Larry Ewing ( and The GIMP; Tux added protection by Maria

Larry Ewing ( and The GIMP; Tux added protection by Maria "Maz" Hess

The Dilemma of the Ten-Second Commute


Article from ADMIN 57/2020
The new work-from-home paradigm has both pros and cons.

Are you sick of being at home yet? Have you gained 10 pounds? Are you sore from perching yourself for 16 hours a day on the couch? Get used to it. I doubt things will ever return to "normal" again. Working from home is a liberating and an imprisoning experience. That short commute from your bedroom to your home office, couch, or dining room table is your new normal. But, it's not all bad, is it? Without that lengthy commute time to your office and back, you have time to ponder the universe, to pick up a new hobby, and to find new happiness with your significant other and children – and you have time to just count your blessings.

In 2001, my manager required us to work from home two days per week. At the time, where I live, dial-up was still a thing. Yes, it was even slow to us back then. We knew it was slow. When DSL finally came around, the company sprung for "broadband access" as a benefit. Yes, it was faster, but it was also a way of keeping us online more for work. Dial-up, as we found out later, wasn't particularly secure. Although the phone numbers weren't public, people with automated dialers would test an entire series of phone numbers for answering modems. Ah, those were the days, weren't they? Back when malicious attackers had to really earn their keep.

When we moved to DSL, cable modems, and other broadband access technologies, we used VPNs for added security. That helped a lot. And the company could track our connection times better to be sure we were working as many hours as possible. One of my coworkers once compared our work-from-home time as "the new slave labor." I didn't find it that problematic.

Yes, we spent a lot of time working. Rather than a typical eight to nine hours per day, we logged somewhere between 10 and 12 hours. We were also on call, and once the layoffs started in October 2001, our rotations were very short. In fact, after two rounds of layoffs, only two people remained who enjoyed on-call rotation in my group: my coworker and myself. One of us was always primary and the other secondary. Don't feel sorry for us. We were underpaid too. We were at least 20 percent below our colleagues. Don't make me go there.

As the work-from-home time moved from two days per week to full-time remote, we began to settle into a good routine. We were at our computers by 7:00am, ate at our desks, and didn't leave the desk until dinner time. Then it was back on for change windows and outage calls. And there were those pesky calls from our network operations center in the middle of the night. Ah, the good ol' days.

I worked remotely for 10 years until all the big companies brought everyone back into offices. What a transition that was. Returning to an office has its pros and cons as well. But now, in our time of self-isolation, those of us who've "been there and done that," have some advantages. We know how to manage our time. We know how to manage our meals. And, best of all, social distancing is a built-in feature. I love my 10-second commute. I don't love going into an office to work. I like working from home. Social distancing comes naturally to me. I'm more efficient at home. Plus, I like the freedom of being able to work in my summer uniform, a T-shirt and pair of shorts, and in my winter uniform, a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

I hope you find your 10-second commute and isolation time as refreshing as I do. For some of us, it's the better choice. Who knew that being a reclusive introverted nerd would ever equal survival? I knew, but I didn't have anyone to tell.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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