Mon, Jul
2 New Articles

COVID-19 and Working from Home

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Ruminations from a work-from-home veteran.

Editor’s note: Our country first went into lockdown in March. Now winter approaches, and the changes we thought would be temporary remain. We’re running this article again because the points made in it are still relevant.  

This is it. The new normal.

We’ve all heard that statement over and over for the last few weeks, but what does it really mean? Regular updates from politicians and health department personnel. Constant news media coverage. Minimal movement away from your residence. Social/physical distancing. Working from home.

The last one is something I can help you with.

I’ve been a home worker for a few years now. I started doing it part-time when my company’s head office moved 45 minutes away. Since I started with iTech Solutions, I’ve been at home full-time unless I’m traveling for sales meetings, technical installs, and speaking engagements. I have everything I need (just about) in the comfort of my house.

When COVID-19 exploded, I put together some tips on Twitter, and I think it really helped a few people. I’ve had a chance to reflect and adjust my thoughts a little bit, so I’m going to impart some of those tips here.

Working Area Management

Create a defined work area. This segregates your home from your “office.” It’s tempting to work from your couch or even your bed. And I’m certainly guilty of it. The problem is nearly 100 percent mental. If you work on your couch and watch TV on your couch and spend family time on your couch, your work life and home life get far too intertwined. Your family won’t know if you’re working or just mucking about on Facebook. That alone will cause tension in the household. If you live alone, this is less of a concern. However, I’d strongly suggest delineating where you work from where you play. Home workers need boundaries; otherwise, they never shut off the “work” part of the brain.

Ergonomically speaking, have you ever spent a week working from your couch or bed? If you suffer from a bad back like I do, you’ll never make that mistake again. If you don’t have a decent chair, you’d best order one. You’ll want to ensure that you’re comfortable yet protecting your back. This is not the time you want to head to a doctor because of something you could have prevented by sitting up straight in an ergonomic chair.

From a space-management perspective, if you do have kids at home, get them used to your office being your work area. Set boundaries and rules for them. “If you hear mommy or daddy on the phone while in their work area, don’t knock on the door unless it’s an emergency.”

Technical Connectivity

Ensure you’re working via Virtual Private Network (VPN) if at all possible. That’ll allow access to your work network and all digital resources. IBM’s Access Client Solutions (ACS) is a real winner here too. You don’t need to install it. It’s a quick download and config. So to mobilize a home workforce, you should highly consider using ACS from a simplicity standpoint alone.

Yes, you can run a NAT rule on your corporate firewall to allow direct access to systems. That’s a last-case resort. And if you do anything like that, you need to encrypt it.

Time Management

Keep track of your time. In case your boss doesn’t measure production by actual productivity, it’s good to have something to show what you’re up to all day.

Also, set defined working hours. Nobody can stop a late-night emergency call, but you shouldn’t be working much outside of working hours. Working from home is seductive. You can get caught up in your increased productivity pretty easily. Years ago, I used to think, “If you give your employees a smartphone, you get a 24-hour employee.” It’s still true today to some extent. I find my productivity has increased by a substantial margin. Nobody is at my desk or hovering in my office door wanting to chat. Nobody stops me on my way to the washroom or kitchen, other than the kids. But nobody wants to interrupt my work with more work.

Kids Management

I mentioned kids regarding space. Since school is canceled in many places, you have to also worry about what to do with the children. They need structure. If they don’t have structure, you can forget about your structure. If my kids don’t have structure, my house is like The Lord of the Flies.

It’s important for them to have play time, study time, reading time, backyard time, whatever. Have a schedule for them so you can be involved every so often to guide and direct, rather than throwing a fit when they get idle and run amok on your usually clean household.

Also, if they do come into your “office” with a question, you need to put down what you’re doing, give them 100 percent of your attention and answer the question. If you don’t, they will be back interrupting you over and over again. Do your best to satisfy their questions and desire for attention.

Home Behavior and Keeping Connected

Yes, it’s easy to now roll out of bed and onto a conference call. You may have the urge to sleep in due to the lack of commuting and get to work before you even put your pants on.

That’s a massive mistake. Get up and do your regular routine. Breakfast, shower, exercise. In an age of uncertainty and fear, you need to keep a sense of normalcy and control within the house. It’s good for your physical and mental health. It’s also good for your overall state of mind. After I get a shower, run the dog, and make breakfast for the kids, I go into “work mode.” A routine sets the expectation for yourself and anyone else you’re sharing space with.

Also, you need to go outside. See the sunlight. Breathe fresh air. Get those mental and physical health breaks.

With regards to keeping connected, you really need to use video conferencing. Seeing friends, family, and the people you work with every day needs to continue. It helps everyone feel connected and relatively normal. It helps satisfy your social requirements as a human being. At the time of this writing, I’ve been isolated already for about 14 days. I’ve done a couple of grocery runs, and I took the snowblower out and did five or six of my neighbors’ driveways. Talking to people from 20 feet away never felt so bittersweet. Biologically, we are social animals. You need that face-to-face contact with your work mates, and technology can help.

Meal Planning and Chores

That’s right. Meals and chores. You have a great opportunity to do right by your housemates. Everyone is eating at home more than usual. That means more dishes. More toilet paper. And so on and so forth. Set aside time to put a roast in the oven or fold a load of laundry. That way, you’re not rolling out of the “office” at the end or your workday, wondering why dinner isn’t done or the house is a mess. Do your part. It’ll pay off. And it’ll help keep you safer.

Set aside five minutes to sanitize the doorknobs. Set ten minutes to give the floor a quick vacuum. A clean house allows me to both relax and work successfully. It’s a control thing too. If you keep the things you can control under control, you’ll feel a little better while the world is falling apart outside.

This Too Shall Pass

Stay safe. Stay inside. Stay strong.

I’ll see you on the other side of this.

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Support MC Press Online


Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: