Organizing life, while trapped at home during COVID-19

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “Getting things done while working from home using Microsoft To Do.” Ultimately, I am working from home, primarily because I am trapped here due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I fall into the category of high-risk for severe illness from the COVID-19 disease.

Being trapped at home is difficult. However, I’ve tried to treat it as positive as humanly possible. I now save 10 hours a week by eliminating my commute to the office after all! My mind quickly went all sorts of crazy directions by being stuck at home. Heck, after just three weeks, I shaved my head and beard!

What are Adaptive Sports, and why they matter?

My entire blog has historically been about my background in technology and my technology career. To be honest, I started this blog reasonably early in my professional career, and I was living, breathing, and eating technology. It was a nice ‘mental break’ to write about technology instead of learning continuously. However, sports have been a reasonably significant part of my life since I was a child. I started by playing soccer when I was 3 years old, way before I was showing signs of Muscular Dystrophy.

Soccer picture of Matt
Soccer Picture when I was a kid

I even tried my hand at basketball in elementary school; after all, I live in Indiana! As my Muscular Dystrophy progressed, sports were not possible. I directed my attention to computers – which turned out positive, but I still missed athletics. I became a super introverted teenager.

Getting things done while working from home using Microsoft To Do!

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, heck before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. I started working 100% from home; this was primarily due to my being a high-risk individual to the symptoms posed by COVID-19. I had worked from home a day or two in a row here and there, but now I was looking at weeks, months, who knew working from home.

After the first week, I noticed that I was struggling to find what to focus on; I had the attention span of a squirrel while I was in my home office. There were a lot of delayed, ‘back-burner’ items at work, but nothing super pressing at that time (don’t worry, that has changed!) I then also had a TON of things I needed to get done around the house I had severely neglected. I knew I couldn’t work on the house ethically when I should be getting work done, so I felt like my wheels were spinning in the mud.

Why should you have a mobile-first workforce?

In the last several months, many organizations have shut down, at a minimum, significantly slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic placed a strain on many industries, even the sectors that are essential. The company I work for is in the construction industry. We are lucky enough to be able to continue our work during a pandemic, as electricity is crucial to our nation to continue operating.

However, I am by no means an electrician. I hardly trust myself replacing a light switch or outlet in my own home. How could I continue working when I do not perform the essential work? Additionally, I have complex health conditions that make the COVID-19 pandemic significantly more dangerous for me. 

Well, I am lucky to have worked in technology my entire professional career, with a fair amount of travel for work. I am very comfortable working outside of a typical office setting. Comfort in your work environment is critical for productivity. If there are too many distractions, uncomfortable seating, poor lighting, all of these can drastically affect your productiveness. These are all things as an employer you cannot control; however, you can educate your employees on how to establish an ideal work environment at home. 

Tracking and Automating Business Processes

As businesses grow, it becomes challenging to keep up with business processes. To keep up with a constant flow of tasks associated with these processes, you need to track them, especially when multiple people are involved with the process. Business processes become difficult when you have to enter data into multiple systems. Entering the same data multiple times increases the risk of human error each time data gets entered.

In recent months I’ve been tasked with helping different business units improve and track their processes. Specifically, I started with our onboarding experience. The process tasks get assigned to people that are geographically dispersed, and sometimes the people involved with the onboarding only do a few a month. There is a lot that needs to go into it. You want to factor in things such as IT, Payroll, Equipment, Licensing, Training, which makes it keeping everyone in the loop difficult.

To combat these difficulties we settled on a product called TallyFy. TallyFy gives us a dashboard that will show us how our processes are progressing. It helps keep everyone on the same page and helps communicate issues in a more rapid manner.

Our hurdle with TallyFy was that it was tacking yet another system into our onboarding experience. We already had three different systems involved in someone applying for a job to ultimately receiving their first paycheck. Having multiple systems caused data re-entry, which is prone to typos. To combat the data re-entry, we needed to integrate our different systems. As previously blogged about I wrote a PowerShell Module to interact with the BirdDog HR system; we use this to send our new hires their employee packet to fill out before day one. This PowerShell Module I was able to query new in-coming employees – my next task was to integrate it with TallyFy so that it would track the progress of the onboarding.

Luckily for me, TallyFy has done a fantastic job writing an API that their web interface runs on, and I can do everything they can do. One of the challenges with this is that their API is very complicated. I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with their team to build out this PowerShell Module that only touches on a small fraction of what is available thought their API.

PowerShell Module Git Repository:

I am storing this Module on my personal Git Repository; as it is built out more I might publish into the PowerShell Gallery. You can find the Module at TallyFy API PowerShell Module.

Store the psd1 and psm1 files in Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Modules\TallyFy.

Connecting to TallyFy API

  1. Login to https://go.tallyfy.com
  2. Click on your name in the Top Right corner of site
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click Integrations
  5. Note your Client ID and Client Secret
  6. Open PowerShell and run the below command
  7. Connect-TallyFyAPI -ClientID 'Your client ID' -ClientSecret 'Your Client Secret' -Credential (Get-Credential) 
  8. Use your TallyFy Username and Password when prompted

Feel free to explore the other commands by running the below command.

Get-Help -Module TallyFy