Transition to working from home | 2020 Year In Review

transition to working from home

Well that’s it, another year has passed us by and we move into 2021. I think everyone would agree it’s been a year unlike any other because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but how has your transition to working from home gone? For me, I’ve worked from home before so I was a little more prepared than the average person. Our company has a flexible work location policy and I’ve worked from home to help balance out the after hours work I do when migrating and maintaining systems. We have two kids and it’s been great to be around our home to help a little more.

Time Balance

It can be difficult to focus on your work when you have kids in the same room. Ask anyone who has brought their kids to work for an event, very little actual work gets done! I’ve been doing ok this year with this, I’m able to put earbuds in or move to another part of the house that isn’t as loud. The greater challenge I have though is just balancing all the “stuff” around the house. I’m naturally a maintainer, not really O.C.D. but I’d much rather pickup toys off the floor every hour rather than shovel them at the end of the day. The greatest challenge I’ve had working from home is to try and ignore what’s going on around my house after I return from a bathroom break.

What I Missed Most

The thing I’ve missed most this past year is a little time in the car commuting (45 minutes each way). I’ve typically listened to the news or podcasts during my commute and I just can’t seem to replicate that at home. With two young kids I’ve pitched in keeping them busy, making meals, transitioning tasks, so I haven’t been able to recreate a time for myself. I really miss that. Sorry podcasts companies, you’ve lost an active listener over the past year!

Workstation Setup

One big challenge I think most people have, is where to work? I don’t have a home office, I’ve typically setup in different spots around the house when working from home and didn’t have a dedicated space. The first few months I spent a lot of time standing at our dining room buffet using an Amazon box and laptop stand (I know, quite techie for an IT professional). Although it’s rather basic, it keeps my screen at eye view and my bluetooth keyboard and mouse are at the right height when standing. Most days I will spend about half the day like this.

After a few months though I mounted a monitor to the wall in my basement and use that space when I need to use a second screen. This space has proved very valuable when I get on meetings and could use a little more quiet time. Here is a couple items that have helped me:

  • Jabra Evolve 65e – these earbuds have good range moving around the house, loved quality and battery life, stay in good when picking up kids or working out, but the mute button is key! Not many models offer this, I love being able to mute/unmute without standing at my computer.
  • LED Ring Light – like most basements ours doesn’t get much light, this has been needed to have higher quality video.
  • Background – I’m a big soccer fan, I’ve collected scarves from teams all over the world. I had an idea to create a backdrop with these, it’s been a great conversation starter! (see picture above)


Overall I learned how to transition to working from home and be just about as productive as in an office. I think it’s very hard to calculate productivity, at times being in the office is not productive as you run into people unexpectedly. It’s much easier for me to shrug off one of my children who I will see at lunch, or dinner, or bed time, or…you get the point. I miss the face-to-face interaction with co-workers, but having a great video meeting solution keeps us connected. Well that’s my 2020 Year In Review, check out the General section to keep reading on where I’ve been since starting this website.

Stop users from auto-forwarding email to external users

exchange online admin center


Have you run a report to see if users have setup Outlook rules to auto-forward email to an external email like their personal email? I was blown away after running a report to find multiple users who had a generic rule to forward their email to their personal email. If you’re concerned about data loss this is a big issue, let’s take a look at how to stop users from auto-forwarding email to external users.

Find out who is auto-forwarding

Take a look below at a way to setup a Mail Flow rule in the Exchange Admin Center to start blocking message type of auto-forward. You will want to use the following for:

Apply this rule if:

  • The sender is located: Inside the organization
  • The recipient is located: Outside the organization
  • The message type is: Auto-forward

Do the following:

  • Reject the message with the explanation: <Use your own custom explanation for users to see.
  • Generate incident report and send it to: <email address>

Except if:

  • The recipient address includes: <add any exceptions here to still allow>

Finally choose to “Test with (or without) Policy Tips” – what this will do is start testing the rule. You will want to be sure you have added an option to send incident reports so that you can find out who is abusing this auto-forwarding rule. When you’re ready, you will change the mode to Enforce as detailed in the screenshot above.

Removing the option to Forward

There is a place in the Outlook settings that you can remove for auto-forwarding email. If you are using this for service or shared mailboxes you will want to make any forwarding changes in the Exchange admin center, not at the user level. Microsoft has documented this process, you can follow these steps in Turning off forwarding in Exchange Online. Those steps are for making a change at the user level, I would recommend making a change at the tenant level so all current and future users will have this option removed.
First you will need to run 2 commands in PowerShell:

New-ManagementRole -Parent MyBaseOptions -Name MyBaseOptionsNewDefault

Set-ManagementRoleEntry MyBaseOptionsFrontlineDefault\Set-Mailbox -
Parameters DeliverToMailboxAndForward,ForwardingAddress,ForwardingSmtpAddress -RemoveParameter

Once this is complete you will see a new option in your Exchange Admin Center > Permissions > User roles > Default Role Assignment Policy (you may have more policies). Now open up that policy and check the box next to the “MyBaseOptionsNewDefault” that you created in PowerShell.

Here is a before and after of what it will now look like in the Outlook web app under Settings > Mail > Forwarding (option is completely removed):


I hope this gives you guidance on how to stop users from auto-forwarding email to external users. The first step was to put up a wall with a Mail Flow rule so they can’t setup any forwarding rules. The second step was to remove the option in the Outlook user interface for forwarding all email. Users can still forward emails one at a time, but now there shouldn’t be any way they are doing it with auto-forwarding. If you liked this, be sure to see other tips in the Office 365 category.

It’s 2019

I’ve got a confession to make, I liked Google+. I mean I plus’d Google+ ? Well, let’s just say I used it for a few years when it first came out as a “techy social media and blog” site to post on. I met some new people, posted a handful of times each month, and then stopped along with much of the users on there. Then Google decided to sunset Google+ for consumers. It didn’t bother me too much at first, I hadn’t used it over a year and heard all the rumors it was a dying attempt at Google-y social network. Then I realized, I posted some great content on there! Nothing that was mind bending, just tips and tricks I’ve found over the years as a Systems Administrator that I wish I would have kept better documentation on.

So here we are, it’s 2019 and I will never throw away helpful information again. I will promise to be an information hunter and gatherer. This updated website will be my place to do that.