in Checking In

Highlights of 2020: Working from home

When Broadcom purchased CA (after CA purchased Rally), word came down that the Raleigh office would soon be closing. Broadcom CEO Hock Tan is a big fan of putting the butts of his employees into seats in his existing offices. Thus, he closed CA’s beautiful office in Boulder, Colorado for the drab suburb of Broomfield. Raleigh’s team got moved to a drab office park in Durham, and so I parted ways with Broadcom, not wanting to add a stupid, needless commute to my life.

I landed at my current job when it seemed to check all the boxes for me. Interesting work in an interesting location, downtown Raleigh. I could’ve worked somewhere remotely but having done that in the past I soon grew tired of missing the action going on in an office.

Fast forward to 2020. The COVID pandemic hits and it is suddenly not safe to spend 8 hours at a time crammed together with colleagues in a small office. This summer, my Tennessee-based employer shuttered its Raleigh office and set us up to work 100% remotely. To avoid shipping them (and because there really wasn’t any use to shipping them) I volunteered to store the company’s computer monitors until a new office could be opened.

I have since pressed a few of those monitors into service for our home workstations. Now Kelly and Travis could never go back to just their laptop monitors.

So once again I am back to working from home (WFH), only it’s different when WFH is the rule and not the exception. I don’t feel like I’m missing the action in an office since it’s a level playing field now. I have all the tools I need to manage my servers. Slack and Zoom keep me in touch every day. Occasionally my fellow engineers hang out on a video call just for fun. My gigabit-symmetrical fiber Internet connection is three times as fast as the old office’s.

I am a big believer in naps, now that I’m old. Working from home allows me to tack on a short nap to my lunch break, something I couldn’t do at an office.

Do I miss going into the office? You bet. I rode the bus into work most days. Other days I walked or rode my bike. My desk overlooked Davie Street facing south. I miss lunchtime walks around Fayetteville Street, meeting visitors to the city and giving them tips of things to see. I miss my “bus family” – the folks I saw every morning on the way in. I miss the team lunches and the team happy hours. Yet the office didn’t offer me any chances to collaborate that I don’t have here at home, since I’m essentially a one-man team.

The thing about working from home is to set clear expectations to yourself and others on when you work and when you don’t. It’s fine to step away to run errands or get fresh air but it’s also important to know when it’s “me” time. Just because you’re at home does NOT mean you’re available 24/7. Some work can be done “asynchronously,” sure, but coworkers can sometimes take advantage of you being at home and abuse this.

Kelly’s office also closed this summer, so she’s working full time here as well. As I mentioned earlier, this has set up some contention for our only office. We are lucky that we added new space to our home right before the pandemic hit, giving us more space to spread out. I can now work in the spare bedroom while Kelly does her calls in our office.

I can’t imagine how we would be managing this, though, if we had small children. It would be a herculean task to get anything done at my job while keeping young kids on track for schoolwork. My hat is off to those parents who are doing their best out there.

I hope I do get to return to an office someday. Being at home has its advantages but I need to let my extrovert side show some, too. With any luck this will be safe again this summer. Here’s hoping!