A reflection of my “work from home” days in 2020 – Part I

Honestly, I have never been a work-from-home person, at least not used to. When I was in school, I was the kind of student that only studies in the library or the classroom, very rarely in the dorm. When I started working and even after being a home owner, I am still the kind of person who come by the office during the weekend just because I feel more “productive”. Everyone faces different kinds of challenges and live in a different way due to the pandemic, and the biggest change to me is work from home.

As the pandemic is getting worse, I realized that we might be there for a long run, or frankly speaking, this might just be a permanent change that industries need to switch to. I started to accept and think about ways to reflect and consider options to improve my work productivity and personal comfort level and health.

There is a post where I will list some of the changes I observed and adopted and want to share this my readers.

Routine

Probably the most important part of working from home to me, is to establish a routine, one that suits you the best, your family/roomate the best and your team the best.

For me, I started by applying the same routine as if I was going to the office and then slowly came to the following schedule after trial and error:

  • Two meals a day: 8:30AM and 6:00PM: this is probably the biggest change to me as I used to have regular 3 meals a day and dedicated workout hours almost at daily level. During the pandemic, I changed and workout time become a luxury, frankly speaking only limited to light events like jogging, walking and some basic stretching. Having 3 meals turns out to be time and mentally consuming, inconvenient. I don’t feel the craving nor the happiness as I used to. Then I cut out my lunch and replace with snacks. To everyone’s surprise, it turned out to work great for me. For almost a year, my body weight has increased from 75kg to 80kg but most of the gain was at the first month or two, then it has been pretty stable since then.
  • Healthy food: “marry well”. I cannot over emphasize the importance of the quality of the food. Luckily, my lovely wife has been helping out preparing the food and meals and she is so well organized with usually a full weeks plan of what to eat with a great variety of diffrent kinds of food. All the raw ingredients have been ordered from Amazon Fresh. Our diet mainly contains high protein food like chicken, salmon, eggs, very little red meat and heavy in fruits, low fat and fiber.
  • unhealthy food: it might just be me, but sometimes I just become so craving for the “wrong” type of food, and my wife told me it is so visible that looks like I almost have my “menstruls cycle” for certain food. Later on, we agreed on having maximum two meals a week for restaurant take out (Pork Belly from Chinese food, or just classic Medium Pizza from Domino, hot dog or whatever the hell I want)
  • 4000 steps a day: “long sitting is dangerous”, regardless of how comfortable your work station is, getting out and have some outdoor time is essential to me. I tend to start having lower back pain and higher level of intensity and anxiety if I sit too long, like long hours meeting, coding, or gaming. Avoiding big blocks of screen time by even taking a 10 minute break makes a huge difference.
  • sleeping: I do have to acknowledge that I have one of the most comfortable bed and mattress and I am proud of that decision when we first got our place. I tend to stay up late and thought that “I am taking advantage” by staying 30 minutes extra late watching youtube videos but we all know those hours are just biological debt that you owe and need to pay back one way or the other. I tried to guarantee at least 7~8 hours of quality sleep. And sometimes a 30 minutes to 1 hour nap really really makes a difference if you simply don’t know what is wrong but hell as sure something is wrong.
  • dog: these days are the best time to have a pet if you don’t already have one, if so, maybe get two :). My wife and I were dogsitting neightbour’s corgi for a long weekend and it turned out we had so much fun. Afterwards, both of us agreed that having a dog is a responsibility that we will be able to fulfill and an experience that we both want to have. Having being a dog owner for 3 month. I don’t regret the decision a bit, neither of us. An interesting observation I made is now there is someone else in the room that you can blame to when your partner started being unreasonable. You can start making up execuses like “puppy doesn’t like what you just said” and by having a common goal, this made my wife and I bound better and act as a responsible couple. There are so many to just being a first time dog owner. However, keep in mind, dogs are the best friends.

Home Office Setup

Now, let’s move on to the physicals, there are so many things that a real corporate office can offer you even unconsciously, the face time with your team members, the great chichat with the funny guy on your group, etc, or even not realizing how good the soda drinks your office did offer.

Here I will try to list several things that I purchased which greatly improved my home office experience.

Standing Desk: There are times that you just cannot be away from your keyboard, back to back meetings that requires your full attention. Remember, long time sitting is as harmful as smoking. I know that there is no medical evidence proving that having a standing desk has positive effect on your health but it makes a difference to me. By sometimes lifting and shifting the workflow for one hour. I relaxed my hip, my shoulder, and neck so much by unconsciously stretching, changing my pose, relaxing my wrists or just overall more freedom than what you can do on a chair. Also a great opportunity to have your butt breathe the air a bit, there are many medical reasons to it, my friend. Previously, I have got myself a cheap standing desk, or more like a laptop stand, the challenge is that it is very unstable and feels like a wabble head that you have to carefully type just so your desk is not shaking. Even with the expensive standing desk that I have, it is still not as solid as a real desk, but for light typing and conference calls, it works great. If you are doing some intensive typing like documenting or blogging, standing desk overall might not be the greatest experince, or there must be a higher price that you need to pay.

Monitor: I used to have a decent Samsung 27 inch as the extended monitor for my laptop. It used to, or at least I thought it was working great, until I changed later this year. During the holiday season, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to purchase some devices and after some research, I made my mind to purchase a fancy 34 inch ultrawide gaming monitor. Honestly, it is probably the best purchase decision that I made this year. It is different, very different, and that difference can feel uncomfortable at the beginning but once you get used to it, it is just so much better. You not only have more screen real estate, but by having a single pane of glass without two monitors is just an experience you have to try before you judge. I switched from Mac to Windows also this year. In windows, there are some basic features where you can snap windows, multiple virtual desktops, adjust the split between windows etc. I personally feel this being my biggest productivity boost so as the comfort level. The video game that I happen to play DOTA2 also support ultrawide screen and many applications, youtube videos now is just a pure net new experience a regular 27 can never offer you.

Headset: I bought myself a Bose Quiet Comfort35 due to the annual big discount on Amazon. It might saved only one less cable on my desk but improved the cleanness by a lot. Now you can comfortably swing by the kitchen or even the bathroom without losing the context or flow of your meeting because of the wireless. To me, I have a balcony and sometimes, I even put on my headset and just walk doors to relief my dog while still being able to work effectively. Also, as a resident in Colorado, having a headsets comparing with earpod is that yours ears will thank you for that warm cover.

Keyboard: Full confession, I bought several keyboards this year, maybe too many. I got myself a Logitech Mx Key, KeychronV2 red and KeychronV1 Low Profile brown. Bottom line, all of them are very different and you start to realize certain keyboards work best in certain scanerios. In the end, I nowadays use the MX keys most for day to day for regualr typing like work, coding and others and my cheap REDDRAGON blue switches for gaming. Every now and then, I swtich between all these keyboards just to get some fresh feeling.

Mouse: I replace my previously wired Razer Deathadder Elite with Razer Mamba wireless. Don’t take me wrong, the previous mouse works great for several years, the only reason I made the swtich was because of the cleaness because of the wireless. The mouse feel virtually the same to me but the experience is wireless is just great. The standing desk that I have

Docking Hub: I brought home my DELL working hub from work which works really well with my windows laptop. I have two PC laptops and sometimes hooking up all the peripherals are the most annoying experience if you do it on a daily level, or multiple times a day. This hub is a pretty solid as it can offer sufficient power of not only directly powering all your devices and laptop at the same time, but at he same time, it makes the switching to be one cable only and all the peripherals are directly connected to the hub itself. It also keeps most of the connections a bit far away from you so you don’t have all the wires and devices all tangled together right in front of you.

Writing Board: A very important experience missing out in the WFH days is the “white board experience” that you can no longer doodle with your colleagues and brainstorm for solutions and technical ideas. Yes, you can share screen and all kinds of stuff but have you tried to use your mouse to write anything? it is very hard. I bought myself a basic version of writing board XP-pen start G6740. I can easily plug it in and start white boarding by using either the built in app of windows or use the draw feature in Powerpoint to have productive and quality writing experience that others won’t. The only thing that I might regret slightly is it is still wired and you need to plug it in, but given the infrequent usage and the cheap price, I can live with it.

Cable Organizer: Packaging and modularizing is a very important concept in software developer, when things become very complex and you can gain benefit and simplicity by abstracting one level above. As I started to have more cables, charging stations, I purchase myself a cable organizer just to bury the cables. It looks certainly cleaner and that is all I need.

Here is a list of a devices that I have mentioned in my home setup in case you are curious.

The pandemic is not easy, but as long as we can all have faith, an open mind for change, adjust and adapt, we will come out of the other side finally, strong and better. Hopefully this blog post is helpful to you, if so, leave in the comment what other things you want to learn about my workflows and all the links at the end are affiliated with Amazon, by purchasing using the link I provided might help me explore more options which I can share later. Thanks for your reading and happy working from home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s