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Embrace the Flexibility Remote Work Allows

Nolan in the Carolina baseball dugoutA few weeks back in July, I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). I worked partial days from various locations on campus including the eighth floor of the Davis Library, a room at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, and even the bleachers of the ball field. Simultaneously, my 9-year-old immersed himself in baseball with Carolina players and coaches at the baseball facility.

That week, I made a brief post on LinkedIn about the change of scenery and its benefits. I wanted to expand on that a bit more here on Keefer Madness. I’m post this, encouraging those of you blessed to have flexible work situations to take advantage. But overall just take the time to get outside. Break out of routes and routines on occasion.

Remote Work

Home office - remote work flexibilotyBoth my wife and have been full-time remote working since the COVID-19 pandemic sent many home from offices back in March of 2020. Our whole family adjusted to the changes and for a while, all four of us were doing school and work from home. For the boys, the return to in person was crucial for learning, but my wife and I have continued to thrive and embrace working from home. In my previous job, I had a developer that often worked from a coffee shop. While I understood the concept, I pretty much always tethered myself to the home office. Its myriad technological goodies including Ethernet connection, podcast-grade mic, and dual monitors, not to mention the ability to shut the doors was and is comfortable.

Change of Environment

I loved my four years at UNC-CH, but sadly don’t get back very often. While I’m lucky to live within driving distance of campus (about 40 minutes), I’ve been back rarely, save for an occasional sporting event on campus or a nearby youth sports event. I used to race bikes with a club out of Chapel Hill, so that got me near to campus in the first few years after graduation, but I’ve since moved further away and don’t bike nearly as often.

Regardless, when we signed my son up for his first baseball camp at Carolina, I resolved to find a way to work on campus both to avoid the drive back and forth from Raleigh to Chapel Hill and also to reconnect a bit with Carolina. It also open my eyes a bit to that change of scenery an old team member had embraced.

I experienced the effects a change in scenery can have just a few weeks early, working a single Friday from a neighbor’s home office at their beach house. Sure, I was a bit jealous that the rest of the family and friends spent the day at the beach, but even moving to a different locale was helpful.

Change of Routine

We can all get into ruts and routines — a mixed bag, and I wasn’t in a bad one of either. The necessity of having to work remotely but for me, having a temporary commute, and then the need to walk several times a day was great. The untethering too from all the hardware of the home office was nice too — a single display made distractions fewer, and focus better.

During that week at UNC-CH, I moved locations multiple times a day. Those brief walks around mid-campus were great for resetting, refocusing, and a bit of sightseeing. We’re not talking about anything more than a five to ten-minute walk, but the combination of change of setting, a little sunlight and heat, and a new destination for the next work meeting or task was palpable.

Nostalgia

Obviously, nostalgia heightened the feelings that coincided with my change of locale, but it was only a part of it. Like I said before, I had similar effects on mood and focus just a few weeks earlier at a home office at the beach.

I had a wonderful experience oh so many years ago at UNC-CH, and absolutely enjoyed memories coming back, along with observing all the changes, and improvements, along with the things that had not changed a bit.

I ended up spending most of my work time on the eighth floor of Davis library, splitting time between a glass-fronted study room and a little open alcove at a window on the perimeter of the book stacks. It was definitely the most time I spent in that building, though my old dorm was just across the street.

UNC-CH Alumni CenterI also spent two blocks of time at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, booking a small room with a table set up for four. There I spent time taking calls, and concentrating on reading and writing some documents. Though a member of the UNC General Alumni Association, it was only my second time setting foot inside the building. My first experience was back in 2018 when I spoke on a UNC-Chapel Hill Alumni Association Internship Panel for students looking at taking their first internship or first job post-graduation.

Disclaimer

I fully recognize there are plenty of people, companies, and occupations where it’s necessary for you to be in-person. Many don’t have the same freedom. A lot of the above doesn’t apply to those roles, though much still does. Make time to get outside. Make time to change your route, and generally find minutes, hours, and days to break routine in small and large ways. You don’t know who, what, and where you might encounter new things, inspiration, and overall breaks in monotony. Everyone’s journey is unique. Yet we can all find ways to break the tedium and get motivation from new and different environments, people, and places.

Takeaways

Those of us working remotely have been given back all that time we used to have to utilize for commuting. Many of us have already repurposed that time. We get things done around the house, exercise more, and are present at home a tad more. But the downside is we don’t have the same level of compartmentalization we once had between work and home, nor the variety an office has — going to different people’s desks, and different conference rooms. The way to bring back that is to find a change to your work landscape. It doesn’t have to be going across the country. An occasional move to a different room, to your back porch, or even changing from sitting and standing can be a good start.

UNC-CH Baseball CampAs I write this, I’m reminded of all these benefits and feelings. I realize I need to do a bit more movement around the house in the coming weeks. Already, I look forward to my son attending baseball camp again next year at UNC-CH. Thank you to my alma mater for the little bit of hospitality a few weeks back. But even more so, thank you to my employer, Scale Media, and all the other companies out there that have made it acceptable to live and work, blur the lines, and be flexible.

Discussion

One Response to “Embrace the Flexibility Remote Work Allows”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article about the benefits of changing your work environment. I can definitely relate to your experience of feeling more focused and productive when I work in a different setting. I think it’s important to break up the monotony of working from home by occasionally working from a coffee shop, library, or even just a different room in the house.

    I also appreciate your reminder that we should all make time to get outside and break our routines, even if it’s just for a short walk. A little change of scenery can do wonders for our mental and physical health.

    Overall, I think your article is a great encouragement for people to take advantage of the flexibility that remote work offers. I’m grateful to my employer for allowing me to work remotely, and I’m always looking for new ways to improve my work environment and routine.

    Posted by The Escaperoom | October 19, 2023, 3:11 pm

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