The Pandemic Work Load

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Pandemic Work Load

  • Yes, we've had a noticeable increase in workload. I work for my state's health department, so we've been and continue to be very involved in the fight against the Coronavirus. Early on I was working until 10:30 PM. And I was one of the lucky ones. The DBAs were all working until 1 or 2 AM, going to bed, then getting up at 7 AM to go back to work, to do it all over again.

    Its not as crazy as that now, but its still long hours. I'm just glad that I'm still working from home, otherwise I'd never seen my family. I'm required to ride a train to work, because it is such a long commute. That train only has certain hours of operation. If I were to leave work each day I do now, I'd miss the last train heading home in the evening.

    Rod

  • Ugh, that's a crazy schedule. This is something we're likely to still live with for 6+ months, so having reasonable hours is important.

  • The main challenge is when a company adopts a new technology how to address things you learn when a group of you can just huddle and work through each other's code.  Different people have different ways of learning and working remotely does restrict certain approaches to learning.

    I'm partially deaf so I find that Zoom/Teams calls require far more cognitive effort simply to process what is being said let alone processing the content of what is being said.  A lot of non-verbal cues are reduced on a 2D screen.

    January is always a surge month.  The issue I am finding is that a lot of the things I do outside work that would recharge my batteries have not been available since early 2020.  I am going into a busy period with my batteries nearly flat.

     

  • I'm in the UK too ... I expect my IT challenges over the last 12 months are much the same as everyone else.

    We have always had "capability" to work from home as part of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. About 10% of our workforce have always worked from home - employed in geographically distant location, or are "mobile" and thus rarely visited the office. That remote-working capability was based on a digger going through the cable in the road outside the office ... or a prolonged powercut, maybe even a once a century storm ... with the intention of sending everyone home for a day, maybe a week at most. Not "forever" ...

    As such our systems were intended to be sufficient to make-do over that period; a shared server for remote access which was very slow when an "unusually large number of users" connected. First action was to enable people to "remote" into their office PC, instead of the shared servers. And then having someone in the office to reboot any PC that needed it 🙂 ... simultaneously with that we bought fire breathing dragon servers to host everyone in VMs. That took us a few months, was something we had planned to do for some time (like so many other things ...) and now that is done we are critical of why we didn't do it sooner! That rollout gave IT some headaches basically working from home to rollout updates to virtualise the whole community on brand new servers 🙂

    In the middle of that our main IT guy moved to a new house. BT (telecom provider in UK) said "We'll install your Home Internet after the lockdown" ... he found that someone nearby had one of the BT repeater hubs, and a "family member" (say no more ...) had a suitable logon for roving BT network use. Temporary solution solved ...

    Staff were told "Take anything you need home with you" ... that gave us some headaches with our asset management system

    There was other emergency software development. For example we added an "Emergency Template" to our movements system, so instead of someone's normal weekly default (HQ Office Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Satellite office Wed) adding a new week could use the emergency template of "Home Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, HQ Wed" :). Maybe the Emergency Template is now permanent? / default.

    New reports on LOG FILES to determine that home workers had a problem, perhaps before even they knew about it ... Internet Access for some of our rural users, at the end-of-the-line, is atrocious.

    A whole raft of new policy, and self-help guides, on Skype ... then Zoom ... then security concerns about Zoom ... then a move to Teams. Figuring out the best means of interrupting someone who has a 10 second lag on their broadcasting 🙂 We've employed a technical writer so that our documentation is better, as there is no chance of doing face-to-face for basic training etc.

    A bit later on I discovered some users were sitting at their dining table on a wooden chair with a personal laptop (connecting to office VM) because "Although I have a space for my Home Office this is more convenient". We were heading for RSI, back/posture problems, and horrendous inefficiency (in the office everyone has two screens, a decent ergonomic layout, a proper chair ... etc.)

    So we then set about providing everyone at home with "decent kit". We choose a "tiny brick" PC, and offered staff either a pair of screens (typically the ones they had already nicked from the office 🙂 ) or for people with very limited space new really sexy (well ... in my opinion ...) super wide curved screens. And proper office chairs and so on ...

    Unlike the office, where everyone has the same sort of desk arrangement and we can just "bulk buy", we had to put some effort into trying to choose "one size fits all" and then allowing some variation of that, as everyone home arrangements are different. We got all the new brick PCs shipped to the office so we could CONFIG them ... and then had to figure out how we could get them to the users' homes ... so now, for new hires, all the kit is shipped direct to their home, and we have figured out a way to CONFIG them remotely.

    That was a further set of challenges, and long hours, for IT, but hopefully we have improved the "lot" of the employees who are cooped up at home.

    We've never supported MACs but we have one user who has managed to persuade line manager that they can use their home MAC laptop. That should never have crept through (or we need to decide we will support MACs across the board). We have no MAC skills, have no idea what we might be at risk of, and anyone using a laptop at home instead of a two-screen, ergonomic, external keyboard / mouse instead of trackpad is never going to be as efficient and all the ergonomic problems remain. All IMHO of course ...

    Some staff are working odd hours, juggling home schooling and so on. I can see from the logs that some people are working late into the night ...

    I presume we have some people who are in horrible conditions. The ones that are in one-bedroom-flats I know about, and indeed they are the ones who are mostly choosing to come into the office. The ones that are abused, mentally disturbed by the isolation, etc I don't know about, but I am anxious that the tech stuff isn't adding to their burden. We have private health care for employees, which includes mental health. I know of the numbers (from Stats report only) who have used HR to help them with that, but I have no way of knowing how many more have used the mental health service directly.

    We started "socials" with ZOOM quizzes, then Murder Mystery, a scavenger hunt with kids tearing around their houses to find things was hilarious ... and then a competition for the Christmas Lunch, which we then ate (and drank) over ZOOM 🙂 ... we have a very active Whatsapp group and both that and TEAMS meetings frequently feature dogs and children.

    "be reasonable to ourselves and to each other" ... good idea, I've copied your article to the relevant folk here, thanks for that.

  • Glad you liked the reasonable part, and I slowly see people having better setups for working, and at the same time, I see more people that have desks using their couches for meetings.

    I've been a little flat in the batteries as well, but some things are starting to move outside of work, and a little more coaching, which is a nice break for me.

     

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor wrote:

    I see more people that have desks using their couches for meetings. 

    🙂

    I've read about people analysing backgrounds in video conferences ... And apparently people are buying bulk-lots of "suitable book titles, must be well worn" to put on shelves behind them to look more ... dunno ... appealing?

    I told our senior execs that I want them to spiv-up their act on client pitches, now they no longer do their "Company PowerPoint" at the client's site.

    Basically an excuse for me to buy some quality microphones, cameras, Wacom pen/pad and a green screen to try out. Actually the greenscreen was surprisingly cheap and is excellent - it can be ceiling mounted and drop down, but you can also lay the long-box on the floor and pop it up, it is self supporting and then packs away when not in use.

    We got our people Plantronic "call centre" headsets for Skype (long before lockdown). I has assumed that a noise cancelling microphone would do just that ... whilst it seemed to work OK in the office now everyone has taken them home the microphone clearly fails to noise-cancel the dog barking next door!

    Several of our people have got sloppy and are using microphone on the cheap camera we gave them instead of their headset, and the acoustics is terrible (and no one but me seems to tell them / complain). Senior execs have the Jabra video-conference speaker/microphones nicked from the office meeting rooms 🙂 and they work OK, but are echo-y for people using a back bedroom as their home office without much sound deadening soft furnishings.

    So I'm looking at a voice-over style microphone such as the Rode NT1a - actually I have no idea if that is the right sort of device, so any advice would be welcome. Also an HD camera, e.g. Logitech so that we can broadcast a quality image (that will be better, even if it gets degraded, than starting with the image that comes out of a naff camera). TEAMS seems to be only partly developed (spell check has lousy suggestions, no ADD word and so on) so not surprising that it can't do much with a background image. So maybe I need to find a camera that can post-process the greenscreen background before it passes the Image to TEAMS?

    I'd like to be able to enable users to do a Slide Presentation with their mug-shot alongside their PowerPoint slides - same as if they were stood at a lectern and their slides were projected onto a big screen behind them. Any ideas?

    I did have a go with the Wacom Pen/Pad and TEAMS Whiteboard. I am useless at that ... but with a greenscreen behind me I can just put a real whiteboard there and stand up and write on it ... just like a real meeting. Anyone else have a problem driving a digital pen or is it just me?

    If anyone has other suggestions to improve the lot of my users when they are in video conference that would be appreciated

  • "In any case, as we continue with the pandemic, I'm curious about your working schedule and whether you might be working more or less than you expected. Or than your co-workers expect. If you're juggling children or other family, this can be a challenge.

    We're nearly a year into this pandemic, and I still see no end in site for when we might return to the work environments of 2019, so I am curious today how your adjustment in this new year is proceeding."

    ------------------------

    Well, as usual, I will be the trouble-maker here.  I can only sit here and reflect on recent changes to work environment, schedule, requirements, etc.

    I was raised on the farm where I got up early and did chores, took care of livestock, fetched feed from a grain elevator in a neighboring town, etc before having breakfast and riding a bus to grade school and high school.  Then after school I rode the same bus home, took care of livestock again, prepared product for market, had dinner and then got down to studying.

    During my college years as a full-time student I consistently held a job that consumed 25- 30 hours a week, and still finished my degree in the usual four years, then pursued an advanced degree while married and raising a family.

    I had several positions in IT where I was responsible for supporting systems 24 hours day and weekends even back before all the remote capabilities, so if there problems I had to drive miles to get in to work and get things going so we could keep hourly workers productive for the company.  During this time I became a widower raising two children, then later remarried and continued raising four children.

    Midway through my years as a DBA, I suffered a bout with cancer, and my second wife also has suffered cancer.  Most recently she has become a bilateral below-knee amputee due to suffering a massive septic shock event.  Currently we take her twice a week for chemotherapy.  We both require numerous meds, two of which cost in excess of $1000 a month each.  We got our four children educated, and created college funds for five grandchildren.  One owns a successful business and the other three have careers in - you guessed it - various aspects of IT.  My wife has also started, operated, and sold two successful technology companies.

    My wife, even though on double prosthetics, still cooks, washes dishes, and cares for our needs in our home.  Every morning I thank God that we woke up again for another day.  Incidentally, we will both turn 78 years old next month.

    Essentially, we all need to take charge of our own lives and be responsible for what we want, working from home, with kids, or whatever.  President Ronald Regan famously commented, 'It CAN be done.'

    I'm not posting this to disparage you all, but to encourage you to keep going and make it happen for yourselves.  You can do this!

     

     

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  skeleton567. Reason: spelling, grammar

    Rick

    The only thing worse than being an influencer
    is believing one.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor wrote:

    Kristen, you might try this: http://blogs.lobsterpot.com.au/2021/02/09/adapting-the-tools-of-my-trade/

    That looks spot on, thanks.

    Our execs are not the Rock Star type ... but, that apart, I like Brent Ozar's setup. He has two cameras (2nd one "from the side"), and a set of keys to choose camera / "effects". When switching cameras a cross-fade image is presented which gives him time to stand up and face the other camera. That provides different background - one of which is "weather presenter style" so he can discuss e.g. a query-plan and "Point at the screen" and so on.

    He says that his $700 camera provides much better separation of image from green-screen background so he can wear any shirt he likes ... I'm not figuring on spending anything like $700 on the camera, let alone the $1,000 DPA microphone 🙂 but he has another video on microphones at different price ranges. For him to stand up and face the other camera he needs a wireless headset, whereas I was aiming for a desk stand microphone ... which won't work well for a "write on the (physical) whiteboard behind me"

    In case of interest here are the two videos showing Brent Ozar's equipment

    Great Streaming Setup with Streamlabs OBS and Two Cameras

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCW6u_egROM

    The switch-cameras bit is about 1m in

    Microphone Choices for Presenters and Webcasts

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEbT7G75aus

    open-Microphone on Logitech Brio webcam, Jabra Evolve 40 ($100 ), Electro-Voice RE20 ($400), DPA ($1,000)

    I've re-checked my shortlist and whilst the Rode is on it the favourite seemed to be the Blue Yeti USB.

    One of Brent's suggestions is that he uses a green screen and then an actual image of his office background - just not the actual background that is behind him. I have my back to the wall, my backdrop is of zero interest and no room to create a bookcase or look like I'm in a physical board room 🙂 ... so I take a photo of my garden, through a suitable window, and use that. Of course nothing moves, but the plants are sufficiently far away that I'm not sure anyone realises it isn't "live video"

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