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Working Virtually from Northern California

My office building for the weekNo, I’m not in San Francisco or Sacramento. If you were in Sacramento, then got into a car and drove north for 4 hours on Interstate 5, you would be where I am now: Mt. Shasta. I’m here visiting my parents and my manager at Xerox has been kind enough to let me work virtually from here two weeks so I can spend more time with my family. I eventually want to transition to full time virtual work so this is a trial run.

This is a picture of my temporary office in downtown Mt. Shasta, you can see the mountain that dominates the landscape here just behind it. My parents live in Weed, a smaller town just north of here, but they have an office space in Mt. Shasta that I can use for most of the time I am here. I know it will be better for me to have an office space that is separate from my home base. I worked from my parent’s house yesterday but found that there were a lot of distractions and it was hard to find a good place to situate myself. I did a lot of catching up on email and some reading (I brought several months worth of Interactions magazine, the ACM’s computer human interaction publication).

I’m quickly discovering the importance of ergonomics in even a temporary office setting. Yesterday I set myself up in front of the picture window in the entryway at home. It was somewhat out of the way and I had a nice view of the yard. The table there is a little high so I sat on a stool for three hours, looking down at my laptop. Needless to say, this was not good for my back or my neck. I had to take some ibuprofen and spent the rest of the afternoon reading on the couch.

This morning I got up and came into the Mt. Shasta office early. I’m also dealing with the 3 hour time difference so most of my regular meetings happen during the first part of the day. I’m not used to getting to work at 8am, but it will probably have to become a regular practice for me out here. I was able to set up my laptop on a desk and there is an adjustable office chair. I raised my laptop up on some phone books so I wasn’t looking down on it as much. I had project-related meetings all morning which I took on my iPhone using my headphones with a microphone built in. For some of the meetings we also used Live Meeting to share screens. Many of the meetings that I have throughout the day are with groups of people that are not co-located (Xerox has research centers in India, France, Canada and California; we also work with development resources in India) so phone conferencing is a standard mode of interaction.

My last meeting today was my weekly one-on-one with my manager Pat. I called her a little bit early because my Dad showed up and wanted me to go to lunch with him. Pat and I decided to forgo the video conferencing through Live Meeting because we had some technical issues with it last week. Pat’s computer has been a little fussy about video sharing. It was nice to hear her voice and check in. After lunch I worked for a few more hours but my back and neck were bothering me again. I’m starting to realize what a nice office setup I have back in Webster, NY. If I plan to do this long term, I’ll need to invest in a comfy chair, as well as a full size keyboard and monitor. Luckily I don’t have many pressing things to do this week so I’m heading home now to read some more Interactions.

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