How's Work?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Are you working remotely as a result of the epidemic? Are you still going in to work? Have you been laid off, or even lost your job more permanently? In either case, how is all that going? Please tell us in the comments.

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  1. I’ve been teleworking (mostly) for several years now. This has been facilitated by Courtcall, OneLegal, and clients being more accepting of not having fixed office space in California anymore. My blood pressure is lower, and my fixed costs are reduced.
    Other than some court closures and dealing with other counsel that are freaking out, I haven’t experienced much of a quality of life difference.

  2. As I’m over 60, and have a history of respiratory illnesses, my employer gave me several options to isolate me from the other employees. I’m currently working a different shift from everybody else in my office, while they can work out a way to let me work from home. (Tougher than for some of our people, because I’m doing CAD work on files in excess of 100MB, so they’ve got some doubts our internet connectivity outside the building would be sufficient.)

    1. Gee, Brett, 100MB is tiny these days! 🙂 I have a daughter who’s an architect; when they sent her home the remote desktop solution stopped working, so she is just working offline at home and passing files back and forth via an ftp-like thing.

      Best of luck, hope it works out.

      1. Yeah, my home internet would handle it. The corporate internet? Maybe not.

        1. Talk to the network guy — a lot of corporate internet has been modified so as to (a) discourage web browsing and (b) keep out viri — and the latter is going to be a challenge with lots of remote users.

          The safest way to email an attachment file — telephone the receiving party and have that person call you back (so there is no question it is you) and then send it while talking on the phone. Then there is absolutely no way to spoof you because (a) the recipient called you at a known number and (b) knows your voice.

          Now this will not help if you have a computer virus on your machine (or on the flash card, and that’s why I reformat them before use), but it’s going to keep outsiders out of the corporate system.

          And hopefully corporate is going to be writing backup “tapes” (usually flash drives now) — and the protocol I’ve seen is monthly full backup and a weekly backup of changes — or better weekly backup and then daily backup of modified files. It’s also possible to write a copy of all modified (including erased) files to a file — and most word processers allow you to do this locally, it’s a good idea as long as you can remember that .bak or .ba! (or whatever) is the backup file and hence your OLD copy.

          As an aside, this is how Ollie North got caught in 1986 — he erased an email and a copy of that email was written to the erasure backup tape — which was found when someone went through it. But unless you are trying to hide something, backup files are your friend….

    2. Hi speed internet is your friend, Brett. So is FTP. I also found that using VPN will also slow down data transfer rates.

      1. Not to get into the weeds, but a VPN is utterly unavoidable if I’m working offsite, for security reasons.

        I believe it ought to be technically possible, but getting the IT effort put in to make it happen is the obstacle.

        1. Luckily my employer is global and has multiple VPN entry points. When bandwidth on the US point gets throttled I can switch to Asia or Europe (whichever is closed at the time).

    3. As late as the 1990s, one would still often see a “UUCP” reference in the email header information.

      “UUCP” stood for “Unix-to-Unix Copying Protocol” — a mainframe system operator would write the outgoing email traffic to a magnetic tape, physically remove it and send it (usually via FedEx) to the remote site where that system’s operator would spool it and read it into their system for delivery. And the concept of the 72-character line came from the IBM punch cards which had 80 columns but the first 8 were reserved for control functions (including numbering the cards so you could sort them if you dropped the stack) so it only read the final 72.

      Today you can buy a 64 gig USB thumbdrive for less than $20 on sale (and smaller ones for a whole lot less) and you can send those through the US Mail in an envelope if you put a fold of (clean) pizzabox around them. Just don’t send it through the postage meter and make sure they are bright enough not to do that either.

      I would strongly recommend multiple redundant archival copies being kept at both ends if you are close to the capacity of your internet connection because funky things happen when packet congestion and collisions occur. (Think busy highway.)

      Remember that one packet can only go in one direction through one wire at a time. There are a lot of “wires” and the packets are going nearly 186,000 miles per *second*, but then there are also an awful lot of packets involved. When there is a collision, both packets are destroyed and there is new a packet sent to each sender requesting it be resent. Hence two packets colliding result in four new packets traveling over the route where two collided.

      Hence data congestion and packet collisions exacerbate each other — and that’s if everything works right. It isn’t as bad as it used to be, but sometimes stray packets wind up corrupting data. And it’s going to be more likely when the system is approaching maximum capacity.

  3. I quit my job nearly 7 weeks ago, voluntarily. It was a call center job, a terrible one. This was before coronavirus was a major news item (or at least not one for a political magazine).

    I’m only 34, I have money in the bank, but I am concerned. The goal was to get a job after a (somewhat extended) hiatus. Now I don’t know if the kind of jobs I’m suited for are even available. But I have much more breathing room than the average American to maneuver, and for that I am very grateful.

  4. I moved to South Korea the last week of February for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak — my son is planning to attend kindergarten here. I work remotely for a small law firm. The situation here deteriorated right around the time we arrived, and we almost decided to relocate back to the USA. But since then the number of daily new infections has decreased and has started to stabilize. We are now glad we didn’t return to the USA. Because I work remotely anyway, the coronavirus has not affected my work much at all, although my colleagues in the USA have been asked to work from home. My son’s school has delayed their start date for several weeks, however.

  5. My husband is a stagehand in SF. He, and virtually all of his union brothers and sisters, have been laid off because as you know, not only are all the theaters shut, but the conventions that employed a majority of them are cancelled. I’m guessing Libertarians have a thing about unions, but that’s how we get our healthcare and other benefits. We could not survive without a union-negotiated wage here.
    If they won’t let the theaters reopen, how long can we last without some kind of aid? His is not a job that can be done remotely. I feel like most virtue-signing Stay Home! types are not facing down a total annihilation of their livelihoods.

    1. I’m guessing Libertarians have a thing about unions
      Only when they act like a bully in labor markets. If people want to engage in collective bargaining voluntarily, let them. Mandating it for everyone violates freedom of association.

    2. In these times, “Stay Home!” is not virtue signalling, it’s necessary for the public health. We know it’s difficult for those who can’t work from home, and we expect our government, which we help fund, will provide assistance.

      “Total annihilation of their livelihoods” – are you expecting there will be no stagehand jobs when this is over?

      1. Yes, when the small theaters that were already struggling never reopen and when the conventions don’t come back. It’s a very real possibility.

  6. Working from home the last two weeks. Challenging with the (young) children at home and am exceptionally high meeting load. People are coping with the lack of physical interaction but it’s a problem and will get worse. Work is busy — ecommerce volumes are up.

  7. Still employed (assistant dean for a new medical school) and working from home full-time. Before Covid 19, I’d been working from home 1-2 days a week (home being 400 miles away from work, I have the weekend at home too, and I rent a bedroom in a local retired lady’s condo for working at work). This meant that when the university decided all classes must be delivered electronically, and then decided most employees should work from home (if they can do meaningful work and fulfill their job duties) it wasn’t a huge change for me and I’d already worked out most of the technical details. The crisis solved the last niggling problem I’d had with meaningful participation in larger meetings–I’m quite impressed with the functionality of Zoom!

    I don’t currently have routine teaching duties. Our curriculum’s philosophy is focused on the development of self-directed “master adaptive learners” and so while we have always recorded lectures and made them available on-line for our students to review or to watch asynchronously, the majority of educational interaction takes place in small groups (7-8 students and a facilitator for problem-based learning, smaller groups for clinical skills) or larger team-based learning classes of 50 students grouped in separate tables. So far the feeling is positive on the lectures and the PBL. The whole medical education community is pulling together, actively (electronically 😉 discussing issues and sharing techniques and tools and syllabi to help each other overcome the current challenges. The Liaison Committee for Medical Education (our accreditor) and the Association of American Medical Colleges are also very active in helping med ed programs keep functioning under these extraordinary circumstances. (Not cracked yet is how we are to have our students get sufficient clinical training in a real health care environment . . . at present, student clerkships are being shut down by many hosting facilities.

  8. I’m retired as a professor, still working as an author. My current work consists of producing audiobook versions of two of my books, _Future Imperfect_ and _Law’s Order_. All I need for that is my iMac, which has an adequate microphone, some inexpensive audio software, and a quiet room.

  9. As noted here, https://reason.com/2020/03/13/how-are-you-folks-bearing-up/#comment-8167228 I’ve been working from home in my normal IT role for a little while. Since I work in an “essential industry”, there’s no immediate concern, but given the overreaction to COVID-19, a significant economic downturn will eventually affect my employer, too. Many others aren’t as lucky, and have already lost jobs, or are facing the imminent loss of a small business, thus potentially leaving their own employees without financial security.

    It’s fascinating what people seem to be hoarding, and also what they eschew, even when the zombie apocalypse is nigh. I would never have guessed that frosted cinnamon Pop-Tarts are undesirable. The shelves had plenty of them, but only a few boxes of the chocolate ones and S’mores flavor – all the rest were gone. That wasn’t an anomaly, either – I saw it at multiple stores and visits several days apart. Apparently, there is no pandemic serious enough to motivate people to buy generic store-brand canned plain red beans. Perhaps the purchase of such commodities is only warranted in the face of bigger problems, such as an impending full thermonuclear exchange. I’m stupefied as to why there are no carrots anywhere – what sort of cretin hoards carrots?

    Since my previous post, quite a few COVID-19 cases have appeared here and elsewhere in my state. We’re under a local shelter in place order, and so are a couple of larger cities, but so far, there’s no statewide order.

  10. Island Bookkeeping Services has always been on-line working; on-line being a 1.5 Mbps last mile connection.

    ATM we’re 1000 miles from home on a 200 Mbps connection that has been wonderful for work and for educational entertainment. A shout out to Ninja Nerd Medicine for CoViD-19 and fundamentals.

    In a few hours we start home to 14-days ‘quarantine’ on the 1.5 Mbps Frontier DSL.

  11. It’s going OK. Working from home while watching the kids is the biggest challenge, but it can be done. A schedule seems to work pretty well for them, with a nice movie from Disney+ when I have a long conference call or zoom/webex call come up. Still making sure they get their outdoor time is important, both for them and me. Working on keeping up the 1st grader’s education with a mixture of workbooks and Khan academy. I didn’t think I’d be homeschooling, but here we are.

    Work continues. The home office got set up, and about 50% of my work could be done from the office. That 50% is now 100% of my workload due to the teleworking. The project management and acquisitions continue on pace, as does the data analysis. Paper writing on items that should’ve been written up a while ago is next.

  12. I usually work from home. But I can tell other people are not used to it and find it hard to get stuff done.

    This time of year I find it hard to be motivated because its spring and who wants to work when I can sneak some outdoor activity. Usually its not crowded at the parks, trails, shooting ranges, etc. – but obviously with everyone home they are out as well.

    The constant stream of news is also highly distracting.

  13. My job is primarily travel, so it’s very different being home since my last trip ended December 14. I normally get a break the first month or two, but this year the problems in East Asia caused a lot of my engagements there in February to be cancelled. So I’m on month 4 of being grounded and it’s pretty wild.

    The good news is I’m getting so much writing done! I’ve published 4 papers so far, as I have the time to concentrate on them. It’s been nice in that regard.

  14. Reading the comments above, I’m surprised at the number of non-law professions commenting.

    I’m a litigator at a firm that does significant civil litigation (not BigLaw per se, but like putting their litigation department in a separate firm). Almost all of us are working from home (a couple people are still going into the office because they have an easier time working there).

    My sense from colleagues and peers is that the advising side, particularly employment attorneys, are extremely busy. So are bankruptcy attorneys. On the litigation side, there seems to be a lot of retooling/preparations. That’s because virtually every hearing and deposition has been put off, and some clients are now really worried about costs. Plus scheduling client meetings is a little trickier (we’re generally going to Zoom). But we expect it’s just a matter of time before the fallout of all this leads to disputes.

    As for working from home generally, I think it’s generally fine for everyone except those with young kids or several kids (who inevitably fight and suck up internet bandwidth, regardless of age).

    1. Actually, having kids is a reason to want to work at home right now: With the schools shut down, and the daycares, too, somebody has to be at home to watch the kids.

    2. To be fair, a career in law can be the foundation of a new career in management. After 7 years in civil litigation followed by 20 years as in house counsel serving the 6 health science center colleges of a major state university, I took a sideways step to do something exciting and fun (assistant dean for educational standards and quality) and help launch a new medical school–but I didn’t lose my curiosity about the law or my enjoyment in being challenged by the members of the Conspiracy! 😉

    3. I imagine that bankruptcy attorneys are very busy — and they will become even moreso — it’s going to get ugly as of April 1st..

  15. Right now I am working as a Tax Expert for TurboTax. I had been working 60-70 hours per week from home since the first week of January. With the change of tax filing/payment due dates, work is cutting back to a max of 45 hours per week.
    Before that, I was doing document review from home since November.

  16. Just fine, thanks. Continuously singing “Men of Harlech” while clicking reload on Drudge Report.

    Mr. D.

    1. Top tenor or bass?

      1. Working my way through every cleft in the choir, with fauxbourdon.

  17. I feel for everyone who is being hurt by this. I’m in pretty good shape. I’m working from home with about a three month backlog in design work, Since I’m not constantly being pulled off to put out fires on the shop floor, I’m getting caught up. If this lasts another week or two I’m even going to get some fishing in. My neighbor is a delivery driver for a local pizza shop. Between the hours he’s getting (with a premium) and tips, he’s digging himself out of a financial hole.

  18. I’ve been working from home since the 13th. I enjoy sleeping later and not commuting to NoVa. The lack of commuter restrictions also gives me more flexibility on hours. I’ve settled into a routine of two blocks of work separated by a long lunch. My work was already heavily online so I haven’t had to adjust to new tools or procedures. The biggest problem is sharing my new workspace with children and cats.

  19. I was regularly working from home 2-3 days a week; now I work from home full time. Not a big change, but it’s distracting with the kids around.

    With the nature of our business I’m busier than ever with more business coming in daily. Unfortunately, I’m the only person in our group capable of doing the work required; which means long days and working weekends.

    Going back to 60-70 hour weeks is too much like working in a law firm again.

  20. I’m in a lucky situation where my work life isn’t very impacted. I’m an appellate prosecutor. We’ve shut down all but emergency court appearance, which doesn’t include any of the rare appearance I’d make anyway. Almost all of my work is done on the computer, so it was a pretty simple matter of taking my laptop home and connecting to the work network from there. I’ve done it here and there occasionally, when I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to use a sick day or needed to be home for a repairman, so I already had the system worked out. Doing it every day is mentally challenging, and I find myself hoping for defense attorneys to take advantage of the time to file lots of new briefs so I have more work to take my mind off things. But things are moving along slowly and steadily, and I know I’m in a better position than many.

  21. This may seem a little petty. Going from large dual monitors at work to a tiny laptop at home simply sucks.

    1. Amen! I have a personal second monitor, but it sits awkwardly to the side of my home work area and causes me to crick my neck when working both it and the laptop.

    2. I feel you pain. Having references up on one monitor while working on the other was more productive than switching tabs.

    3. If you have a small TV they usually have a VGA input you can connect your laptop to. Some laptops have an HDMI port that can be used for the same thing. I have my laptop and a 22in TV to use (since my wife got my office with my triple monitor rig lol)

    4. The answer is to get a second monitor at home. The HDMI setup there with a laptop screen and large monitor screen works fairly well. That’s the home office. I may have needed to construct a side table for my mouse hand out of some scrap wood, but it works pretty well.

      Or you could do what I’m doing right now. Sitting on my couch with a wireless keyboard and mouse, while my desktop is plugged into the HDMI port on the 48 inch TV. Also works pretty well.

      1. Ultrawide 4k is the best option.

    5. Not petty at all. Since the 1800’s or even earlier, standard office desks even for peons have been sized so you can have several documents in front of you at once. Having to shuffle papers or click back and forth doesn’t just waste time, it strains your short term memory and attention span because you can only carry about seven digits worth of information in your head through the transition.

  22. Public Defender here. My county hasn’t figured out a way to do video or even telephonic hearings well enough for me not to go see my in custody clients, heck, some judges still have out of custodies coming in. Just waiting till someone tests positive and the whole system crashes I guess.

    1. FYI — Massachusetts’ Middlesex County (not Suffolk with Rachael “refuse to prosecute” Rollins) has gotten police departments to charge rather than arrest wherever possible for this very reason.

  23. My wife and I are both working from home. Somehow, with no negotiation, she ended up with the office and the good chair, while I am in the basement sitting at a card table.

    At least the dog is happy we are home

    1. LOL! Our’s, too.

  24. Been working from home since 3/12. Thankfully we’re designated as a G-SIFI, so work hasn’t really changed at all. I hope I won’t need it, but we proactively acquired DHS clearance to bypass police checkpoints in the event we need to go into our physical offices. I’m in PA in Chester County, which is one of the 7 counties Gov. Wolf included in his stay at home order.

    1. Police checkpoints!?! And it isn’t “martial law”?!?

      I thought it was bad in Massachusetts with Baker decreeing which businesses are allowed to be open with the rest ordered to be closed. But police “checkpoints”?!? Good Lord….

      1. Sorry if that sounded alarmist, but as of right now, there are no known police checkpoints. But I don’t know if that’s really true because if we’re going to these lengths to avoid them, that makes me suspicious that there might be checkpoints in the future. I have no idea what Gov. Wolf will do enforcement wise. I may have to experience “papers, please” here in the USA.

  25. College professor. Let’s be honest, even before any of this many of my colleagues were rarely to be seen in the office, so no dramatic difference there.

    The online teaching sucks badly. Maybe it’s no real difference for the people who just read some PowerPoint provided by a textbook company, but for decent instructors who tried to base the class on discussion where the students drive the problem solving methods, and there were no fixed lecture notes, it’s really bad. Most students don’t raise their hand and say “I have a question”, they communicate through a furrowed brow, a nod, or shifting in their seat, and all that’s lost in Zoom.

  26. Anesthesiologist/intensivist in a midwest academic and trauma center. It’s quiet but won’t stay that way long.
    Many physician friends in the community hospitals are finding themselves and their businesses suddenly without cash flow or personal income. When elective surgery stops, then surgeons, intensivists, hospitalists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, hundreds of nurses and support staff and others suddenly discover that they have no hours and no income. We will need the resources of all of the community hospitals that are currently shuttering wards. Second problem for staffing is that can’t take a shift if there is no one to take care of their children.

    1. Sounds like your community is like an observer at the shore, watching the water recede in advance of a tsunami.

  27. I was supposed to start a new job as a local Prosecutor on Monday, which is a thing that did not happen, and that for several reasons. When I got back to the US, from Israel and the UK, on the 15th I was told by CDC at O’Hare to self-quarantine for two weeks, which the NMDOH also requested, so I am on “double secret quarantine” until Sunday. Of course with the rest of the state on lockdown now, I don’t feel singled out, but it will likely be a while even for relatively “essential” things like the prosecution of crime to get back to normal. In the meantime I occasionally text my supervisor-to-be to see what is going on.

    BTW, I have not practiced law in almost 30 years, and I have to say that the Volokh Conspiracy is one of the main ways I keep that part of my brain from atrophying completely as I do other things. Thanks for helping!

    1. 30 years, wow.
      If a physician has a 1 year gap in practice, no matter how much continuing education one has done in the interim, most state boards will require (depending on the gap) anything from peer supervision for a period, to doing some portion of a residency again.
      Calls for filling in the medical establishment with retired docs to meet the surge in CoViD care is misguided. It is only in television that the misfit genius MD is a savior. In real life it is the doc who is effective knows his team, works well with others, and has a deep understanding of the people underpinning the organization, and knows that most often he is not the smartest guy in the room.

      1. In my case though I practiced as a Prosecutor all those years ago, I am starting in the same role as someone fresh out of Law School. Despite having spent much of that gap in the Computer field, I feel that my legal knowledge, though older, is less out of date. Hence my decision to go back to work in this field.

        Medicine is probably somewhere between those fields in the speed at which it changes.

  28. I’ve been home but not working much other than answering a few emails about force majeure clauses, impracticability, and things like that. The money and clients stopped coming in. Opposing attorneys have mostly stopped working and are seeking extensions for deadlines.

  29. Hi. I am working remotely after this pandemic started. I recently joined a new company and I consulted Ultimate HR Solutions, one of the reputed job recruitment agencies from http://www.uhrs.ae/about-us/ . Soon after I joined, I started working remotely.
    But I must say that working remotely is not that easy!

  30. Working from home developing software for a consortium of credit unions, and actually getting more done than if I were at the office. My dog loves the play-time, too.

  31. My wife had to close her plastic surgery practice and is desperately trying to find a way to cover her fixed overhead so she will be able to reopen and help her staff get temporary assistance so they have some income in the meantime.

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