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William George (Product Development)

Adjusting to Working from Home - William in Labs

Written on March 26, 2020 by William George
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Introduction

This is the first entry in a series of blog posts from various folks here at Puget Systems, showing how each of us are coping with the changes to our normal life and work routines during the COVID-19 quarantine. In this installment, William George shows his work-from-home setup and talks about the struggle to focus on work in the midst of a family of five.

These are strange times we are living in, huh? I have been working from home a couple times each month for a year or two now, so I already had a desk setup at home which works well for me - both for work and for play. Here is what it looks like:

William's work-from-home desk setup

William's work-from-home desk setup (please pardon the dust!)

Hardware

Here is an overview of my hardware & peripherals:

  • Serenity Pro style PC (but built myself, of course) with a Core i7 9700K, 32GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and a Samsung 970 Pro 512GB SSD
  • Asus ROG PG348 34-inch ultra-wide monitor, mounted to the wall above my desk (similar real estate to dual monitors, but taking up less space and better for gaming)
  • Logitech G710+ keyboard and G700s mouse (the same ones I use at the office, so that typing feels the same)
  • Blue Yeti microphone
  • Creative Labs Inspire T12 speakers
  • Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 450 wireless headset
  • Razer Stargazer webcam

There are a few other bits and pieces in there too, for personal and gaming stuff, but the list above is what's pertinent to working from home. I've also got hand sanitizer within close reach these days, of course!

Software

But that is just the hardware - an equally important part is the software I use to access systems in the office and keep in touch with my coworkers:

  • VPN through Windows 10 into the office, so I can access our file server and other stuff on the network there
  • IP-KVM (technically this is hardware too, but not on my end) for remote access to the test systems in Labs
  • Email & Slack for general communication with coworkers (we've used that for years, but I depend on it more without the option for in-person conversations)
  • Zoom for meetings (which is where the mic, speakers, and webcam come into play
  • Dialpad if I need to take an old-fashioned phone call (rare in my current position)

With all of that, I can do a large portion of my work remotely... the only thing I can't do, really, is swapping hardware on the test systems in Labs. When something like that is necessary, though, I can head into the office for a day - we are just careful to make sure that only one of us in Labs is there at a time, and to keep plenty of distance from those who are still working in other departments, to avoid the risk of spreading anything.

Tips & Tricks

The bigger difficulty I have run into with working from home is distraction. I have three kids great kids and a beautiful wife, all of whom I love to be around, but they are also going about their lives in the same small house where I am trying to work. My desk space is back in a corner of our bedroom, so it is somewhat isolated... but sound travels, and people are often coming in and out of the room too. I am getting better about focusing and avoiding or ignoring distractions, and here are some things that have helped me:

  • Listening to music on my headphones (usually via Google Play Music; I used to do this at the office sometimes too)
  • Sending the kids outside, weather permitting
  • Screen time for the kids, after they have finished their school work, done some reading, and gotten exercise

With the change of rhythm around the house, my wife has also set up a quiet space for her to read, journal, and listen to music or audiobooks across the bedroom from my desk. It is really nice to be able to be in the same room with her, even when we are both completely absorbed in our own stuff - and it makes communicating with her easy when we need to talk.

All in all, despite the stress of an unknown future and things going on in the world far beyond my control, I feel very blessed to have a job where I can keep working through this tough time. Being around family can bring its own stress sometimes, but it also means I can help out when needed while still providing for them financially. And of course, after hours I can relax with video games, talking to friends online, and keeping in touch with my church community using many of the same tools.

Tags: Working Remotely, Gaming, Hardware, Software

The day after I wrote this, my Turtle Beach headset cracked (and then broke entirely after I tried to super-glue it) on one side. I had used it for over four years, so I'm not too disappointed... but I needed a replacement fast, and after some research ended up going with a SteelSeries Arctis 7. So far I really like it!

Posted on 2020-03-30 17:37:56

I forgot to come back and provide an update to this... update. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 gave me trouble with frequent popping noises - after a fresh recharge it would be fine for about 30 minutes, but then it would come back again (and I can't charge it every 30 minutes throughout the day). I mostly used no headphones for a long time, but then got a Logitech G533 recently which exhibited similar issues. Realizing it must not be the headsets, I got input from coworkers and found out that using USB 3.0 ports for the wireless receivers on these devices often leads to interference. Even having the receiver itself close to a USB 3.0 port can do this on some computers. So for the G533, I now have it plugged into the USB port on the back of my Logitech G710+ keyboard - which itself is plugged into USB 2.0 ports on the back of the computer - and that has mostly resolved the audio problems I was having. It might have similarly fixed the Arctis 7, but I have given that to one of my kids and don't want to steal it back to test.

Also, I was recently able to upgrade my chair to a SecretLabs Titan XL (2020 model with softweave fabric instead of leather) - and it is fantastic! The seat itself is the perfect size, as it the backrest, for my body. I usually have to take armrests off of office chairs to be comfortable as well, but they are far off to the sides on this, and look to be further adjustable should I have need. Its not a cheap chair, but not the most expensive out there either, and so far I would highly recommend it!

Posted on 2021-09-17 23:01:01