Connectedness in isolation
As a young and idealistic person in the 90s*, I saw the Web as a game-changer. Here was a medium with the power to connect people everywhere. Barriers of country or class, race or religion would dissolve away and we would all unite in our common humanity.
Fast forward 25 years and we’ve had reason to rethink the extent to which the web has actually turned out to be a force for good. Social media addictions, privacy breaches, the spreading of fake news & the deliberate manipulation of people en masse via Cambridge Analytica…it’s reasonable to wonder whether the whole venture hasn’t been a mistake.
On the other hand, there has also been a lot of good come of it. We all now take for granted that we can learn just about anything via Wikipedia, find our way anywhere with Google Maps, or shop anytime for the most niche items imaginable that will be delivered to us from any corner of the globe. We can even find love.
The web also continues to connect people in ways that change lives. For people with limited mobility, anxiety disorders and other conditions that keep them isolated, the Internet (and all the communications channels it has enabled) has been a life-saver.
As I write this, I am in self-imposed isolation with my family, doing what we can to flatten the curve of Coronavirus infections in Australia. With the increased awareness of the importance of isolation and social distancing for preventing the spread of infections, it has reminded many of us of the role the Internet can play in connecting us.
We may be required to isolate ourselves by circumstance, through bad luck or by choice, but whatever the reason, there are lots of ways we can stay connected.
Connecting with yourself
If you find yourself with some alone time, or time away from your usual routine, this can be a great opportunity for some introspection.
How’s your life going? Are you doing what you hoped you would by now? Any life goals or bucket list items you have lost sight of?
Now could be a great time to re-evaluate, make some new plans, or learn a new skill. There’s a huge amount of training material online you can use — try learning to program in python, teach yourself macrame, or learn how to meditate.
Connecting with your work
For many of us, work occupies a big part of each day, so not physically going to work is a significant change. Work doesn’t have to stop though — there are many ways to stay connected to your workmates and your work.
Videoconferencing & Chat
You don’t have to talk face-to-face, but it may make you feel more connected. Everyone has their favourite…for businesses Zoom is popular, or Skype, Join.me, Slack or Blue Jeans. If you want to build your own customised solution, take a look at Amazon Chime. Slack is quick to set up, works well for business use as it has channels you can set up for different teams and it has a free tier.
For home use, if you’re on Facebook there’s video chat in Messenger, or trusty ol’ Skype. And you can always turn off the video and just talk, if you want to do meetings in your pyjamas!
If your current inbound phone number terminates in the office and there is no easy way to redirect those calls to staff working remotely, a Cloud-based contact centre can help. Amazon Connect can route calls to staff working at home, allowing them to receive, transfer and make calls. All they need is a web browser.
Some businesses have Office 365 and SharePoint, others are fans of Google Docs. If your workplace doesn’t use either, you might look at other online collaboration tools like Amazon WorkDocs or Dropbox for Business. If you have an existing AWS account, WorkDocs is easy to add. It allows you to collaborate on documents with others, add comments and track versions, and because it stores your data in S3 you can be 99.999999999% sure that your data won’t get lost.
UPDATE: Available now through to June 30, 2020 Amazon is offering WorkDocs for up to 50 users at no charge for new WorkDocs customers. This include 1 TB of storage per user.
Compute from Anywhere
If your employer provides you with a workstation you can’t take home, and you don’t have any way to access it (eg over a VPN), Amazon WorkSpaces can fill that gap.
WorkSpaces is a managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution that makes it fast and easy to provide Windows or Linux desktops to staff working remotely. Access to your WorkSpaces desktop is via the WorkSpaces Client, which runs on Windows, Macs, Chromebooks — or even your iPad, so you can work from the couch!
UPDATE: From April 1, 2020 through to June 30, 2020 Amazon is offering WorkSpaces for up to 50 users at no charge for new WorkSpaces customers. This offer includes their Standard, Value, and Performance bundles. WorkSpaces users also get access to WorkDocs.
Access Specialist Applications
Perhaps you have specific applications you need to do your work, and they usually live on the office network rather than on your laptop. No problem! AWS AppStream 2.0 can solve that by giving you access to those applications in the AWS Cloud, and making them accessible anywhere via a web browser.
AppStream is a great solution for specialised Windows-based applications, eg for 3D and engineering work, as well as any application that needs to be centrally managed.
While connecting is important, it’s also important to take time for yourself and your family. This is especially important when you work from home, because it’s easy to forget to turn off.
Schedule downtime. Reconnect with your pets. Reconnect with your kids. Reconnect with your significant other. Do some gardening.
Find time to dream of a world where we all use a moment like this to unite in our common humanity.
* I’m middle-aged and idealistic now