So You Are Working From Home
2020-05-01 | 8 min read
I am fortunate to be at Keysight, a company that actually does care deeply about the wellbeing of the people that work there. The company is mandating that all employees who can do so without impacting their jobs work from home. Good for the employee, good for the company, good for the community. Flatten the curve, everyone wins.
For many, particularly those on geographically diverse teams, this is nothing new. Many of you have been working from home for years and some may even have the social deficits and challenges maintaining appearance that go with it (I jest). However, for many this is a new thing and it is worth taking at look at strategies you can employ to ensure a best possible outcome. Who knows, you may come to find that you like not having to fight your way through traffic even when there is no raging pandemic to deal with.
For the individual:
If you are going to work from home, you are going to need some basic infrastructure. Regulars probably already have an office or office-like area set up complete with desk, one or more displays (HD at a minimum, 4K+ is better with multiple 4K+ displays being ideal) set up. Yes, it is possible to work off a laptop, but with many laptops still featuring HD screens or in the case of Apple even retina displays that emulate lower resolution displays, on-screen real estate is limited, making many workflows challenging and time consuming at best.
If you are going to be using your home office more than in the past, you may also want to do an ergonomics check on your working environment. Do you have a decent chair with reasonable lumbar support? Do you have the keyboard that you use at the right height relative to the chair? How about standing options? Is the monitor at the right height? Small things that did not matter if you were just checking a few minutes of email before bed can become big things when amplified over 8 hours (or 10 or 14) a day.As you work out your WFH plan, don't forget proper caffeination and its vital impact on maintaining QoS
How about your internet service? Working from home often puts new strains on internet connections. Nothing like doing a screen sharing session over Webex to test not only bandwidth but also jitter and other aspects of your internet connection. This may be a good time to check your account and if it makes sense opt in to higher tiers or more bandwidth. Offerings are constantly improving and if you are on a cable modem but currently have service slower than 1 Gbps you may be in for a pleasant surprise. While real guaranteed QoS shuts down best effort every time, throwing a bigger pipe at the problem of network connections rarely has made things worse and if you end up in a situation where one or more adults end up working from home while kids are banned from school streaming all day you may need that extra bandwidth.
One of the perks I came to depend on at Keysight when in the office was the ready availability of pushbutton espresso. One thing you may want to include in your WFH plan is how to address quality caffeination challenges. Maybe you are one of the 1% and already have a massive Delonghi or La Spaziale in the kitchen next to the Jenn Air gas range. If not and you don’t want to fuss over grinding beans, there are a variety of Nespresso compatible instant espresso machines. Many are compact, not much wider than a coffee cup and considerably smaller than most toasters with multiple options for less than $200.
If you are not already encouraging (or mandating?) that those who can work from home do so, you should strongly consider it. Nothing is more important than your people and few things will do more to help ensure the long term well being of your workforce than encouraging social distancing to help slow the spread of Corona.
Do you have any sort of official policy in place with regards to supporting WFH user environmental and hardware requirements? Can they take their monitors home? Can they expense gear for home offices like monitors? Do you have any official ergonomics guides for home users? Do you have approved standing desk rigs or keyboard trays? Businesses facing sudden change often also face sudden challenges at the same time. Depending on how you have architected your remote access program, the magnitude of your challenges may vary. One thing that would be helpful is to actually understand how well your network can perform under load - and under new loads imposed by a large percentage of users shifting from on-prem to remote work. How is this impacting VPN use? Are there on-prem resources that a significant number of newly remote users are going to need to use or have many things already moved to the cloud?
One way to deterministically know how things are going to stand up is to use a performance monitoring system that does active or synthetic monitoring, such as Keysight Hawkeye. Active monitoring - or synthetic monitoring if you prefer, is the process of using simulated, or synthetic traffic, to test the performance of your network. In contrast to older approaches which would let users bang on the network and then squawk should something go awry, synthetic monitoring actively probes the network in order to find those problems before users do. Far better to be in proactive mode fixing things before they are perceived as broken then reacting to tickets that have been filed by users who are already probably under stress from things like cancelled trips, displaced kids, melting 401ks etc. Loss, jitter, delay and sensitive application performance metrics like VoIP MOS scores all help you understand where you stand and arm you with the dynamic network intelligence you need to make the right technical decisions to help support business initiatives - including supporting massive new WFH initiatives.
Anyway, wash your hands, limit exposure and stay safe. While you are here, why not take Hawkeye for a free test drive?
Thanks for reading.