Some advice for WFH (Working From Home, especially under the covid lock down)
Last updated: 2022-08-03
I wrote this article at the beginning of the lock-down during the pandemic in 2020, to help others to adapt healthy.
Those are crazy times in which is difficult to handle working from home, doing the lock down…
But very nice times in which other people help others. Doctors and sanitary personnel fight in first line, truck drivers and supermarket staff are doing extra hours to provide to the society, investigators are working hard to get a vaccine…
Is beautiful that so many people are helping and contributing to the society.
I want to provide my humble experience on working remotely, from many years working remotely, so you avoid going bananas. Is very easy get depressed, anxious… So here is my advice.
- Stick to a routine
Respect the working times, like if you was going to the office.
Dress yourself like a normal day in the office. Don’t be all day in pajamas or sport wear. Switch to sports wear when you finish your daily work at 6PM, if you want, but not before.
If you talk via Slack, myself always keep the video turned on, as is a way to force myself into dressing and taking care of my look.
I take a shower, dress like an Engineer at work, I have my break for breakfast and for lunch, and when I finish work I study 30 minutes and do exercise 30 minutes or more. Then I take another shower and I consider myself free.
Note: The only exception I do to the dressing is in the shoes. I don’t wear any shoes, as my feet really enjoy walking freely over the parket.
- Take care of yourself
Shave, cut your nails… be polite. The same way you would if you had to go to the office.
- Stick to the working clock
As said in the stick to a routine advice, work your time, from 9AM to 6PM, and don’t get lost. The week ends are week ends, don’t work to free your mind.
For the week ends I have my side projects, like writing books.
If you can, walk an enjoy nature as much as you can. This clears the mind and keeps your mental health wellness.
- Do exercise
May be walking, but if you have a home bicycle, use it.
Try to set a goal, like 15 minutes of bicycle daily, and grow from there, of keep it like that. But doing even 15 minutes of cardio every day will be highly beneficial for your mind and body.
You may find it easy to do if you play videogames while cycling, or watch Netflix.
After doing exercise stretch your muscles.
- See the light
As much as you can, see the sun light. Try to do walks too and see nature.
Daylight and nature are amazingly good for your mental health and morale.
- Study/Learn new things
I keep this as part of my routine. I study every day in Linux Academy or read a book at least half an hour. I’ve done this for years.
- Keep you hydrated
Drink lots of water.
I said water, not sugar drinks or carbonated ones, which are very unhealthy.
- Do your breaks
After each 1 hour of work try to walk a bit in the house, to focus your view in distant points to relax your ocular muscles.
- Ergonomics and light
Try to have a correct light in the working are, a comfortable chair, the right height for the keyboard and for the monitor, so your neck doesn’t hurt and your hands neither.
- Do like in the office: discipline
In the office you don’t drink, you don’t smoke at your desk.
So do the same. If you want to smoke one cigar after 2 hours of work, Ok, but don’t loss yourself in self-indulgence. Set strict rules respect alcohol if you love beer:
No alcohol during working hours.
Years ago I was CTO of a company with Team in half the world and I had a Team in Belarus. The Team Lead would be drunk in the sofa at business hours and start talking common words. If you have weak points, you don’t want to lose yourself. Be disciplined.
- Set boundaries with your family and pets
If you want to close the door of the room you work, your cat is not gonna die.
It is used to be alone when you’re are in the office.
So if it’s excessively demanding and wants you to pet him, or jumps over your laptop’s keyword while you are typing commands as root, set boundaries. Close the door. He can take it.
Also for the kids, the wife, the mother.
Please, do not disturb me while I’m working. We will play after.
- During covid-19 lockdown, do videoconference
Do videoconference with your family and friends.
You can use Slack, Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger…
I schedule a daily whatsapp video conf with my family, and a weekly with my cool friend Alex :)
When the lockdown is over, try as much to socialize, or at least to see friendly faces irl. If you can’t because you’re an expat, go to the coffee and to the commercial center to see faces, for the sake of your mental health. If the law and common sense allow it, try to go to a gym to get back to be fit and healthy.
- Despite your beliefs about vaccines, take fruits, and vegetables.
You are certainly exiting less home, so your intake of sun is also reduced.
Myself I take vitamin supplements.
- Be very patient with your colleagues and Team members
We are all humans and each one has its own situation.
Some people may feel depressed, alone, others may have problems with the partners or the parents of her/him living with them.
Other may have a cat trolling all the time stopping the work.
Others may have hyperactive children, or just having a poor chair, poor desk, and having only the laptop and no external monitor.
Others may have the family far, in another country, and suffer for them.
Be patient and understanding. Be Human.
- Have a good Internet connection and use Ethernet cable, not Wifi if possible
I have 360 Mbit at home with Virgin and I connect the laptops with Ethernet Gigabit cables. That brings me the best and most stable connection.
In case of emergency I can do tethering with the phone (share the connection using the phone as Wifi Hotspot)
- Use cable headsets, not Bluetooth if possible, and use the microphone from the headset not the one from the laptop
The Bluetooth can be very useful to allow you to move around during audio calls, but some times they provide a poor signal and the sound is lost or may sound metallic or they perform poorly when they have few battery, or they can let you down.
Using the microphone embedded in the laptop sends echo to your partners, many times.
If you don’t use headphones the sound coming from the speakers can couple with the microphone and make it very uncomfortable to your partners talking in a video conference, as they will hear themselves with echo.
If you use Bluetooth, I recommend to have cable headsets at least as backup in case the Bluetooth runs out of battery.
- Use a camera with cover or add a plastic cover that slides to your webcam.
It is good to have a physical barrier to prevent your camera turning on and you not knowing, and to get used to block the camera after you used.
- Have spare Hardware and cables
In this time of lockdown, is good to have spare cables and adapters for everything. Just in case they die.
If you can have a spare monitor, and spare laptops this is great too.
I have 3 laptops, plus one tower, plus several raspberry pis, plus the tablet, plus my working laptop. If one dies, I can use the others.
I always have all kind of Hardware and cables as spare (Gigabit switches, power adapters, international adapters, Ethernet cables, USB cables, headphones…). Even if I can buy in Amazon nothing can stop me.
One day we had an incident with Virgin, which affected all Ireland.
I was out as the Fiber was not working and the phone was with Virgin too, but I have two additional SIM cards and spare phones, from vodaphone and Tesco mobile.
So I’m well protected. :)
As per the comment of Jordi Soler, I update the list of gadgets, mentioning my Hp Laserjet Color Printer, very handy to print document that I have to sign and then scan and sending back by email, and the UPS.
The UPS is cool, as if electricity goes down I don’t loss Fiber Internet.
Imagine, a router connected to the UPS can last hours! however is very infrequent that in Ireland we loss electricity. And the issues I experienced in 3 years were quickly resolved (unlike Barcelona where once more than 300,000 people were 3 days without electricity).
- Keep doing backups
If talking about job things, you can upload to Corporate Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive.
- Do exercise regularly
I bought a static bicycle and a pair of weights, nintendo boxing games, so I keep fit.
Sitting all the day and not doing any exercise in not made for humans and is bad for your health.
- Play videogames
Playing videogames can keep your amused and distracted, with a goal you do to relax.
- Have fun.
Play Quizz style games online, with your friends/university/work mates
Playing Questions/Answers games with other people can be a great source of fun.
Recently I played with my friends at work at jackbox.tv , coordinating through Zoom, and it was really fun.
I also play in the Quizz that was being performed at my local pub every week, and when the lockdown closed the pubs, they moved to Internet. It is great to see some of the people I was seeing at the pub, and revive these moment, even from home, virtually.
- Check your health
Take that blood analysis, the breast yearly revision, or whatever test you should do regularly. Performing a blood analysis is particularly a good idea. Most people got weight with the lockdown, and the lack of activity can have had an adverse effect in your health. I recommend you to take a blood analysis to make sure all is good with your health.
Deciding to take a proactive blood analysis saved my life.
- It is a good moment to go to the university
Pick your dream’s degree, that you can do remotely, and before you can realize you’ll have your degree and a bunch of nice good friends. :)
Specially if you are older than 40/45 years, many universities will grant you access with your motivation letter.
I recommend you evening degrees designed for people that work.
They will be helpful and understanding, flexible, and provide workloads more reasonable for people with families and work.
Also some countries subsidize certain degrees, for example in IT, as they want workers to be digital capable.
- My friend Nico C. de F. provided a super useful tip:
When in a call say only nice things (if you talk to another person, if you pick the phone…) always assume you’re not muted.
And that’s super true! How many times we have heard or seen something that the other person regretted sharing. Even if you muted your Zoom call, it could happen that it gets unmuted (like pressing ALT A).
- Keep liquids far from your hardware
It is very easy to poor a cup or glass full of liquid over your laptop or keyboard
One of the problems with the laptops and battery-power devices in general is that if we have them connected to the energy line all the time, never using the battery, the battery just loses effectiveness and dies.
But some batteries can also explode.
As we are working all day at home now, our laptops are connected 100% of the time.
In my case one of the equipment I use is a Dell Laptop and the battery started to swallow and to bring the touchpad up. As the temperature of the laptop internally increased by the battery being hot as it swallows, you may notice the internal fan doing extra hours, running almost all the time, a high temperature on the chassis. High temperatures can lead to laptop malfunction like hang or reboot.
In extreme cases the battery can explode, so you should replace it if it is swallowing.
So I recommend you from time to time to unplug the power cable and run the laptop on battery until it almost completely depletes, or at leas for a couple hours before plugging the power cable again.
In another order of things I recommend you not to do drugs. Drugs affect your brain, and is hard enough to be isolated in lock down, to add chemicals messing with your neurons.
Point 15 got me thinking about my home hardware setup (whole family)
3 laptops (plus 1 work laptop)
2 tower PC’s
3 UPS (2 broken)
1 DELL R410 Server running VMWare
1 shuttle server running VMWare
2 NAS servers
5 Enterprise AP’s (Extreme Networks)
2 gigabit switches (Extreme Networks)
1 DLink switch/AP
several mobile phones
1000’s of cables (LAN, phone, power ….)
1 9U Rack
Really not bad Jordi. :)
I didn’t expect less from you. :)
I’m going to update my article pointing the laser HP color priner and the UPS (mine is alive) :)
My switches are 3Com Gigabit.
As you mentioned the NAS it is worth to mention the Hard Drives for Backups (I use a mix of on site and Cloud Backups). :)
The Rack Servers are now only in the Data Centers and my house in Barcelona. :)
In Ireland I don’t have any Rack Server yet. :P