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The SolarWinds Guide to Work From Home: Your Work Life at Home

Level 17

In our previous post, we made some recommendations on how to maintain office community and connections with your fellow coworkers. For our extroverted readers, we hope you have taken heart from those recommendations, implemented some (or all), and maybe come up with new ways to maintain a sense of connectedness with your fellow humans at the office. In case you missed it: Finding Community and Connection.

We now want to take a few moments to discuss how to maintain your work life at home. Consider the many times you move around at the office: going to the break room to get a drink or snack, going down the hall to the restroom, going a few cubes down to talk to a collaborator on a project, walking to your supervisor or manager’s office for a 1:1 or quick chat, etc. With those all going virtual, those sporadic times throughout the day you naturally get up and take a quick walk are now gone as you continuously sit in the same space. We have pointers for injecting a little more natural movement into your new work-from-home life.

Creating a comfortable workspace means having options. In the office we naturally get up, move around, sit at different types of chairs, and in different spaces, from our desk to conference rooms to kitchen areas to couches. Look around your home and see what options you have. Your options may be limited due to the need to share space with other adults working from home or kiddos who are distance learning, the number of available rooms and surfaces, and available technology. Chances are, though, if you get a little creative, you’ll have options to break up the monotony.

  • For a DIY standing option, move to an open countertop or even clear out a bookshelf and set your laptop up there for a bit.
  • Another DIY standing option are those delivery boxes you might have stacking up waiting to be recycled. You can mix and match them to set your laptop at eye level for long stretches of reading, on-camera meetings, etc. Or drop it down a bit for a stand-and-type position. Or anything in-between.
  • Another set of options is the devices you can use. Reading a PDF might be a strain on a laptop, but a breeze on a table or even a phone. And those types of switches will naturally allow you to also change position, seating, and location in the house.
  • If you have a laptop or tablet to work from for a while, consider sitting outside on a balcony or porch. If not, consider opening a window for some fresh air and ambient noise.
  • If ambient or white noise is helpful for your concentration, there are many free options online through music and video providers.
  • Consider taking the next phone call on a walk. Maybe just a walk about the house to get moving—keeping your keyboard close in case you need to take a note—or if it’s a meeting you can record to make note of later, consider pressing record and then taking a walk down the street (preferably not when your neighbors are doing their lawn maintenance). Keep your pace light to prevent heavy breathing.
  • Lighting is another aspect of your space, but with two elements: the ambient light in the room, and the light from the device itself.
    • For the former, make sure you’re getting enough light (whether natural or not) to see your keyboard, the papers you’re working on, etc., and you aren’t fighting glare as it reflects off your screen or shines in your eyes.
    • For the latter, make sure the screen is bright enough for you to see easily and clearly, but not so bright you end up with fatigue. This is where the much-ballyhooed “dark theme” may be useful, as many folks find white-letters-on-a-dark-background naturally create an easier viewing experience.
    • We do recommend at least trying out a dark theme in your browser, at a minimum, as it can reduce headaches and eye strain from prolonged exposure to those bright screens.
    • Chrome can be forced into dark mode (chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark); Edge can too (#enable-force-dark). Windows 10 also provides a Dark Mode option for your file explorer, menus, toolbars, etc. Additionally, there are blue light filter options in Windows 10 and on most phones to also cut down on eye strain.
  • Keep safe! Your primary hazard in a home office is poor ergo practices. Evaluate your work at home layout for ergonomic best practices and make changes before you start to experience wrist or back pain. Remember: your body will tell you there’s a problem only after it’s a problem. If you already know you can’t sit for more than two hours, don’t. Once you realize you have a limit, set a timer or something to remind you to change things up before you start to ache again.

Those are some of our top ideas. If you have your own, share them in the comments below.

Meanwhile, be ready to catch our next post, Your Home Life at Work, where we’ll discuss coping with the home/work life blend mandated by the new situation all residents in the house—including the pets—are forced to coexist with in this new normal.

6 Comments
Level 9

I have set up my home office (cleaned up really from where all the receipts/bills/etc are usually dumped) as my dedicated space.  I do have a rocking window view (much better than my cubeville office) and take screen breaks watching the squirrels chase each other.  It's right next to the kitchen (which may be a good/bad idea due to accessibility to snacks) and when it's nice out I try to take a quick 10 min to walk up and down the street to clear my head.  Oh yeah - the cats like to visit and supervise - always fun to be watched. 😉 

My 2 kids set up in the dining room (on opposite sides of the table) and the hubby is at the kitchen table. Thank god we are not all in the same room.  😉

Level 14

Over the weekend I moved my "desk" from one corner of the basement to my family room on the other side of the wall (which is more like a library/research area for my other interests). It is a larger working area and I can spread out papers and the like. It is better lit and has better access to the stairs for coffee, lunch and snacks. My view consists of some sports memorabilia, entertainment center, some furniture and my bar(only used after quitting time!!!) 

I have the entire area to myself... and listen to music provided by my ROKU and Pluto TV. Not half bad!

Level 8

With being an online college student, I already had a space setup to work from home complete with dual monitors. All I had to do was bring home my laptop, dock and headset. It has definitely had some challenges, my dog keeps trying to play and wants to go out on and off all day.

The hardest part for me is reminding myself that I cannot sit here all day taking calls. My position is a Site Tech, I move around a lot through out the day, fitbit steps between 4k-11k depending on the day. Being at home 99% of the time in the past 2 weeks, I've only reached 4k steps on days I went grocery shopping or purposely tried to up my step count. 

Level 20

You thought about reviewing the newer X-Men movie Dark Phoenix or eventually the New Mutants when it comes out Leon @adatole ?

I liked your other movie summaries... you did a really good job breaking the story down.

Bill

Level 16

Our team has been doing (optional) quick virtual call ins at the beginning and end of the day as well as doing a fun chat time over lunch for those that want to participate. Lunchtime rules! - anything goes (well, most anything).

I was already working from home part time so already had a work area set up. My company has always allowed people to work remote, but they have very strict guidelines on your work area, desk, chair, etc so I purchased all the equipment I needed to have a suitable area. 

I felt it was a fair tradeoff for being able to work remote.

Leon mentioned 'papers' which I find kind of funny because years ago my life was full of papers, post it notes, business cards, and so on but now... I don't have any papers at my desk, at work or at home. If I use the printer it is for my pizza coupon, and there's not a pen at my desk. Somewhere along the way I completely shed papers and I just realized I can't remember when 🙂

One last thing, if only there was a dark theme...

Level 14

I have a couple of things that help me stay busy and not go crazy.  I keep music or podcasts on when I'm not in meetings.  I also stand while working (stand up desks are great), especially while in meetings.  Being free to pace around is good for the gears in your mind.  One more thing that I have done for a while that helps is taking the laptop outside when the weather is favorable and the work allows for "smooth" work that can be done easily while enjoying the weather.  

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.