loading...

3 Things I learned transitioning from Remote to an Office

lkopacz profile image Lindsey Kopacz Originally published at a11ywithlindsey.com ・6 min read

Back in October, I wrote a post about 10 things I've learned from working remotely, and it was a big hit. It actually made the top 7 posts that week on dev.to! I had been working remotely for about 16 months at that point, and I shared a bunch of things that I had learned.

A few months ago, I got an incredible offer. It was approximately 32% more than I was making - but there was a catch. I had to go back into working at an office. The commute was about 20 minutes - so not bad at all. However, I didn’t take it with a grain of salt. The work seemed way more exciting than what I was doing at my remote job, and the money was terrific. However, I was very attached to my lifestyle as a remote employee. I decided to go for it, but it was definitely an adjustment. It’s been about 2 months into my new gig, and I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned and even enjoyed with the new change.

1. Prioritize what is important in your routine

The hardest adjustment for me was shifting my routine around. When I was working remotely, I usually woke up between 6 and 7. I’d hit the gym, shower up, have some breakfast and get to writing. While my new commute is one that many in the DC area dream of (the rush hour traffic gets terrible here), it was quite an adjustment for me in terms of what I could get done in my mornings. This became even harder as I have become more diligent about creating egghead.io content.

I realized that I could not focus on both the gym and content creation on the same days. To do so, I would need to wake up even earlier than I already do. Anytime before 5:30AM is incredibly difficult for me. Because I am an avid weightlifter, going to the gym is a goal that deserves complete focus from me. I could sometimes take up to an hour getting ready for the gym, getting to and from the gym, and working out, depending on how many exercises I was doing and how much rest I needed between sets. When I didn’t have a commute, this wasn’t a huge deal.

Stick figure going to bed and then working.

I now focus on either content creation/editing in the morning OR the gym, but not both. But I’ve also noticed that now I am even more focused because my goals have not really changed. No futzing around on Twitter or Slack while I write. I will set a timer and see how much I can get done before it’s up! While I miss that extra hour in my day, I’ve noticed that I am using my morning time way more wisely than I was before.

2. The built-in boundaries are a welcome change

I do not struggle tremendously with setting boundaries, which what made working remotely really great for me. But I will say, it’s nice to have them built in. When I was working remotely if I forgot “one little quick thing” after I concluded my workday, I could quickly hop on the computer. I tried my hardest not too, but sometimes when you’re stressed out about work, it takes a lot of mental will power which also takes up headspace.

In my article about my tips working remotely, the first thing I emphasized was learning to set boundaries. I think this is still great advice, both in your personal and professional life. But if you’re newer to setting limits, it takes A LOT of mental effort to shift your mindset. A lot of self-improvement books talk about shifting mindset as if it’s easy, and it’s not. It’s something you should do, but sometimes when you have as much going on as I do, it’s nice to have some built-in boundaries that you don’t need to overthink.

Going over the days of the week with every day having work start at 9am and finish at 6pm.

Now, I don’t have the work Slack or email on my phone. I also keep my laptop there. It’s…kinda nice. I literally forget about work when I get home and don’t think about it until I get in the next day. In our ever busy lives, we have this anxiety about not being able to be reached. But it’s been about 2 months, and nobody seems to mind. Luckily, if I am sick, I can log into the browser version of my email or slack on my home computer and let people know.

3. Staying remote is not a higher priority than mental health

This is going to get a bit personal. If you’re not into that, skip ahead.

Strangely enough, the moment I started my blog was the moment that shit hit the fan at my last job. The day after I launched my blog I had a large work emergency that felt unsolvable. I was new to the project, and the people who had more context were either on PTO or sick. I had a panic attack the following day while on a call with a client (which is not fun). I was talking to a friend, one I will always be thankful for at that moment, and he said “Lindsey, it’s a website. Nobody is going to die.” It was that blunt statement I needed to calm me down.

I tried to take that statement and remember that work is work. I don’t need it to be fun all the time, that’s why it’s called work. So I would acknowledge my feelings of stress and attempt to keep it in perspective. I was only one person, and I had to manage expectations of what I could do and what I couldn’t and reach out for help when needed.

Sometime during that month, I started to get depressed. My employer was going through some changes that made it really hard for me to let go. I was open about it with my coworkers, but it didn’t seem to help. It got to the point that to protect my mental health, I needed to literally not care. I know a lot of my readers only see an Internet version of me, but I hope it’s clear that I am a very passionate person. Not caring made me even more depressed, so it became a no-win situation for me. While I could stand to have some detachment from clients for boundary purposes, I can’t turn it off completely.

Elaine, from Seinfeld, holding her hair and slowly blinking, indicating stress.

I felt stuck. I was very attached to my remote working lifestyle. I started looking for other jobs that were remote friendly, but I got 3-4 rejections without even the chance of an interview. I wanted to transition from Drupal to JS developer work, and it was hard for me to make that jump without a ton of React or VueJS on my resume. I talk a lot in local community slacks, and many developers in my local community reached out to me once they heard I was looking. I was resistant to interview because of the non-remote nature of those jobs.

Long story short, I found a non-remote job. And I can tell you I am immensely happier for the time being. My work is much more fulfilling, and I am re-energized with learning. So I’ll repeat it for the people in the back: staying remote is not a higher priority than your mental health.

Some people actually prefer remote for their mental health, which I totally get. The private nature of my last job made a lot of self-care things a TON easier. My previous job wasn’t a strain on my mental health because it was remote. It was a strain because of a high profile client and the companies transitional changes. Remote or not, companies going through changes can harm mental health, and sometimes it’s not worth staying.

Conclusion

This has been a really great time for my career. I’ve reignited my passion for math by building graphs with d3. I’ve finally learned how to use .reduce() in JavaScript. I’m making enough money to save for my wedding, enjoy my life a bit, and pay my bills. It’s lovely.

I’d eventually like to be remote again because being remote isn’t what harmed my mental health, it was a lot of company changes and lack of client boundaries. It wasn’t feeling like I was paid enough for the pain I was dealing with. I miss remote a ton, especially as my blog and egghead.io stuff take off. Maybe someday, but for now things are going great, and what I am doing and how I am feeling is way more important.

Posted on by:

lkopacz profile

Lindsey Kopacz

@lkopacz

I'm a self-taught Front End & JS Dev and professional learner with accessibility expertise. I'm passionate about breaking down concepts into relatable concepts, making it more approachable.

Discussion

markdown guide
 

This is so well written Lindsey! I also love the fact that you added the audio version.

 

Thank you!! I actually use Kyle's tool, parler.io. You should totally follow him as he's a great maker and blogger

kylegalbraith image

He even made it really simple to embed them into dev.to (which is how I did it!)

 

Cool! Now following :) I'll definitely start using this tool for my posts.

 

Great story, and glad you are finding things to like about the office life. I recently shifted to the office too, and find it much less stressful and I'm able to turn work off when I leave which is so nice. Is that some of what you experienced too?

 

yeah definitely! There's things I still miss like not being interrupted for small questions (unless it's important) and taking a quick personal call without feeling awkward. But the built in boundaries are SO freakin' nice!

I think I would like to be remote again, but right now as I am learning something new (d3) I find the ability to more easily pair very helpful! I think it would be a bit harder. When I was remote before I felt pretty solid on the material I was learning. This is why I don't necessarily recommend remote to junior devs.

 

I read both this one and your previous article about remote working, something I'd really want to try soon. You mentioned your commute is 20 minutes so not bad at all (mine is about 55, still not terrible but almost 2 hours wasted every day).
But what about working in an office? To me, the main reason to go remote would be having my private office. Not that I don't like working with people, I'm always available for pair programming if a colleague needs help, I don't like spending days in meetings but do find useful to share ideas with the team regularly.. But boy, do I hate working in an open office with people answering their phones, talking loud, even if it is strict work related conversation. And what about me taking a phone call? I'm always afraid to bother my coworkers, so I try to keep my voice as quite as possibile, sometimes I just walk away and find a quite spot to talk, but I don't have my computer with me. To me open office is a productivity killer, as I said I haven't been fully remote yet, but when I get to work from home I'm way more productive.

Getting back to your article, sorry for the diversion, I can see why you left your remote job and money is quite important, so I may have made the same decision if I were you.
You're 100% right when you say staying remote isn't more important than loving your job and enjoy your life.

 

To be fair, these are all things I still struggle with and I'm adjusting to. I currently am in an open office, but the company is so small that our office has only 3 people in it and we are usually coding heavily and not talking much unless it's pairing. Because our lead (the one who talks to the clients) is also a developer, he understands and usually takes calls or meetings outside the office.

I do have one or two days a week where I still work from home. For example, today I had a few errands during the day, so I am working from home to help with that.

In terms of people talking, I set a boundary with my boss last Friday. Someone came in and had a "quick chat" that turned into 20 minutes. I was quite irate because I have ADHD. I simply just put on my noise cancelling head phones, listened to my music and continued coding. I told him afterwards that I hope it didn't come across as rude, but it really impacts my ability to work when people have unplanned meetings in our office. He was really cool about it and also knew that if my headphones were on I was in the zone.

 

There are 10 people at the moment in my open space, a few minutes ago I was helping a colleague setting at his desk and I had an hard time hearing him... Now I'm back at my iMac with 3 people talking (work related stuff) just in front of me. Doesn't happen all the time, but still I find it really annoying.
I don't like listening to music while I work, if I love the song I find it distracting, as I'm enjoying it and paying less attention to what I'm trying to achieve. I don't feel like wearing noise cancelling headphones without sound, just to block noises. I tried, but felt weird.

 

Thanks Lindsey! I def. can relate to the part of being passionate about your work. It's tough when you want to help the company succeed and are really passionate because you care! But sometimes a point comes, like you had, where there just may not be the reciprocity for your investment and attempts to add value the company.

Curious how many others have faced that (I have!)? Is it something that tends to happen after doing the same thing for a certain period of time? Or just a cultural thing company-wise?

 

I think this is why good management is so crucial. When management makes themselves unavailable and disconnects from their team (hiding out in meetings all day, not aware of daily operational events, too many fires to put out to get out of their office and recognize contributions by the team, straight-up narcissism). There's a lot of very different reasons it can happen, but it seems fairly common for management to take someone's work for granted and only recognize how much that person cared/how much they accomplished/how they boosted morale once that person leaves for greener pastures.

 

Oh yes, I'd love to hear others' experiences as well with this. I am pretty certain that many people have struggle with it.

 

Thanks for sharing! I (currently) can't think of going all office again - but I also can't imagine only working remote. It's always interesting to peak into other peoples work-lives like that.

 

I loved working remote when I found the work fulfilling! I do miss it sometimes still.