Working from Home During the Pandemic

I’ve been exclusively working from home now for over a year. The last day I was at the office was Friday, February 28, 2020. At that point, I decided the risk of getting on public transportation and being around hundreds of co-workers was too high.

Early during the next week, we stocked up and beat the rush on supplies and toilet paper, which allowed us to not shop for several weeks. In retrospect, we were probably a little too concerned (for example, we let mail sit for a couple of days before opening it, even though fomite transmission has later shown to not be a problem), but we just didn’t know. And it was relaxing to not need to go anyway.

I had a pretty good setup at home already, with a standing desk and two vertical 20″ screens (which I’ve had since early in grad school). I got the standing desk because standing was the only way I my infant daughter would let me work. The standing desk definitely saved my back. Early on, I also used a $300 subsidy from my employer Oracle to buy a 27″ 4K monitor. The screen real estate without having things split between the 20″ monitors definitely helps. I just wish I had got a 32″ 4K monitor. On the 27″, the pixels are too small.

Our schedule has definitely changed. My commute from home to work was actually pretty good, but I nonetheless save about 2 hours combined. This has allowed us to actually work out every morning. Again, if we hadn’t started that in March 2020, this past year probably would have been much less healthy for us. I’ve read that about 60% of Americans have had undesired weight changes (mostly gains) during the last year. Our weight has stayed the same, but we’ve definitely gained muscle mass. I don’t think I’ve ever been this fit on a whole-body level. My legs are less fit than during climbing season, particularly the 2017 Rainier season, but overall, my body is doing great.

I probably still spend more time working than I did before. Especially in the beginning, in March and April 2020, it was difficult for me to set boundaries. I worked early, I worked late, I worked a lot. That was draining, and I had to find the self-discipline to not look at the work computer even though it is right there. In general, self-discipline has become much more important.

Initially, I thought I’d quarantine and work from home for maybe a month or two. Now we’re reaching the end of month 13, and it will still take a few more month for sure, even though an end is in sight.

Microsoft recently announced that they are letting employees back on campus, even though they are still encouraging employees to work from home. Oracle hasn’t made that announcement yet, and I don’t think anyone will be required to come back at least until they are vaccinated, but Microsoft’s announcement made me search my feelings about returning to the office.

I’ve realized I’m not close to ready.

I anticipate it will be a few more months, maybe three, of working from home exclusively. And even after that, I plan to work from home most days of the week. There simply are lots of benefits, and my team and I have demonstrated that we can be productive even though we work remotely.


About Mathias

Software development engineer. Principal developer of DrJava. Recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
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