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.
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.
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.
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.
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.