Working from Home — My Story

The virus changing our lives (Image obtained from Google).

Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives in ways we never imagined. It has forced some families to live apart for long duration, mentally impacted those who are either forced from work or are working from home. Those working from home at least have had the fortune of remaining employed enabling them to put food on the table for their families. Lots of business have been badly impacted with a number of them turning to government grants to stay them afloat. Here is Dublin, Ireland a number of well know restaurants operating for many years have been forced to close down permanently due to the pandemic.

Being Fortunate

I am among those fortunate persons, by the grace of the Al-Mighty Allah ﷻ, whose job was not impacted by the pandemic. In fact, with even the kids grounded for a good ‘6’ months, it helped lower the monthly expenses a little bit as well. But I was impacted at a family level with my mother unable to travel to Ireland as Ireland closed down all visit visa applications.

Initial Setup at Home

Having been in Ireland for no more than a few months, the setup at home was not ideal for working from home. I was able to bring in a large screen from my lab on the last day of office plus a keyboard and mouse to make working from a laptop easier. However, I didn’t have a custom office table and chair and had to initially work using the dining table and dining chair.

A New Work Chair

The dining chair was ditched in just a couple days as it was highly uncomfortable and I had to use my sofa, which was relatively better. However, it was certainly not ideal with the keyboard on my lap and somehow balancing the mouse of the sofa’s arms. Eventually I had to request for a proper chair from my lab which was thankfully accepted and I got the following chair:

Axis Premier office chair (Image supplied by the manufacturer)

This immediately improved my work environment. The dining table is somehow more suitable at the moment giving me enough space to put on a 34-inch wide screen LG monitor, my 14-inch laptop and a 19-inch screen for my occasional dabbling into Raspberry-Pi (though I mostly run it as headless with remotely working on it using SSH).

LG 34WK500-P screen (Image obtained from: sotel.de)

Partly Returning to Work

With the situation improving in Ireland, I returned to working partly from my lab in September. The first day back to lab was remarkable. I had barely settled down when I received a call from my daughter’s school saying she was showing some symptoms and I need to pick her up as she cannot go back on the school bus. We decided to keep our kids at home for the next few days to see how the symptoms progress. Although I also picked up very mild symptoms, they eventually passed away and me and my daughter also tested negative for Covid-19. But all this took more than 1 week and I eventually returned to my lab a fortnight after my initial visit.

Working from office was a better experience for me as I personally do not like to work from home. I find it hard to concentrate and stick to a fixed and proper schedule for working from home. I was ending up working late. It was starting to impact my health, both mentally and physically. Switching to part time working from office freshened me up. I was still working for 2 days from home (apart from weekends) but this arrangement was much better than before. The only down side of this was that Monday’s always felt as if returning from vacations and I had to motivate myself to travel to work (which is at least an hour commute on bus plus walk).

Another Lockdown

However, this foray into part time working from lab and home only lasted a few weeks before maximum lockdown was again imposed in Ireland to counter against rising Covid-19 cases. I was back again at home but this time I brought my desktop machine with me to further improve my work experience. This was a lot better than remotely logging in to my machine from home. The machine I had in lab was significantly better than my laptop (the specs are below) which helped me in my work. My laptop is not bad a machine but is nearly 5 years old with an Intel Core i5 and 16 GB of memory and running multiple heavy tasks as Matlab, Caffe, several Jupyter notebooks, multiple Chrome tabs, several PDFs etc. certainly takes a toll on my modest laptop.

Desktop Specification

Specification of my work desktop:

  • AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7 GHz 8-core, 16-thread processor
  • ASRock B450M Pro4 Micro ATX AM4 motherboard
  • Corsair Vengeance 32 GB DDR4–3000 memory
  • Samsung 860 EVO 500 GB SSD
  • MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Super with 8GB memory
Work Desktop (Copyright: Syed Asad Alam)

Further Modifications — USB and HDMI Switch

However, I was also assigned a module/course to teach in the Fall semester and since initially I was preparing the materials related to the module on my laptop, I had to find a way to use my screen and external keyboard/mouse with both my desktop and laptop. Switching the connectors back and forth was not feasible for obvious reasons and working from laptop at the edge of my table was not very work friendly. So in order to use the same screen and keyboard/mouse with both the desktop and laptop I bought the following two devices:

The USB and HDMI switch (Image obtained from Amazon.co.uk)

The USB switch allows connecting four input devices to two hosts. I got this idea after watching a random video on YouTube of someone demonstrating his home office setup. The switching is seamless through a simple push button. The HDMI switch allows connecting three sources to one HDMI sink, like my LG screen. It also comes with a remote for handy switching (which can also be done using the on-device push button) plus it also extracts audio enabling me to use the Audio from which ever active source I am currently using. The HDMI switch also seamlessly supported the wide screen resolution of my screen. The overall arrangement is as follows:

My work from home environment (Copyright: Syed Asad Alam)

Although not tagged, but the keyboard is a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard with a Tecknet Pro S2 wired USB mouse.The video below shows the seamless switching between my laptop and desktop.

Final Thoughts

So after nearly 7 months of lockdown, I was able to finally have a proper setup at home. The USB and HDMI switches are pretty neat and with just two button switch, I can shift between my desktop and laptop. This setup can be further enhanced by having a proper height adjustable office desk table and a much proper place at home.

Disclaimer:

I have not been paid to promote any of the devices and brands mentioned in this article. I just happen to use them and I have found them to be useful.

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A reluctant researcher, making the transition to industry. Opinions expressed in my posts are mine and not of my employer.

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Syed Asad Alam

Syed Asad Alam

A reluctant researcher, making the transition to industry. Opinions expressed in my posts are mine and not of my employer.

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