Working From Home: A Forced Sabbatical, by D. Glen

I work for a Fortune 100 company in the Midwest and work in the area of Research and Development (R&D). Late during the week of March 8th, we began to hear rumors that our facility and other staff locations throughout North America would be closing soon due to the CV-19 outbreak that was beginning to spread across the country. During the afternoon of Friday, March 13, the rumor was confirmed in that my supervisor stopped by to inform us that our facility was closing immediately and would remain so for three weeks until April 6th. Per the rumor, the closure was going to apply to all of our North America staff locations. Manufacturing sites would remain open. We are in the business of making consumer products (e.g. facial tissue, bath tissue, diapers, feminine care products, etc.), so our products would be in very high demand in the coming weeks and months. Us staff folks would be ‘working from home’ for the next three weeks at minimum.

I immediately began the process of shutting down my imaging equipment and got together some hardcopy research materials to take home with me and placed them in my computer backpack along with my company issued laptop. Being a person that works out 3-4 times a week, I had planned to work out after work that day, so I eventually made my way to our health center facility in hopes of getting one last workout in before the hiatus. Low and behold as I approached the health center entrance, I found my supervisor was there chatting with the staff member on duty. I asked the staff member if they were still open and she indicated they were. Unfortunately, though, my supervisor then reminded me that our Director would assume we would all be leaving immediately and so encouraged me to follow him out the door. At this point in my life, I felt it better just to go along with this rather than to resist. Not worth making waves, when I still had other options available outside of work.

So next, I informed my wife about the situation and she was all excited that I would be working from home at least the next three weeks. I had mixed feelings myself, since I know it will be difficult to be real productive with our six-year old son, that I love dearly, coming upstairs frequently to say hello to Daddy and see what he’s up to. Nonetheless it was going to be a new adventure for everyone!

Another dilemma I foresaw rearing its head was that my work normally involves a significant amount of time in the lab with expensive imaging related equipment. Given the situation, I was not going to have access to this equipment unless something I was working on was deemed ‘business critical.’ To be deemed business critical, our VP and higher would have to sanction it so. This is the only thing that might allow me to still come in to work during this imposed hiatus.

In thinking through my current project load, the only thing I was currently working on that might breach this level of importance was some intellectual property which I had been working on with a team of the others and our patent attorney. Our attorney was planning on filing potentially multiple patent applications before the end of March. I communicated this to my supervisor Friday afternoon before leaving and copied the attorney and our business project lead. The project lead and attorney responded almost immediately and the attorney thought we could still meet the deadline with the remote access. I just needed to make sure I took all the intellectual property I had been working on home with me, since I may be required to write up a portion of the patent applications. A Skype meeting was immediately scheduled for the following Monday to discuss our options. So unless something else would suddenly pop up, I would indeed be working from home for at least the next three weeks.

When Monday morning arrived, it was time to log-in to work. My day usually begins by first checking my calendar for the day as well as any e-mails that may have arrived – nothing different there so far. I noticed I had at least five meetings that week with two even on Monday – one being the intellectual property issue mentioned previously. This will be interesting, since, being a prepper, we intentionally live out in the country and our internet is through our cell phone provider. As a result, we have a limited data plan. Would I have enough internet horse power to do these Skype meetings and other on-line activities – some of which would include sharing my screen content, et cetera?

Part way through the day, I was also asked to switch places with someone else to do a presentation on some of my research that coming Thursday instead of the following week. OK, now I needed to look into this internet thing a bit closer and quicker. One option might be to make use of a coffee shop in the small town several miles from our home which is known to have a 5G WIFI connection. Perhaps I can even reserve their private room for when I needed to do my presentation on Thursday. So on both Monday and Tuesday afternoons, I made my way to the coffee shop to use their faster connection and inquire about getting the room set for Thursday. It was looking like a go, and the kind barista put me down for the room on Thursday. Much to my chagrin though, Tuesday evening our governor ordered that there should be no larger gatherings than 10 people. This basically shut down all the ‘dining areas’ in the state – only drive thru and carryout. So much for my room on Thursday.

WiFi Connectivity

Later on Wednesday morning, I headed back to town with two possibilities – (1) See if the coffee shop WIFI would still be operating, and would it be able to reach my vehicle parked outside, and (2) stop at our mobile phone’s local store to see about having our home WIFI hotspot expanded to include more data. On the coffee shop front, yes, it would still be operating Thursday but the connection in my vehicle was not that great. So much for option #1. Next, I went to our mobile phone store and had to wait until 2 pm when the lone person there would hopefully be returning from lunch. After filling in some of the time by going to the local grocery store and snooping around, I returned to meet with the store rep. For an extra $15/month, I could have our WiFi data expanded by over double what it currently was. I decided to go forward with this. I was told it was always reversible later. Good deal.

My work at home ‘office’ is basically our large upstairs room that sits above our bedrooms and bathrooms. I keep the door closed while on the computer and working in there. As I suspected would happen, my six year-old son frequently came upstairs and gently knocked on the door to say hello to Dad and see if he could come in. I love my son dearly, so I tried to be welcoming to him but at the same time being firm and not allowing him to just hang out with me, even though he always promised to be quiet. We home school, so he’s normally at home most of the time on week days, so this was different for, not only me, but him as well to have Dad at home during the work week. My wife had tuned in right away and noticed that he was kind of acting out a bit in trying to adapt to the new arrangement.

So as week #1 progressed, I took part in the meetings and was able to do my 20-minute Power Point presentation without a hitch. As the second week is about to begin, I still have enough work that should last me at least a couple/few days. After that, I may be stretching it to do much of anything with direct impact on the projects or specific goals and objectives I am working on for this year. Being in research, I can always investigate technology developments and related items, so there will always be something I can spend my time working on. As mentioned earlier, we are scheduled to return to our facility on April 6, but we’ll see if that’s going to happen based on feedback regarding what’s going with CV-19.

Online Church Services

As an aside, our church did an on-line service on Sunday, via Facebook, that we tuned into. Our pastor has been going through the book of Matthew, and it happened that we were on Matthew 24 this week (Signs of Christ’s return and related) which seemed somewhat appropriate given the current situation. Since I am one of the church’s elders, I had also shared the article by ShepherdFarmerGeek on Church Pandemic Preparedness with our leadership team and Pastor. It was well received and we reviewed the ideas he had presented.

All in all, it’s been an interesting ride so far. My family and I continue to trust in God and try to flow with the new reality we find ourselves in. It is my hope, which I am sure is commonly shared by nearly all of us, that this pandemic is short-lived and that things return to normal quickly. We hope and pray that our trust and faith in God our Creator and Lord is deepened through this time of uncertainty. I hope and pray the same for you and yours as well!




20 Comments

  1. We have the option of working from home. I am still going in to the office every day. There are very few people coming in and I am slamming through work without interruptions. It’s been a welcome change! If nothing else this highlights the absence of all the useless busy work and time sucking vampires that distract me from focusing on what’s important. There are a few people I miss talking to. Maybe when everyone finally returns to the office I’ll go work from home a
    few days a week to get away from the distractions and drama.

    Sometimes working from home is a tough adjustment – make sure you don’t get tagged as someone who isn’t productive. Most managers and executives are watching workload closely. There may not be a V-shaped recovery. I suspect many businesses will be forced to evaluate who is essential and who isn’t and make changes when normal business operations resume. Increasing your presence via emails and phone calls plus sending daily/weekly updates to your manager on your work can do a lot to keep you in good standing and off that future downsizing list.

  2. We are in “STAY AT HOME” order here in the Nashville TN area. Yesterday the cops said they may start issuing citations for people out and about. That seems like a good way to get the cops hurt. The day before I was out too. $130 for groceries, $30 for gas, Sonics for a drive-in dinner (even the benches are covered with saran wrap to prevent sitting there. They are made of concrete and very porous which is hard to sterilize. Then I went home. Yesterday it was 87 degrees. I didn’t go anywhere but I went outside and sat in my 1973 Jeep CJ5 and read under the apple trees. I like the odor of the apple blossoms and the fresh air.

    STAY HOME. LETS GET WELL.

    1. All my Anti-Huntin’ Buds are reaching out to me…

      I know your freezers stay stocked up…

      Can I get some fresh deer meat…

      Well I hope you family is well…

      Hope them hands are clean…

      Any chance that you might have an extra AR-15…

  3. Several years back the area I worked in had a 1000 year flood over the week end. The office and surrounding community had 4-5 ft of both flowing and standing water. Of course, no one could go to work. My area performed all the distance learning and webinars for the organization so we were called upon to set up business at our homes. Unfortunately, the server farm in the basement had been flooded so we had to go back to square one. We used our personal computers and a special access lines the company provided and started setting up to communicate/meeting with the 32 divisions across the USA. We worked from home for 3 weeks and it was an interesting challenge that we pulled off successfully.

    1. I think we must be in the same area. I’m also working from home now, and have to say I find it much less stressful, especially the lack of a 1.5 hour daily commute. A lot of my work is somewhat seasonal, and about 90% of what I need to do at this time can be accomplished either online or through teleconference. The summer will be more challenging, but hopefully the models suggesting this will go into remission over the summer will prove accurate. We’ll see. Stay safe and healthy.

  4. A couple fun tidbits I have received through various online sources. I have not fact checked them but I think the point is relevant regardless.

    Newton was supposedly just finishing his education when a plague hit. He was to just start a promising career but instead retired to a remote farmhouse for something like two years where he developed a good portion of his theories.

    Shakespeare supposedly wrote King Lear under quarantine.

    Another writer I followed years ago was talking many years ago about the difference between Americans and Mexicans and what we could learn from Mexicans in his opinion. He talked about a young Mexican woman who was put out of work by one of that country’s frequent financial downturns. Although there was uncertainty, she had enough to eat. And she had a roof over here head so she waited it out through extensive reading on subjects she had not had time for before. She came out of it better educated than before. I have read similar stories from Depression Era people who did significant self education staying at home with “nothing to do” and then used that education to great advantage when times improved.

    I am fortunate to be still employed but working from home. My work is field oriented and of course that is all shut down temporarily. I took home a pile of tech manuals that if stood together would stand about three feet tall to learn about a major system we use and will be modifying sometime this year. It is actually quite productive for me so far and is giving me a lot more confidence for when we get back in operation. Our SME for this system has recently quit and so this is a good opportunity for growth for me.

    For those who have an immediate loss of all income this is horrible and we need to look to ensure they are provided for. For those not under immediate financial threat, I believe there are opportunities to prepare to spring out of this situation smarter, stronger and with more ideas than before.

  5. RE: Zoom
    I’m not a Zoom user (yet) but watched a TV news piece on it yesterday. The spokeswoman talked about people ‘Zoom bombing’ sessions. Or, sharing Zoom sessions with other users. The newscaster strongly recommended always using Zoom with its own unique password and reviewing the settings regarding who can forward or access the sessions. Since it was on local TV, I don’t have a link. Take care everyone.

  6. Thanks for your comments everyone. Just as an update to my article, our working from home/remotely has now been extended thru May 1. Also, WI recently cranked up the screws with a ‘Safe at Home’ order from the governor. For us that means only critical things remain open – groceries, gas and the like. We can move about, but no gatherings of any type.

    May everyone stay safe and healthy!

  7. I am currently attending an online church study group, not out of this recent COVID-19 issue, but because there is no local church that I can in good conscience attend. They have a total of four weekly meetings throughout the week. There are people from all over the USA and some international participants as well. I really miss the one on one interaction in a home Bible study as I once had. I sincerely hope that all who read this will also read what the Bible has to say about end time events. We are living in such a time. Very serious times, that is.

  8. Yes, this virus has created an opportunity for us to learn and do things differently before things get really bad. Weather permitting, doing something, anything to expand or improve the garden, might be the most constructive as the normal production and delivery of food has been disrupted. Prices will be higher, and there will be shortages this summer. Here in the Rocky Mountains, we’ve got a lot of rocks and the soil is poor. One of our goals is to pile up the manure. The cooler weather is conducive for shoveling. I’ll start Norland red potatoes early in buckets this year, in an attempt to produce the first potatoes of the season. If you have an early potato to suggest, I might try that too. My other choices will be the usual Red Pontiac, and Yukon Gold. I am no potato expert, so if you are, I’m all ears as that is the crop that can keep people alive, if even you are sick of potatoes, because they produce the most calories for the least amount of work, and are easy to grow in most soils. I believe more attention should be given to the humble potato.

    On the Danish island of Bornholm, that was recently Swedish btw, boasts the oldest standing castle in Europe, a viking strong hold built around 1,100 A.D. It has been a long standing tradition and friendly competition, to produce the first potatoes that is still observed by the island that is still a farming community. The winner is announce in the newspaper. “New potatoes”, are the small tender red potatoes that are the first that can be eaten. Den hedder paa dansk ogsaa “nu kartoffeler”. Bornholm is mostly rich farmland, where excess veggies and eggs are still put in a stand road side for sale. Perhaps one day, we can adopt, or return to such practices. A good thing about root crops is that if we are over run, history shows that the raiders usually ignore them, and that chickens are hard to catch.

    1. One potato that has done really well for me is the Carola variety. The Red Norland potato you mention is one of the earliest potatoes available. There are some other fast maturing ones, but they are no longer on the market. I used to work at the University of Minnesota in the horticulture department with potatoes and so I got to see the commercial side of things. As I mentioned in another post to another SurvivalBlog reader, the way most gardening / farming is done is not the most sustainable or efficient way of growing things. Once the soil is minerally balanced there will be no bug problems. I am in the process of writing an article on this very issue and a soil map for the entire USA showing the calcium:magnesium balance of the soil. Currently there are no maps at all for this feature. There are individual maps, but no ratio maps that are the key to long term success.

      I’d like to write much more but the Librard state that I live in is going into “lockdown” and I only have 30 minutes to get out of here and get home. I don’t have Internet where I live so may have some problems with communication issues with other patriots like SB readers.

  9. Thanks for the valuable info. They only offer a number of varieties locally, but I will check with them about the Carola potato you suggest. Very much need to learn about soils and how to improve the Rocky Mountain soil without being able to buy soil supplements. Will plant in containers to help with soil temperature and to avoid the bugs. We gotta neighbor who is successful at this altitude, and one who does well on their mountain. We can only contact them via 2 meter, 2 sisters who have been off grid up there for decades. They recommend Yukon Gold. That is one I’ve had the most success with too, with red potatoes second. Minnesotans are often scandahoovians so…

    Tak skal du’ha!

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