basic expectation was that we would observe the same working hours as if we were in the office, which was already somewhat flexible. Since we never used any of the team messaging tools like Slack, we just picked the tool that was already tied to our email, Google Chat and Meet. We would have a team video meeting every Monday morning to discuss priorities and projects for the week.

We got set up on the office VPN for remote access and ran some tests. Our work is all stored on a file server from which we make a local copy to work on and then copy them back to the server when we are done. This works fairly well over VPN for files like Adobe Illustrator graphics and Excel spreadsheets.

However, some of our work such as Adobe InDesign layouts heavily depend on linked assets stored on the server. Because our remote bandwidth is a fraction of the gigabit Ethernet in the office, operations that take seconds locally could take minutes remotely. To maintain our productivity we would do these tasks on our office Macs, controlled via VNC screen sharing. With a stable connection, it is possible to do all our work via screen sharing.

With the enabling technology set up, let’s look at routines. The best part is probably freedom from the alarm clock. I let myself wake up at whatever time is natural which is usually around 6 am if bedtime was around 10 pm.

Obviously, there was no more bus commute which took over an hour of each day. I made good use of my time while riding. Now I just get to use it on my own timetable.

I still brew my morning coffee at home.

I usually don’t eat meals during the work day, preferring to take walks around the office park in evenly spread breaks. I was hitting 10,000 steps on a daily basis, much of it during those breaks! Now my walking declined substantially until the State Street promenade opened.

Work-life balance…well, I’m having trouble separating quarantine life from work life even within this post!