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Covid-19: Back home again

Written By: - Date published: 1:49 pm, March 17th, 2020 - 2 comments
Categories: covid-19, Economy, health, tech industry - Tags: , ,

Way back in 2007, after 8-9 years of mostly developing a product from home and supervising programmers remotely, I went off to work at a workplace. Frankly I was getting bored with the network layer, working with remote customers and on remote servers. So I took a job working more at the hardware layer.

Looks like Covid-19 has put me back at home for at least the immediate future. This isn’t because I’m self-isolating because I’ve come in contact with a possible infectious source.

It is because the company I’m working for has decided to allow all employees who can work remotely to do so. That is across all of their employees world wide, including the 50 odd staff in NZ and more in Aussie.

It means that the remaining staff with essential on-site skills who are still at the site can be have 10s of metres between their workspaces. There are fewer of them to get possible exposure transiting. Those in countries and cities that have had their kids sent home from school can now have the joy of dealing with bored children. 

Even with my previous experience, I’m really surprised about how little difference it makes to the type of work that I do. Way easier than when I was making these things up for the dev team in the late 90s and early 80s.

E-mail, slack (instant messaging), zoom (remote meetings with audio, video, and desktops), calendar, timesheets, expenses, IT requests, and whole host of other applications that I seldom or never use are on the web. All protected and accessible from linux as well as windows.

The code and development notes are accessible via the company windows laptop from my linux workstation – stash (code version control), confluence (programmer notes), and jenkins (the build systems) are all accessible. I’m actually coding on a USB 3.1 Samsung T5 1Tb SSD. Since I’m on linux for most development, so I just use  linux tools from my home workstation. I build windows applications, android applications, embedded applications all in linux because it is just way easier.

The biggest hassle is that I had was to cart a chair from work. My old mid-2000s Formway Life office chair is in dire need of some remedial work. The next is that I don’t have space for both the DC regulated power supply and the boards that it meant to be powering… Back to work sometime today to change that over and to pick up some hardware needed for the next task.

Obviously not everyone can do this with their work. But I suspect a lot of the better businesses will be spreading their employees out in a  similar fashion. 

These are all of the productivity tools that have been steadily going into this company even since I joined them in 2015. They’re designed to increase productivity by making the base systems more coherent over a multi-national corporation. It means that over the last year I have been remotely working as much with teams in Texas, UK, and Singapore almost as much as I work with many of my colleagues at the workplace.

But I have to say that they provide superb tools to make it easier to disperse their staff and keep them from harm.

It’s going to be fascinating looking at what companies in NZ are up to that challenge in the coming months as we wait for covid-19 to drop back from its current pandemic growth curve.

2 comments on “Covid-19: Back home again ”

  1. Sabine 1

    How many people will be unemployed in your scenario. Seriously, what is the number of long term unemployed people going to be especially retail, food industry etc.?

    Because most of us can't work from home. And is this government prepared to act on it, or will they just write people of as bludgers during the next election campaign?

    • lprent 1.1

      I believe that was much of what the economic package announced today was designed to do. It was targeted to help sustain employment and to help sustain consumer spending after pumping a large stimulus into the economy via benefits. From what was announced, it is also designed to do it in the short-term – within weeks rather than months.

      I was talking about a different sector of the economy. That based on exports rather than consumer (including tourist) spending. The biggest threat there is with staff getting sick or being unable to work.

      If you note the economic focus of the announcement, it almost completely ignored larger exporters and, for that matter, farmers. With the exception of market gardeners and a few other areas like eggs, farmers largely aren't reliant on the consumer spending in the domestic market. They are already largely socially isolated and will probably be more so in the coming weeks.

      Downstream of the farmers in our commodity exports, there are some pretty large employers – most of whom already have some pretty good isolation systems in place for hygiene reasons at the workspace. Their support and marketing staff, like ours are already extensively networked and tech – that comes from having markets that are more than 70% offshore.

      It is much the same levels of social isolation through most of the rural export economy. Through distance or technology they aren't likely to be shutdown immediately. Their biggest risk is if their longer term contracts or prices start to disintergrate.

      The urban exporters are largely office operated – which was what I was pointing to. For an employer like mine in an export orientated tech based industry will effectively be bypassed by those government packages. Those are pretty tightly focused. And the strategies about not losing staff to disease is to introduce social distance.

      But the same applies to all kind of tightly packed office jobs.

      Perhaps you should look at the post for what it was describing and less about how it doesn't affect you personally.

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