The guilt and benefits of working remote

Wednesday afternoon. I wake up refreshed from a 10-minute nap. It’s cold outside, but the sun’s shining through my window unto the bed. I enjoy the warmth a minute longer before I get up to sit at the computer and keep working.

I fight feelings of guilt and worry. The way I’m conditioned to work - the way most of us are - is the usual 9 to 5 an hour for lunch. Even at the peak of COVID, I used to come to the office every morning, since I was a part of an IT team in a hospital.

I’m worried they’d think I’m lazy. I’m worried someone will call me with an emergency and I won’t be near my phone. I’m scared of making a bad impression in my new role.

I know it’s not true. Many of my co-workers are remote, even with COVID regulations easing off. We have office days ( which I find useful for focus and equipment I don’t have at home), but the office is mostly empty. The kind of work I do nowadays is through a web portal or a VPN connection. The meetings are all on Zoom, with screen sharing and colorful backgrounds. I sync my projects through OneDrive, my bookmarks through Microsoft Edge, and my comments through ServiceNow.

Mostly there are benefits. I’m able to work in “chunks,” which makes more sense for the project-oriented nature of my work. I’m able to use Emacs and run shell scripts I build at home. I can take care of apartment issues and get groceries delivered instead of worrying about those later. I can do my exercises between meetings and do a quick round of Doom to get my energy pumping. This all means I have more time and energy for my projects at work.

This new work-life balance means I have my work phone with me at all times. I am not required to be available 24/7, but it’s good to have a finger on the pulse so I can jump in and get involved as needed. My co-workers know they can message me anytime and I’ll get back to them sooner than later; the other day I received a message around 10 PM for a quick correction after which I went to bed.

My day starts at around 8 after I wake up and have my coffee. I go over emails, various ticket queues, and Slack, looking for urgent issues. Then I write a bit in my journal, take a shower, and start working on my projects. By this point, most people are around to chat after the morning rush eased off a bit. Likewise, in terms of meetings, the day ends somewhere after 3 PM. I usually eat a late lunch and work into the evening on solo tasks. This is also a good time to write emails and follow-ups for the next day.

This experience is new, a combined result of COVID and changing positions at work. As I noted at the beginning, I’m still getting used to it. I wish the guilty feelings would go away. It’s not easy to let a habit go, one that goes back years, even decades at this point.

For some, this way of mixing personal life with work is bad for balance. I get that. However, to me, it seems this new way is benefiting me and my job. I get more time for myself because I can adjust my time slots to fit my needs. In turn, I feel more productive and I don’t mind working outside of work hours, even on weekends. Since what I do for work is similar to what I do for fun (writing about technology, asking people questions, learning to edit video content, etc.) it’s even easier to go back and forth between the two.

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