For the last two months (plus a little), I've been working remotely. My home is also my office, and while I don't have to commute every day, I'm also never in the same room as my teammates and colleagues (or anyone other than my roommate, these days). Early in my work from home days, I struggled to adjust, but was hopeful that things would go well. A few months later, I'm still struggling with this new reality, and while there are some parts of my remote work that are okay, I'm really looking forward to (hopefully) eventually being back in the office.
It's been two months, and I still haven't been able to set up a good work environment. I spent a month at my parents' house, and while I was there, I had a good desk and an okay amount of space, but my chair was not very comfortable, and by the end of my time there, it was difficult to sit in my desk chair. Now that I'm back at my own place, I have a smaller desk, and I have to clear things off of it to make it a surface that is conducive to working. I still don't have an external monitor, mouse, or keyboard (not that I have room for them on my small desk). My environment feels very temporary - I set myself up in the morning and put everything back to normal at the end of the day - which I think reinforces the fact that I'm not comfortable with remote work as a long-term option. I did recently make one big purchase to help my desk feel more like a desk - I bought a desk chair. I haven't had a chance to use my new chair for a full work day, but I'm hoping that not only does this new chair help preserve my reading chair (which I had been using previously as a desk chair and has taken a bit of a beating), but that it also helps me feel a bit more like I'm actually at work.
Another big frustration for me is that my desk is a few feet from my bed. In fact, in my pre-desk-chair setup, I faced my bed and could easily toss things on to my bed (with the desk chair, my back will be to my bed, which I hope helps). It's hard to preserve work-life balance when my office and my bedroom are the same, and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if this was messing with my sleep cycle as well (I've always been a bad sleeper, and sometimes its hard for me to know what is normal sleeping problems and what is caused by something else). I can't help but wonder if I would feel a little better about my setup if I was able to set up a permanent desk in a room that isn't my bedroom. However, my living situation doesn't give my anywhere other than my bedroom to set up a permanent desk, so I just have to deal with working in the bedroom.
One thing that has gone well throughout this remote work experience is my ability to connect and collaborate with my team. We're still having regular video meetings, and it's nice to see my teammates' faces and check in with them to see how they're doing (both with work and with non-work things). I've had several opportunities to pair program with other engineers on my team, and other than not always being able to see the person I'm pairing with (which is because I don't have an extra monitor), I've always felt like we were able to collaborate well. I've been having weekly meetings with my manager and I feel like we've been able to connect. Despite the physical distance between us, I feel close to my teammates and I do see us working together effectively.
While my team has certainly been effective and productive, I don't feel as productive as I did a few weeks ago. I feel like I'm more easily distracted, and while I am working longer hours (which is definitely not a good thing), I don't feel like I'm getting as much done. I get distracted in the office, so this is not a unique remote issue, but in the office I feel more motivated to get back to work, and unless I'm working on something that I'm highly motivated to get done, I tend to let the distractions take me off course.
The longer I've been working from home, the more I miss the office. I miss having a dedicated space that's only for work and is not within a few feet of my bed. I love the fact that I can still collaborate with my teammates, but I miss being in the same room as them and just being around people. I miss seeing people from all departments come together in the kitchen or other shared spaces - there are coworkers who I would normally chat with for a few minutes who I haven't seen or spoken to in months. I'm fortunate to have a manager who has been working remotely for a number of years and who understands my struggles (and can help me navigate them), but even with her help, I don't see remote work being a long-term option for me.
With everything going on right now, there's no way to know when (or if) I will be back in the office. I'm grateful to my company for doing their best to set us up for success and for not trying to rush us back into the office before it's safe for us all to return. But I'm starting to struggle more and more every day with not being in the office and the reality that I'm not expecting to be back in the office for at least another few months. I don't have a good setup for remote work, and I haven't yet found my most successful setup, and I just miss being around everyone. I'm grateful for the fact that I am still able to work and I am able to communicate and collaborate with my team, but working from home just doesn't feel like the best situation for me. I miss the office, and I look forward to being back there when the company feels it's safe to reopen the office.