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March 23, 2020

We’re All WFH Too – Here's What We’ve Learned

Veracoders, like many of you, are facing the new reality of working from home, all day, every day. We have some employees who were already working 100 percent remotely, but also many who were accustomed to life in the office and are making the big shift to remote life.

So, it’s not surprising that some Veracoders are completely prepared for this new way of life and some are, well, working with what they have.

 My desk setup       Office Setup

Yes, that’s my cramped workstation on the left, compared to a seasoned remote Veracoder with a pretty epic office setup on the right.

I should add, our life in the office was great. Before this global problem, I worked out of our office in Burlington, Massachusetts, and it’s a pretty special place, so this has been an adjustment. We’re a collaborative bunch – from bagels in the café on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, to 404s on Friday evenings, monthly town halls, and twice a year Hackathons – you get the idea. We hung out together a lot!

And now we’re asking ourselves, how do we keep that spirit alive? How do we stay sane, productive, and connected – especially when all the kids are home too? We’ve all been sharing our tips, tricks, and advice over Slack, so we thought it might be good to share so everyone can learn from our experiences. We’ve also been asking our more experienced remote workers to share their best practices.

Keep up with your normal morning routine

When you don’t need to head into an office building every day, keeping up with your regular morning routine can help you level-set your mind. Whether that means taking a shower and getting dressed (in something other than pajamas) or sitting down in a comfortable chair to go through your morning email-checking tasks, practicing these regular routines is a great way to set the tone for the day. You may not need to go to an extreme like this gentleman, but any semblance of normalcy will help.

Make your workspace functional and comfortable

As Veracoder Marcus Watson shared, it’s important that you treat your back right when you’re working from home. “Look after your back. If you're going to be working from home for an extended period of time, a comfy chair is essential,” Marcus says. “Dining chairs are great for a 30-minute meal, but if you're at your desk for a while, consider investing in an office chair with good back support. I have a local company that sells second-hand office supplies and that's where I got my desk and chair from.”

It’s important, he says, to also see if there’s a way to use a proper monitor so that you’re less likely to slouch and add lumbar support to your chair by using a pillow or rolling up a towel.

Marcus's Setup

Marcus has an impressive at-home desk setup with a microphone for clear calls and a light that he can adjust during video chats. And he keeps a friend with him, too. Notice the yellow duck? Rubber duck debugging is something Marcus practices while at home; it helps him debug code by explaining it line-by-line to the duck, which is especially handy when programmers don’t have a coworker nearby. 

Don’t stress about inevitable interruptions

We’re all in the same boat as we adjust to working from home, and that comes with everyday distractions like noisy family members or pet interruptions. These are inevitable. Don’t stress if your daughter pops up in the background of a video call (unless you're being interviewed by BBC news, that's not good) or your dog barks at the Amazon delivery driver when you’re on the phone with your boss. These things will happen, and your coworkers should understand. 

Veracoder Ryan O’Boyle has a great tip for combatting interruptions: “I have a smart bulb in my office that I use to let my family know I’m on a call. When I’m joining a call I trigger my “ON AIR” scene and it lights up red. Haven’t had much luck with it preventing pet intrusions though.” What a bright idea.

If you have a jam-packed meeting schedule one day and you know you’ll need that peace and quiet, try taking shifts with your spouse, partner, or another family member. They can keep the kids and pets busy if need be and give you a break in the process. Mimicking your office environment will help you set boundaries, too. Veracoder David Buckle not only has a similar equipment setup at home as he does at work, but also his Veracode-branded desk necessities came with him. 

David's Office       David's WFH office

David explains: “I have tried to make my temporary WFH office as much like my normal office desk including Veracode branded/themed items.”

Try new learning techniques with your kids

The luster of school closures can wear off fast when kids sit down to open the same books day after day. If they get fussy over the material, try alternatives like interactive educational video games that will keep them engaged and busy. Check your online communities too. Teachers and parents alike are sharing ideas, tips, and even frustrations with each other. You can also browse hashtags like #homeschooling on social media to gather inspiration for keeping kids productive and interested.

Display a schedule in your personalized workspace

At home, it’s all too easy to work past normal office hours. You can skirt around this issue by following a clearly defined work schedule for yourself, even if it means setting alarms on your phone so that you remember when it’s time to shift gears. This will prevent you from working at night, too, which can disrupt your sleeping schedule – unless you’re naturally a night owl. 

Veracoder Jim Jastrzebski shares this great tip for leaping over scheduling hurdles: “Someone very smart once told me that most people don't schedule their work, they schedule interruptions to their work - like meetings. Scheduling the important, no matter what it is, is a good practice.”

Personalizing your workspace just like you tailor your schedule to daily tasks and to-dos can help you get into the groove. It'll feel more like home—or in some cases, more like your home-away-from-home office space, which I know I'm missing right now just like many of you. 

Doug's office       Doug's home office

Veracode's own Doug Wilcox shares the above photos of his too-cool office desk (left) and equally awesome home workspace (right).

Set a defined schedule for your kids, too

Schedules are essential for kids, pandemic or not. Use a whiteboard or piece of paper to write out their schedules for schoolwork, food breaks, playtime, and other essential activities. If you set these items with clear time commitments, it’s easier for kids to stick to a structured schedule and check off their to-do boxes every day. Everyone wins.

Veracoder Darren Meyer shares this tip: “Don’t try to work the normal whole day through. Schedule work blocks followed by hanging out with, playing with, etc. the kids. I work about 2-3h and then take an hour with my kids. I still get 8-9h a day, my day just ends later.”

And if you decide not to follow a schedule, word to the wise—your kids may try to scare you with the latest “smoking toilet” meme that’s floating around the internet.

Overcommunicate with family and set physical boundaries

Overcommunication and clear boundaries are essential when uncertainty and isolation begin to take their toll. Make sure that children and partners recognize your work schedule and understand that you’re sticking to it every day. If need be, designate a defined “private space” that you can claim should you need to escape for an important call or focus on finishing a project. Those physical boundaries might be just what you need to get through daily distractions.

Rob's Office

Veracoder Rob Layzell carved out a workspace for himself at home, and it looks cozy!

Remember to take physical breaks throughout the day

Physical activity can change drastically when you’re isolated at home. Get some fresh air and go for a walk, do some exercises, or take up a virtual yoga class. If your coworkers are struggling to remember their own physical breaks, set up group chats on Slack or Teams and encourage each other to step away from the screen every so often.

You can even break for housework tasks that you rarely get the chance to tackle; you’ll feel more productive throughout the day and reduce the risk of uncomfortable tension and pain that comes from makeshift desk setups at home.  

Schedule calls and video chats with coworkers to catch up

When the lines start to blur between work and home life, you might forget to check in on the coworkers that you regularly catch up with at the office. Reaching out and having non-work-related conversations with your coworkers helps shake the cobwebs of isolation and brings a sense of normalcy to your schedule (cats optional).

Toshi the helper

Veracoder Suzanne Ciccone enjoys breaks with her furry coworker Toshi (when he’s not sitting on the keyboard, that is).

Some Veracoders are making it a point to schedule morning coffee catchups that are helpful for boosting morale and setting the tone for the day. If you’re feeling extra disconnected, consider having lunch with coworkers over Slack or Zoom video chat to regroup and break up the workday. It’s a small gesture that will make a big impact.

We’re all in this together

Maybe a little cliché, but it’s true. We’ve seen it here at Veracode – despite the uncertainty, stress, and sudden shift in routines, Veracoders as a group have been incredibly positive and supportive of each other and our customers over the past week (and surely, beyond). I said at the beginning of this blog that Veracode is a special place. Clearly, that applies regardless of whether we’re sharing an office or not.

We’ve also seen the support and idea-sharing across the country and world. In that spirit, we’re thinking about more blog posts on working in this new reality – if you have any tips, stories, or best practices, send us a note on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Stay safe out there, everyone! 

 

Meaghan McBee is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Veracode, responsible for creating content around best practices in application security and the current state of DevSecOps.

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