Life during the COVID-19 lockdown

Given the state that the world is in right now, many companies, mine included, offered their employees the option of working from home. I decided to jump on the "working from home" bandwagon and write an entry describing how I personally managed it.

Hardware

A few days before the state of emergency took effect, I bought an HP monitor, a Logitech keyboard and the cheapest mouse I could find. With this, I set up an impromptu workstation for the days to come.

I chose this monitor because it supports both HDMI and Display Port. I use the former with my work issued laptop and the latter with my own Thinkpad. The choice of keyboard was driven by the lack of an alternative. Most of the keyboards I was shown looked like cheap knockoffs of popular brands. As for the mouse, I picked the cheapest one because I'm not a heavy mouse user, and I figured any mouse would do the trick. I regretted this decision when I found out that the mouse sometimes releases mid-click, which results in some nasty mouse slips when playing chess.

As far as internet connectivity goes, I either tether with a 3G+ tablet or I plug a prepaid 3G SIM card into the Thinkpad itself. I was surprised to find out that it actually does come with a SIM module. The internet speed is good enough for my needs despite it being "only" 3G. It can handle calls, Youtube and the occasional download without stutter.

Speaking of calls, I've been using my Nokia 3310 headset because I forgot to buy one. It gets the job done, but doesn't do well in windy areas.

I also got a cheap table like those you see in cafés. I like working in the open, so when the clock strikes 4 or 5 PM, I'll grab my laptop and head to the roof where I finish my work and get my daily dose of sunlight.

Total cost : 1100 (monitor) + 160 (keyboard) + 30 (mouse) + 100 (table) = 1390 DH, roughly $140 not counting the data plan which amounts to $1 per GB.

Photo taken with my calculator

Software

Not much has changed in terms of software except for the introduction of Microsoft Teams. It runs well on my Ubuntu install and supports screen sharing and video conferencing, three criteria that encouraged us to choose it.

A lot of times I find it easier to record a video of my screen rather than typing out a lengthy explanation. For this end, I use Maarten Baert's simple screen recorder. I've been using it for a couple of years because it fulfills its role nicely: a simple screen recorder.

Daily routine

I start the day by taking part in the daily standup meeting we hold via Teams. Don't tell the scrum master, but I actually do it while sitting down. The meeting starts at 9, so I usually wake up ten to fifteen minutes earlier to get ready. Once the meeting is over, I head downstairs to have breakfast and get coffee. I then proceed to work until about 1 or 2 PM, depending on the workload. I prepare a simple lunch that usually consists of (rice | pasta | couscous) + (fish | chicken breast | lentils) + (1 | 2) tablespoons of olive or argan oil, depending on the mood. Sometimes I get adventurous and dump 20g of sticky mozzarella goodness in there. I try to time it so that it coincides with the Dohr prayer, this way I take care of the religious rituals while the meal is cooking, thus killing two birds with one stone.

I like to eat lunch while watching something. These days I'm rewatching the 2016 Berserk adaptation because the lockdown is not depressing enough. I find that eating while watching something encourages me to eat more, because whatever it is that I'm watching distracts me from the blandness of the food I cook.

An hour later, I get back to work with a full stomach and a cup of tea. At around 5 PM, I go to the roof and finish work in the aforementioned table.

I shut down the work laptop at around 6 or 7 PM depending on the workload and the time I spent on non work-related tasks. Sometimes lunch prep and eating takes more than an hour, so I make sure to factor that into the work schedule. This is usually when I wind down in front of my own laptop with a bowl containing a milk/amlou/oatmeal mixture. I like to relax and see what's new on Reddit, Twitter and/or 4chan, do some chess puzzles and some recreational programming. A lot of times though I'll head to the basement and exercise for a bit. Nothing too heavy, just enough to get my heart rate going. My workouts mostly consist of bodyweight exercises like pull ups, push ups and the like. As a bonus, here's a clip of me awkwardly juggling a ball in our grey, cold, poorly lit, dust-covered, rat infested, likely-haunted basement :

I have no explanation for the flailing hands

Verdcit

Working from home has been (and still is) an interesting experience. I've personally not a big fan of WFH because it causes work to leak into your personal life, but it does have its perks.

Pros

  • Working in comfortable yet embarrassing clothing
  • No commutes
  • You can take care of errands in parallel
  • Coworkers are just one video call away
  • Generally less interruptions
  • You have control over your work space
  • You save money on transportation and eating out

Cons

  • Work-life boundaries become difficult to enforce
  • Lack of human companionship. Even if you speak to a coworker via video call, you're essentially talking to a floating head
  • Exacerbates the sedentary lifestyle because you're more likely to do things at home. As a consequence, you tend to be less physically active throughout the day

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