My workflow changed (Partially)

I am not sure when this started happening, but I while back I could not live at the office without having at least three monitors to work on, one for mail, one for coding and one for server connections, testing and debugging. I gradually reduced that to two.

Also, when multiple workspaces were an option, as is the case on any modern OS these days, I made use of that as well, so I was working in virtually about 12 monitors, each dedicated to a certain workload. Like communication, documentation, development and deployment.

I also would usually carry an iPad with me so I could use that in addition to my monitors, for tasks like keeping an eye on my external cameras, running a secure shell connection to a server and checking the system load, whatever was needed.

These days however, I mostly get by with one monitor and one workspace. That is on a homeoffice day, not at the (actual) office.

Which was kind of curious for me. The workloads are the same, the tools are the same, even the desk, the speakers, keyboard and mouse are the same.

So what is different? At the office I have 2 Benq 27” 2k monitors, one in front of me in landscape and one on the left of me in portrait.

At home I have my MacBook Air to the left of me and a 32” Samsung 4k Monitor in front of me. The MacBook spending most of it’s time with a closed lid.

And since I use RDP to connect to my PC at the office there is no difference in the software stack either.

It could be the bigger monitor, but I found myself using my IDE etc in smaller windows mostly so I don’t really think that is it.

But hey, wait a minute you might say, small windows + bigger monitor, that is the thing, you just have more open at once, thus no second monitor + workspaces.

However, when working from home everything but my IDE + maybe some “tail -f” on a log or a browser is minimized. I only ever look at one window at a time.

So what is it then?

I watched my self over the course of last week to find out. One thing is habit, I start my day out working from home right away and drive to the office a little later. As long as I am at home, one screen, one workspace, even if I am only using my MacBook Air without an external monitor.

As soon as I get to my desk at the office however I immediately spread everything out over all monitors and workspaces.

The first thing I noticed was the way I handle phone calls. At home, my iPhone sits on my desk and I pick up any call on my Mac through a little notification on the top right. If I don’t have time for calls, I put my system in do not disturb mode and any call is automatically silenced.

At the office my phone is not paired with my computer and I don’t really have DND either, instead I forward all calls to my desk phone and use a program in a separate window at the desktop to be able to see who is calling. That window is in the lower quarter of my left monitor in the communication workspace and always open. I also need to use this to dial out.

The next thing is Thunderbird. When at home, I open up the one mail I am currently working on and close the main window. That way I don’t get distracted by incoming mails.

At the office, Thunderbird sits on top of the window used for phone calls so I can always see anything coming in as soon as I switch back to the communication workspace. Why? Not sure.

On my development workspace I usually have a tail running on my logging file plus a secure shell client open to upload files to our test server, both on the portrait monitor to the left, my IDE, MySQL workbench and Firefox are maximised on the main monitor in front of me and I only ever use one at a time.

The next workspace I use for file merging, two file explorer windows open, one with the fresh code, one with the production code, both left and the merging tool full screen in front of me.

Next one, to the left the productive code, in front of me split screen connections to our productive servers an our deployment tools.

All of these workspaces are combined in one and always minimized unless used when working from home.

But non of these differences in using my computer are an explanation in why I use it differently, just how.

What I found is, that the office holds way more distractions than my home office. Not by our customers, that is the same at home, but by our own staff.

There are always people walking in on me when I am at the company, be it other developers asking for advice, be it the office staff coming to me on administrative stuff or anything else. At times I am pulled out mid thought for hours.

I don’t mind these distractions and particularly fellow developers asking for advice is the highest praise one can get in ones profession.

I found that lately these “side tasks” have been taking up a lot of my time and despite of what you might think now, they are a main reason I don’t want to work from home exclusively. Feels nice to be needed and to help out others and however good our remote tools are getting, it is not the same as sitting down with someone else.

So how does that play into different uses of my computer? Simple really, it turns out, having everything laid out on multiple workspaces designed for one purpose, allows me to quickly switch to a blank one if someone needs me and then get back into what I was doing before easily, since I don’t have to restore everything.
Something I don’t need at home, but couldn’t live without at the office.

I still think I want to move to a single screen at work, puts less strain on my neck and is more focused I think. We have a big trade fair coming up, but after his, I will look into it.

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