Working From Home – A Cautionary Tale

By Matt Killmon, Senior Engineer

A little over a year ago, I moved from my long-time home in the DC Metro area to Durham, North Carolina. This move was made possible largely by CHESA’s pre-existing geographically diverse client base, where most day-to-day work is done remotely. Going from working in a ‘half-and-half’ remote/on-site work style to an ‘almost entirely’ remote work style (with occasional on-site travel) has involved numerous adjustments – which I thankfully had the opportunity to make while not under threat from a global pandemic. Additionally, as a person who is now able to live alone, I definitely have an easier time of this than others. That said, I think my experience might still be helpful – even if only as reassurance. Or perhaps a cautionary tale.

The first thing I did was to set aside an area for work; the second bedroom in my apartment was perfect for this. Even if all you have is a “work desk,” I think it’s valuable to set aside an area that denotes “I’m in work mode now.” This left me without a desk for my personal computer setup, and its temporary location is an ergonomic nightmare. So I’m about to mess up this idea by replacing it with a huge L-shaped motorized standing desk. On the one hand, this will encourage me to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, which is hugely aspirational and makes me feel very much a part of the zeitgeist. On the other hand, the division between personal and work will now be “which side of the desk I’m facing”. Jury is still out on the efficacy of this plan—I’ll report back once I’ve gathered more data.

It’s also important to take breaks to walk around, eat, and get fresh air. I’m terrible at this, often getting absorbed in projects for hours and only realizing I’m hungry once I have a headache. And with pollen season in full swing, the uniform and undisturbed dusting on my balcony leaves little doubt about how often I step out to breathe in that fresh, North Carolina air. Don’t be like me—set a timer for breaks, an alarm for meals, or perhaps rig up an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine with a pointed stick or cattle prod if that’s what it takes.

A lot of folks have asserted that showering and getting dressed “for work” every morning is a good routine to maintain despite not attending the office. Anyone who claims they actually do this everyday is either a liar or an alien wearing a human suit and should not be trusted. Treat yourself to some comfy micro-modal lounge pants, soft cotton T-shirts, and fleece-lined hoodies. In these dark times, we need comfort wherever we can find it. And you’re worth it. (Do try to shower every so often, though, especially if you live with other people—they’re also, presumably, worth it.)

If you have children who are now home 24/7—and especially if you’re trying to juggle them and work on your own—good luck! Do whatever it takes to keep them and yourself alive. Remember, only God can judge you.

In summary, this hungry, isolated, pajama-clad computer gremlin looks forward to answering your support ticket in the near future. Rest assured, I’ll work on it longer than I should, and I’ll be extremely comfortable while doing so—whether I’m standing or sitting. And in all seriousness, best of luck out there, stay safe, and let’s get through this mess together.