Connecting to a VPN is usually like picking up your device and tossing it into another network, figuratively speaking. All of your network activities – such as browsing, fetching private mails, chatting with a friend on IRC – will take place within this virtual network, or not at all: in its most secure configuration, access to resources on the local area network will not be possible. I thus prefer to separate my real private network activities from those in the virtual private network by using a virtual guest dedicated to nothing but connecting to the latter and doing whatever I need to do within the guest system.
In the present case, I'm fortunate that my employer now uses a gateway whose VPN client (Palo Altos's GlobalProtect) runs even on an up-to-date Arch installation. So my choice for the guest system is an out-of-the-box ArchBang that comes with i3 as (tiling) Window manager. It installs in 10 min, comes with everything I need, and fits in 5 GB of space. I spent another 5 min modifying the wallpaper and the conky instance – my idea was to have a visual indication in form of my IP whether or not I'm connected to the VPN.
After configuring everything to my liking, it turned out that I shouldn't have bothered – our IT guys configured the VPN with split tunneling enabled. This basically means that only traffic destined to the remote location passes through the encrypted tunnel, while everything else uses the standard gateway. Supposedly less secure, but certainly much more convenient. Excellent choice! I'm sure I'll find another use for my virtual Arch – be it for testing or online banking.