Tip For Working From Home

Some people have the fortune of being able to work from home as part of their employment. Working from home, or telecommuting, can be extremely productive for a lot of people. It can also be counter productive if you’re not experienced at telecommuting. As a regular home worker, I have learned a lot of ways to make the valuable, non-interrupted time as productive as possible.

Routine

It’s important to keep your usual morning routine (apart from the travelling to the office part, obviously) to help switch your brain to work mode. Lounging around in your dressing gown with your laptop is something you can do on a Sunday morning, and you’ll struggle to associate the time with work.

My normal morning routine looks something like this:

  • 6:00 – Alarm goes off.
  • 6:05 – Have a cuppa and breakfast with the wife and kids.
  • 6:30 – Shepherd the kids into their uniforms for school.
  • 7:00 – Get a shower and get dressed for work.
  • 7:20 – Shepherd the kids into coats and shoes ready to leave.
  • 7:30 – Leave to drop the kids off at various locations.
  • 7:50 – Leave the hometown en route to work.
  • 8:20 – Arrive at work.

My “working from home” routine is pretty much the sames:

  • 6:00 – Alarm goes off.
  • 6:05 – Have a cuppa and breakfast with the wife and kids.
  • 6:30 – Shepherd the kids into their uniforms for school.
  • 7:00 – Get a shower and get dressed for work.
  • 7:20 – Shepherd the kids into coats and shoes ready to leave.
  • 7:30 – Leave to drop the kids off at various locations.
  • 7:55 – Arrive back home ready for a day of work.

Since I usually wear a work branded polo shirt and jeans for work, I usually just wear them when working from home. Your mileage may vary if you have to wear a suite though.

Workspace

It’s important to have somewhere to work from while telecommuting. Sitting on your sofa with your laptop might seem like a great idea, but take it from me, you will soon get too comfortable and start slouching. Then you start to become distracted and turn the TV on. This is fine if you can work like that, but I bet your productivity is affected.

The best scenario is having a desk and a comfortable office chair to sit in, preferably in a different room to the hustle and bustle of your house, if there are other family members home. If you don’t have a desk, the dining table is a good alternative, providing enough space to spread your work out a little and key coffee cup support within arms reach.

Connectivity

The vast majority of work is performed on laptops these days. Unless you are simply writing a proposal and you don’t need internet connectivity, then you need to think about connectivity.

In some cases, a straight WiFi connection will suffice for access to emails and the internet, but you might need to consider access to internal business systems. Since each company is different, contact you ICT department to find out what options are available to connect to the resources you require for your job.

The company I work for offer a device called a Teleworkers Gateway. This device plugs into my own router and gives me the options of either a “work” WiFi connection, or a cabled Ethernet connection. They also offer a software VPN solution but the Teleworkers Gateway is the simpler and more convenient option.

Welfare

The beauty of working from home is having unlimited coffee without feeling obliged to make one for everybody else in your office each time. Just make sure you stop for lunch at your normal time.

Another benefit of working from home is your bed. Seriously. Feeling a bit burnt out by lunchtime? Have a 45 minute nap. You’ll be nice and refreshed and more productive in the afternoon.

Moderation

Like all good things, telecommuting should be used in moderation if it isn’t your primary working arrangement. Working from home is great when you need to focus on a particular task without the interruptions of the office. Do it too much though, and people get used to you not being in the office and start calling, emailing and instant messaging you more, thus increasing the interruptions you were trying to avoid.

tado – An Honest 1 Year Review.

A little over a year ago I was excited to receive my new tado smart thermostat. When it dropped on the doorstep I couldn’t wait to get it installed and it was actually up and running in less than half an hour before I had to go to work. The instructions provided were tailored to my setup based on the boiler and existing thermostat and were easy to follow, although an “expert” mode would have been nice as I’m familiar with central heating wiring to start with. The included extras were a big plus though, including everythin one might need for the installation. 

Configuration of schedules isn’t as simple as I had imagined it would be. Having to add new sections which tweaked the sections either side of them, which made the process quite tedeous. The only real positive was the fact you only need to spend the time once when first setting up the tado. 

Location based control using the family’s phones worked suprisingly well and was pretty accurate. Not having to worry about turning the heating off before leaving the house was very convenient and having the house warm when we returned improves the whole coming home in the dark after work depression. It also worked well for when the kids return from school before me and the wife, not having to worry about teaching the kids how the heating system works was great.

The thermostat itself is pretty vanilla looking which I suppose makes its integration into your room decor pretty pain free. Unfortunately though, the thermostat isn’t particularly user friendly or responsive. I seemed to find myself standing in front of the thermostat far longer than I used to with the old thermostat, just to turn the temperature up a degree or two. 

Unfortunately the experience continued to decline from there. Tado promised apple HomeKit integration “soon” which was one of the selling points for me personally. There was also talk of an Apple Watch app too, which could have been excused if HomeKit integration was available. After a year of “2nd quarter” then “third quarter” and so on as a release date though I pretty much gave up on HomeKit integration. Then I received an email claiming it would be available within a month and to contact support to arrange a replacement tado bridge to enable it. Then the release was delayed again. Then again. I wish I was exaggerating. It’s even more insulting that they have managed to release radiator valves in the same time frame.

Then came the fabled savings touted on tado’s website. According to their website a house the same age and same size as mine should see over €1,000 saving. I knew this was far fetched, but I wasn’t prepared to see the actual savings I made on gas over the period of 12months. £33. Again, I wish I was exaggerating but unfortunately not. This means my tado cost me £110 in the first year. Nothing like what was implied on tado’s website. 

Last week I received an email from tado reminding me that my next annual subscription was due, which is upwards of £100. After contacting tado to voice my concerns and receiving no reply other than automated “we’re sorry it’s taking so long” messages I was fed up with tado’s customer service. I then emailed them again to tell them to cancel my subscription and send a box to return my tado. I’m yet to receive a response three weeks later. 

While I like the idea of smart thermostats and understand the concept of energy efficiency using technology, tado isn’t a product I would endorse. Don’t get me wrong, it has worked reliably since the day I got it, but the lies, broken promises and lack of customer service to back their technology leaves me disappointed at best. Since central heating is imperative to the comfort and health of my family, tado is now back in it’s box waiting to be collected and there is a nest on my wall in it’s place. At the end of the day, the nest was only £30 more to buy outright than the next annual tado subscription, so it was a no brainier really. Plus it looks way cooler. And it’s easier to use. And the schedule is far superior. 

Novels: Read or Watch First?

I recently finished reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The books already released anyway. Having never read any fantasy novels before I was blown aware by the first book, A Game of Thrones, which is of course also the title of the popular TV series based on the collection. I never imagined how immersive a fantasy novel could be and found myself reading for hours on end, completing the series of books in a few weeks between work and around family time.

The problem with finishing a good book, or series of books for that matter, is what to do next. Obviously there are still books to come out of the Song of Ice and Fire series yet, but I don’t want to wait for Mr Martin to pull his thumb out and finish them. Eventually I decided to start watching the TV series in the hope of filling the empty void the remaining books have left. I soon realised this was a huge mistake!

Now before all the Game of Thrones fans out there grab their pitch forks and torches and come searching for me in the quest for blood, let me explain. While I’m sure the TV series is wonderful from beginning to end, the characters and settings are nothing like the ones in my imagination. This totally spoils the experience for me. In fact, it spoiled the experience so much I had to stop watching midway through the first season so as not to squash my hunger for the new books in the series.

On the other side of the coin, however, I recently read The Hobbit after watching the movie. I found that since I’d seen the movie first I already knew what the director’s interpretation of characters and locations looked like, meaning the characters and scenes in the book were already formed in my head from the moment I started reading.

Unfortunately this order of consumption also has its problems though. Since I no longer required my imagination to form the world depicted in the text, and the events that take place during he adventures or Mr Baggins and friends, the overall reading experience isn’t as immersive as I think it could have been had I formed my own interpretations of the characters’ attributes. Then again the movie doesn’t contain nearly as much detail or dialogue as the books, leaving at least some ragged strands of meat on the bone for my imagination to pick at.

I don’t see a way to solve this dilemma of mine and I’d be interested in hearing suggestions from others. At the minute I think I’ll need to either read the book(s) or watch the movie or TV programme for each series, and not both.

Substituting Smoking: Blogging

Temptation is a funny thing. As somebody just three days into the process of quitting smoking I have learned that first hand.

Finding alternative things to occupy my mind whenever I get tempted seems to be the best approach however. For instance, I have just written a 2,800 word blog post based on an IT project I completed just before Christmas. I’d been wanting to write a post about it due to the lack of reliable information I found online while I was working on the project, but never found the motivation. Probably because I knew how long-winded it would be and I had better things to do with my time. Yet here I am three hours later, proud of finding the motivation to finally complete the post, and still smoke free. Find the post here if anybody is strangely interested in SIP

So next time you’re tempted to pop outside in the freezing cold, miserable winter weather for a sly fag, blog instead!

via Daily Prompt: Tempted

New Year, New Habits, New Hobby

Another year has disappeared into almost distant memory in what seems like a few days. As I reflect on the events of 2016 I’m genuinely concerned for the outcome of some of the stupid choices made by the british public around EU membership and what lies ahead as lying arseholes in suits steer us into uncertain waters. Then just as I thought shit couldn’t get any worse, Trump won the election across the pond. For fuck sake!

Anyway, those idiotic decisions are in the past and we, as in I, need to look forward to what lies ahead for me and my family.

My first oder of business is to clean up my act when it comes to my health. As a smoker of around 15 years I have decided to quit smoking finally. It’s an idea I have toyed with for several years but never really put the effort in. Now however my smoking, and the inherent inability to walk up stairs without panting like a pit bull, is getting in the way of my other health related goal. Loose weight.

Over the past few years sheer laziness and far too many take-aways have seen my weight rise from 15 stone to over 19. I used to love going mountain biking on a regular basis. Whenever I wasn’t on a mountain I’d go for a ride locally and clock up roughly 20 miles a time. Nowadays though my bike is lucky if it gets out once every six months and the last time I checked my Just-Eat account had seen over £1,500 in the past 12 months. It’s shameful when I think about it.

I’ve already made the first step of stopping smoking and slapped a nicotine patch on my arm. So far it seems to be doing the trick, however the first smoke of the day still has a much stronger draw than my will power at the minute.

As for the weight loss, I think the first and foremost challenge will be cutting out take-aways, or at least drastically reducing the amount I eat. Then hopefully the excess weight will shift from my gut to my wallet. After some exercise of course, hopefully of the mountain biking flavour.

So to make a long story short, although I’ve just told it anyway, my three resolutions this year, or at least new habits I need to form, are as follows:

  • Stop smoking
  • Get more exercise
  • Eat more healthily (and less take-away)

As for a new hobby for 2017 (as if I need another one) I have purchased a DJI Phantom 3 drone. It’s great fun to fly and I’m well impressed with the quality of the video and images that come out the other end once I’ve had my fun. It’s already crashed into a brick wall which jumped out of nowhere though… It’s a good job replacement propellers are cheap enough. The kids love chasing the drone around the field too, which is another win, although they haven’t managed to catch it at 200 ft of altitude yet.