Working From Home During A Pandemic: A Beginners Guide

Well, this is a blog post I never thought I’d have to write.

Every morning I wake up to the same realization – we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

How surreal is it to say that out loud?

We’re living through a major historical event as it unfolds.

But this virus is scary shit – there’s no two ways about it.

So scary that many businesses have encouraged employees to work from home.

Working from home every Friday or Monday is a treat most of you enjoyed because it made the working week feel shorter.

There’s nothing better than getting up, commuting from the bedroom to the kitchen table “office” and logging in over VPN.

Then maybe login to Netflix to catch up on binges while checking your email.

Relax – we’ve all done that.

Every boss knows it happens…because your boss did it too.

But for many of you, this is your first time having to lock yourself inside your home while simultaneously trying to turn it into an actual office.

This makes the “treat” of working remotely a complete fucking chore.

So, I thought it might be helpful to put together a quick guide for anyone who is struggling to get this whole “Work from home” thing working for them.

Use a dedicated space

As tempting as it might be to balance your laptop on your knees while sitting on your favorite chair, I’d advise against it.

It’s a nice idea but really, really impractical.

You need to carve out a tiny corner of your house or apartment as a dedicated “office space”.

That might seem like me trying to take the joy out of working from wherever you feel like, but you’ll feel more centered if you can simply walk up to your desk, sit down and get to work.

Otherwise you’re going to spend the first 30 minutes of each day dithering about where to set up, and then God help you if your partner/housemate chooses the same location.

Create a routine

Your first few days of working remotely will probably be a little bit free-form, especially if your employer offers flexible hours.

But do yourself a massive favour by creating a routine/schedule for your day.

Your routine should focus on how you carve up your day for work, but more importantly, creating time where you’re not stuck at home.

Now, I know that certain countries are fully locked down, so opportunities to leave your home are limited to shopping and medical needs.

But in as much as you can find a way to get out of the house either right before you start or right after you finish work for the day.

Ideally both.

The reason for doing this is that it allows you to build a mental barrier between work and home i.e. you “arrive in work” at the start of the day and then “leave work” at the end of it.

Just do your very best to even just walk around the block at the start of end of each day.

It does help.

Take breaks

It’s all too easy to lose track of an entire day when you’re busily working away at home.

That’s because you won’t have anyone emailing you to sneak out to an early lunch, or reminding you that you forgot your coffee break.

So take regular breaks during your day, and spend them away from your computer.

Sit in your back yard or on your balcony, but don’t eat where you work, especially in your own home.

You’ll grow to resent everything about working remotely very quickly if you do.

Limit distractions

Everyone has the same basic plan when they’re told they’ll be working at home – catch up on their favorite movies or TV shows.

Two seasons behind on The Walking Dead?

Cool, you can catch up now, right?

Wrong.

It doesn’t work (plus that show is now f’ing awful).

You’ll be so distracted by the movie that you can’t focus on work, or so distracted by work that you can’t focus on the movie.

Hint: I’ve already put together a pretty exhaustive blog post on how to cut down on distractions in a home office environment.

Set a “closing time”

In a regular office environment you will receive a number of visual or audio cues that the working day is done i.e. all your colleagues heading home for the day.

You don’t have that when working in your PJ’s and that favourite tattered t-shirt of yours, and that leaves you open to experiencing Parkinson’s Law.

This law basically states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Translated into layman’s English that simply means if you say you’ll work 12 hours (but really only need 8) then you’ll find a way to fill up all twelve of those hours with “work”.

And you’ll find yourself capable of doing that every day.

Suddenly, you’re still staring at your laptop at 9pm when you should have finished your day at 6pm…but you’re not sure how you got to that point.

That’s why you need to pick a “closing time” for your office and stick to it like glue.

Chin up

We have a lot of difficult days ahead of us thanks to this virus, but to those of you working remotely, cut yourself some slack too.

Nobody could have foreseen or planned for something on this scale happening so quickly.

So if you find yourself struggling to get into a routine, or get your work completed as normal, that’s fine too.

You do what you can, but if you need time to grab a coffee and just stare the sunrise or sunset, then that’s valuable too.

Hopefully some of what I shared above helps you.

If so, let me know with a comment – I do actually read them!

How Long Do External Hard Drives Last?

damaged hard drive

Many consumer electronic items are built with planned obsolescence in mind.

So when your parents or grandparents say, “…they just don’t build them like they used to…” they’re actually more right than they could know.

Manufacturers need you to buy the bigger screen, the faster computer, or the smarter smartphone, so they can stay in business. And the only way to do that is by making those items not last as long as they used to.

Apple were caught red-handed deliberately slowing down older iPhones, but claimed this was to counter “battery issues”.

But it was nothing more than a sneaky way to force people with perfectly good iPhone 4s and 5s into buying a new phone.

And the really sick thing is they got away with it – a smaller company would have been dragged through the media, exposed and then bankrupt by one lawsuit after another.

When Will My Hard Drive Die?

But do external hard drives have the same problem with forced obsolescence?

The good news is that the short answer to this is, “No”.

And this is for the simple fact that any company manufacturing hard drives that lasted no more than a few years would go out of business before the warranties on their products expired.

Look at how upset people get when their hard drive crashes and they lose all the family photos they haven’t backed up. Now imagine that happening, on a completely unpredictable timeframe, to every single external hard drive on the planet?

Here’s the thing though – even the big names in external hard drives offer no more than a 3-year limited warranty on their products.

So, does that mean it’s a case of hope for the best but plan for the worst?

Not really.

Buy Brand Name Drives

As long as you buy an external hard drive from a reputable company.

And here’s why buying from a brand name is important.

High-quality external (and internal) hard drives are manufactured in completely sterile environments – the same type of “clean room” you’d find used for assembling satellite components.

The failure rate has to be as close to zero as possible.

And when those clean rooms are infected in any way, companies can lose entire batches of hard drives – literally thousands of hard drives destroyed forever.

So this also plays a part in whether or not your hard drive lasts for the entire duration of your warranty.

How Long Do They Actually Last?

But back to the original question you want an answer for – how long do external hard drives last?

If you turn to the “experts” they’ll say between 3 and 5 years, as if that was written in stone somewhere.

It’s not, and they’re wrong in the timeframes provided.

In fact, anyone quoting numbers like that is probably just basing them on manufacturer warranties.

A cheap external hard drive will probably keel over and die within a year or three.

But a high-quality hard-drive from a reputable brand name can last an awful long time – my best run so far has been 12 years from a Western Digital My Passport 750GB.

And it’s still not completely dead but has become incredibly slow and unreliable.

That’s 4x the manufacturer’s warranty, and 4x as long as “experts” claimed it would last.

Of the other dozen or so external hard drives I’ve owned I’ve only ever had to bin one after 2 years of ownership…because it fell off my desk onto a concrete floor…and died instantly.

Apart from that my external hard drives (and the ones I’ve bought for friends and family) have all lasted at least a decade.

I can’t even say I took extra special care of them – I just didn’t drop them on the floor, spill coffee on them, or expose them to a powerful electromagnet.

So, if you buy a cheap external hard drive then you can probably counts its life expectancy in months.

But my Western Digital external hard drives have served me well for at least a decade each.

Factors That Shorten The Life Of A Hard Drive

  • Inferior quality product
  • Impacts
  • Overuse – used in place of an internal drive
  • Extremes of heat and cold