Sunday, December 6, 2015

Adventures in telecommuting

I work in a 77-year-old building on the Texas Tech campus. To be fair, most of the buildings on campus are about that old, so it’s not like we got the worst digs in the joint (contrary to my crabbing about being stuck in a cubicle now after having a private office for about 12 years; why, no, I’m not bitter—why do you ask?).

Sometime in the 1950s, the electrical wiring in our building, Drane Hall, was updated.

Yeah, that was about 60 years ago.

With advances in technology come an increase in energy demands, so Tech has decided to boot us all out of Drane Hall for a few weeks while they shut the power off completely in order to replace Drane’s switching doodad(s) and other antiquated electrical stuff. And by “all” I mean all three floors full of people. I’m not sure how many people there are in the whole building, but our bunch number 75-80, and we don’t even take up all of one floor. And since Tech doesn’t want to just give us all three extra weeks of paid vacation (darn it) while the electricians are working in the building, we all have to be temporarily rehoused somewhere else on campus so we can continue working.

Most of my department will be stuffed into the basement of another building on campus, in three or four big rooms, 25 people or so per room, each in a spacious 4’ x 3’ cubicle. [shudder] But there’s just not enough space for all of us in that basement, so for a lucky, lucky few—my department, as it happens—Tech has deigned to get up off its insistence on “duty point*” and is allowing us to work at home.

Thank you God, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, the Goddess, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster who has touched me with its noodly appendage, because I don’t think I could hack being stuck in a tiny cube in a windowless basement with 24 other people for three weeks. I have a wee problem with crowds and heat, and the combination of all those bodies, their computers, and their chatter would just do me in.

Last Thursday and Friday, we got instructions on how to get connected to our department’s network on campus (excellent, in case we need to download a file, because we can’t get back into Drane until the electrical work is done), and we all updated our home computers with the wherewithal to communicate with each other while working separately. (I get a lot of IMs and emails during the day asking how to do this or what to do in case of that, etc., not to mention the people who just pop into my cube to ask a question.) I’m also loaning my laptop to one of my fellow Production wonks who has a Mac at home, so I got that all set up with her passwords.

(Not that Macs are bad—my first computer was a Mac, and I’ve had several—or that they can’t interact with Windows documents, but owing to font and other software requirements, this is the path of least resistance.)

Monday and Tuesday, those moving to temporary cube farms will get boxes and labels for their computers and any books, files, etc. We’ll also get further instructions about parking and other logistics. Wednesday those who are moving will pack up; those who will be working at home will just unplug everything at the end of the day and collect all the stuff they need to take home. IT will transport computers to our lovely basement Thursday morning and by late Thursday afternoon, we hope to be back in business.

This is my first experience at telecommuting, and I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to telecommute after retirement, if I can get editing or proofreading work, so it’ll be good to see if I can focus on work while in my own house with two kitties to pet and a sister who likes to talk.

And to those of our bunch who will be moving into that basement for three weeks…I’m really sorry, guys.


* From Texas Tech University’s OP 70.06:

An employee must, during normal working hours, conduct university business only at the employee’s regular or assigned temporary duty point, unless the employee is traveling or has received prior written authorization from the chancellor or the president to perform work elsewhere. In no event shall an employee’s personal residence be deemed that employee’s regular or assigned temporary place of employment or duty point without the written approval of the chancellor or the president.

A request for exception should include the type of work to be performed, how the time and productivity will be monitored, how it meets the business needs of TTU to have this person work from home, and the duration for which the exception is being requested.