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The SolarWinds Guide to Work From Home: Introduction

Level 17

Like so many things at SolarWinds, this blog series arose out of a genuine desire to help our fellow IT practitioners by sharing our experiences and offering lessons we learned along the way. In this case, our goal wasn’t to help you monitor, manage, or automate your IT environment, but to simply wrap your head around the new reality in which many of us find ourselves (and our organizations) now: working remotely when it wasn’t part of our work habit before, and being part of a distributed team who all (along with their spouses, adult family members, children, and even pets) are coping with the same things.

Within this guide, you’ll find information running the gamut from highly technical and specific; to more organizational and broadly general.

Over the course of this series we’ll cover the following topics:

  • Post 2: Finding Community and Connection
  • Post 3: Your Work Life at Home
  • Post 4: Your Home Life at Work
  • Post 5: Stay On-Task and On Time
  • Post 6: How Work Actually Gets Done
  • Post 7: Collaboration at a Distance
  • Post 8: Clear Communication
  • Post 9: Being Heard When You’re Not in the Room
  • Post 10: Sometimes It IS About the Tech
  • Post 11: Additional (external) Resources

As with everything we share at SolarWinds, you’re an active participant in the conversation. Share your thoughts, additions, and even corrections in the comments so we can all grow as IT professionals and as people who continue to strive to be our best selves and to do our best work, even in the face of adversity.

Who is this blog series for? There’s something here for everyone:

If you’re new to remote work and consider yourself “non-technical,” there are plenty of hints and ideas for organizing your workspace, your workflow, and just wrapping your head around the whole idea of working with people who are not around you. There are suggestions on the kinds of things you can do with remote work software; gear to improve your experience; and habits you didn’t need in the office, but which can be game-changers now that you’re remote.

If you’re an IT pro who hasn’t worked remote before, some of these tips and concepts may nevertheless be new to you, but you may find the organizational items are more immediately useful. And, of course, the section on tech gear!

If you’re already a seasoned telecommuter, then you will undoubtedly have been asked many of the questions we address in this series by friends, family, and coworkers in the last few weeks, and you should feel welcome use what you find here (with attribution, of course).

Credit and Acknowledgements

While many of us contributed ideas and points, the main voices you will hear in this document belong to:

Alli Rael ( @allison.rael  )

Chrystal Taylor ( @ChrystalT )

Destiny Bertucci ( @Dez  )

Joe Reves ( @jreves  )

Kevin Sparenberg ( @KMSigma  )

Leon Adato ( @adatole  )

Each of us drew on our experiences both as professionals working in IT and as remote workers—some of us very new to the experience, and some who’ve been doing it for years or even decades.

Some Initial Thoughts

While each of the posts in this series zero in on a particular topic, there are a few points we’d like to make at the very beginning, which apply equally whether the specific conversation is about configuring your router, finding the best workspace in your home, or trying to walk the tightrope of a conference call in the presence of a needy toddler.

  • We should approach this like every other challenge we face in tech: with a combination of open-mindedness to new opportunities and approaches; a commitment to keeping an eye on the data that tells us how we’re doing; and the ability to “fail fast” by acknowledging when something isn’t working the way we want or need it to and finding another solution.
  • Remember, not everything works for everybody. Just because a WFH guide (even this one!) says you “should” do something, if it’s really not working for you, then it’s OK to acknowledge that and find your own way to accomplish a goal.
    • Many WFH guides emphasize a quiet organized space. But some people might find silence, well, distracting. Maybe the radio or white noise helps you focus.
    • Many WFH guides suggest a dedicated workspace. But not everyone has that luxury. Making space for work can take many different forms, even if it’s a seat at the kitchen table with a paper sign saying, “Mom is working right now.”
    • …and so on. The point is for you—yourself, your team, and your manager—to approach this with an open mind and a willingness to experiment when the effort you’re making isn’t generating the results you want.
  • If you aren’t 100% productive in the first day or two, remain calm. It’s going to take you time to settle in and find your groove. Not only is this totally normal and OK, it would be the same if you moved office buildings, or jobs, or even to a new desk. Be gentle with yourself (managers: and your team) and allow time to adjust.
    • This is even more true when it’s not just you. If you other people in your home—whether they’re other adults or children—then not only are they going through the same transition as you, but you’re also learning how to work in the same space, sometimes compete for the same resources, and find not only individual routines but collective routines as well. As with so many things, communication is the key to success!

That is all for now. Or next posts will dig into far more details and specifics. Until then keep calm, carry on, and remember to wash your frakking hands!

5 Comments

Thanks! I feel like I knew what you said, but seeing it in black and white made it sink in a bit. I needed to hear it.

I think as time goes on, we will find ourselves needing more and more reminders on how to deal with the whole work from home thing.  Most of us are used to 1 or 2 days a week, fewer are used to doing it every day.  The key thing I tell people is to make sure you separate work from home.  Have a spot that is "your office" but make sure that "your office" isn't always your "chill post".  

Level 15

In my career, I have assisted many individuals in setting up their workspace.  Much like student dorm rooms, @adatole , the need to "designate and define" space is the biggest transition.  It seems most people that I have helped setup space in recent years, end up having some form of "white noise" going since they "miss" the normal hustle and bustle of the office.  After the initial shock, and you figure out the basics:  computer, printer (if required), and communication -- read those pesky conference calls; things will settle down and a new "normal" will emerge.

I am looking forward to rest of this series.

Thank you, Leon and all!  These truly are challenging times but I appreciate how companies, industries, and people are "coming together" to help each other out.  I have been on a WFH1 (meaning I work-from-home one day per week) for about six months and my wife was OK with that.  Now, with me being home every day - as well as the two of us being forced to "stay-at-home" 24/7 - we've had to make some adjustments.

I moved from our home office to an alcove in our basement, where I had already setup a desk for another business of which I am a part, found an old 32" flat-screen TV with an HDMI input as well as an old keyboard and mouse (see, being a packrat DOES have its advantages!!! ;-D) and I'm off to the races.  I added a BT headset for conference calls and an old Microsquash HD USB video camera for, well, video.  The lighting is terrible (I look like I'm awash in a vat of yellow mustard) but hey, it works. 

I do have to remember to get off my fat arse periodically so I don't get bedsores, and my wife is so wonderful for bringing me breakfast and lunch down here.  Nice thing is that my commute has been shortened from 35 minutes to 3.5 minutes...man, I'll take that ANY day of the week!!  I still have to go into the "office" but I can only do so with special approval from upper IT management, but it gets me out of the house.  (Yes, I am donning protective gear (mask, etc.) when I venture out.  Not because I think I have anything but since one can be asymptomatic / a carrier, I would rather not put anyone else at risk.)

Yes, Virginia, we will survive*.  And again, thank you to everyone for putting this, and other resources like it, together.

 

*Wait a minute...just had another EARWORM ALERT!!!

This seems very apropos for the times:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARt9HV9T0w8

Enjoy and stay safe! 

Level 14

@adatole    Terrific article Leon.... 

Everyone's circumstances are different as you so rightly point out. Here's the key to being successful, don't worry about the location or how pretty it is. Concentrate on the task(s) at hand. You'll get into the swing of things! As IT Pro's we are kind of used to dealing with things getting tossed at us. So a change in venue..... no biggie!

Like @asheppard970 my spot is in the basement... I'm am going to take his suggestion about the 32" TV. My wife is not working due to COVID-19, so when I do work from home, she has taken to painting the interior of our house to keep herself busy (room by room). We manage not to get in the way of each other's orbit during my working hours. So win-win!  

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.