The new normal: working from home

March 20, 2020
by Mark Ollig

All of us are managing the changes occurring in our daily lives due to the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019, commonly known as COVID-19.

During this widespread pandemic, many Minnesotans, who are able, have begun working from home.

The telecommunications company I work for announced last Friday those working in office buildings would begin working from home.

For many, it has been a significant change in their regular workday routine; not everyone had the proper computing equipment in place to begin working from home.

This announcement did not apply to me, as I have been working from home since December 2018.

In November of 2018, I was informed the office building I worked out of was closing.

The nearest town with a company office I could work from would be a 2-hour commute, which was something I didn’t want to do each day.

Before the office was shuttered, I applied with my employer to become a part of their WAH (Work at Home) program.

The program required a person’s home to have a minimum internet speed connection of 5Mbps.

My home internet connection uses a highspeed broadband connection with plenty of bandwidth, so I had that part covered.

WAH also needed various levels of approval; not everyone who applies is accepted.

While waiting to hear back from the company, I spent time at the office packing items into cardboard boxes to take to wherever I would be working from next.

A few days after I applied, the company approved my application for WAH. I was relieved; yet, I knew working from home would be a significant change in my daily routine.

At home, I set up a desk near the bay window (I got my office window back), along with a comfortable office chair.

A couple floor storage shelves found a new home on the right side of the desk to hold my reference books. A filing cabinet holds my telecom-related papers.

I placed a new printer stand near the desk.

A height-adjustable table on wheels for my laptop computer is located on the left side of my desk.

The company mailed me an HP T620 thin-client computer, keyboard, mouse, and the same model Polycom Managed IP (internet protocol) phone I used in the work office.

They also sent two large display monitors, a printer, and a wireless router with an internet Wide Area Network (WAN) port and four Local Area Network (LAN) ports for ethernet connections.

RJ45 ethernet cables, video splitters, and associated power cables were also sent to me.

I plugged the computer equipment into a CyberPower 600 VA (volt-ampere) surge protector/battery backup system in case of commercial power brownouts, spikes, or short-term interruptions.

After installing the computing devices, I ran several tests to ensure they operated correctly over the company’s virtual private network (VPN).

The VPN uses a firewall-protected layer of secure protocols and protected passwords.

My new home office equipment was set-up and successfully pretested.

I was ready for my first day of WAH. This would become my “new normal.”

My children are now adults and have been living on their own for many years, so my home office environment is quiet, although sometimes, I will turn up the volume on my music.

Having an office area located where one can concentrate and not be interrupted, makes working from home much more productive and less stressful.

I try to maintain a similar morning schedule as I did before working from home, including getting dressed for the day, because I don’t sit at my office desk wearing a bathrobe.

After finishing breakfast, instead of getting in the car and stopping at Starbucks for morning coffee, I make my own.

I bought one of those Keurig coffee makers. It is the kind of coffeemaker we used at the office building I worked in.

Using a single premeasured coffee container (light roast) in the coffee maker is convenient, and in seconds it quickly brews a fresh cup of coffee I can take with me from the kitchen to the office desk.

One of the Christmas gifts I received was a Mr. Coffee electric cup warmer. It keeps my coffee hot, which is one of those simple pleasures I appreciate while working.

I learned it is important to regularly use my lunch breaks to get out of the house and take in some sunshine and fresh air.

Of course, when out and about, make sure you observe proper social distancing.

The benefits of working from home for me have been many.

For one thing, my commuting time has been dramatically reduced.

Not having a daily commute drive saves money generally spent on gasoline.

Also, my car is not having those additional miles driven on it each day, which means it will last longer.

My car’s maintenance costs have been lowered, since I am no longer having to replace worn parts, and changing oil as often.

I don’t miss driving back and forth to the office during bad weather.

We have all experienced Minnesota snowstorms, and the havoc of driving through blinding snow, and on those icy roads during our daily work commute.

Not having to bundle up to head outside to the car for the work commute during those cold winter days is another advantage.

I can perform the same work tasks, converse with coworkers over the phone, use instant messaging, videoconferencing, and emails the same as I did when working out of the office building.

At the end of my workday, I shut off the home office computer and walk away from it, until the next morning.

Since working from home for over a year, I’ve grown accustomed to this new normal and am comfortable with it.

I fully understand that not all of us can perform our jobs from home and consider myself fortunate to be able to.

Today, we find ourselves facing many challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minnesotans are strong and resilient. We will press on the best we can, notwithstanding the effects COVID-19 is having on our daily lives.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Situation Update for Coronavirus Disease 2019 webpage provides many informative resources on how to be safe and cope with the personal and social adjustments being caused by COVID-19.

Their webpage is located at this shortened link: https://bit.ly/2QpByJk.

We are all in this together.

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