If I were at a workaholic private party and needed to introduce myself, I would say, ‘Hi, I’m Alex, and I’m a workaholic.’
I want to send many hugs and say thanks to my team who helped me a lot with my transition, opened my eyes, and cleared my mind for a bright future. No sarcasm.
The following reflections solely represent my personal opinion and experiences as a remote worker. While these viewpoints may not be applicable to everyone, they provide insight into my unique journey and the lessons I have learned along the way.
Who am I?
I have been a remote worker since 2011, but last week I was forced to work in the office. So, let’s discuss the benefits of being an office worker (just to motivate myself to not give up). It’s not so easy to accept such a transition for a person who has been a remote worker (in various company roles from middle dev to CTO and co-founder) for a long time.
In this article, I don’t want to somehow ruin my work relationships or blame my team, but I want to share my thoughts on my own transformation from WFH to WFO. I’m so proud of working with my team; they are all amazing people with extensive experience in the business sphere and start-ups.
First of all, I asked ChatGPT about the common benefits of being an in-office worker.
Here is some key points:
- Collaboration and Teamwork
- Social Interaction
- Structured Environment
- Professional Development
- Access to Resources and Equipment:
- Clearer Boundaries and Work-Life Balance
- Improved Focus and Reduced Distractions
Let’s dive into these ideas and see how they work (or not). Each section will be introduced from an AI point of view, and afterward, I will share my thoughts about these ideas.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Being physically present in the office allows for more spontaneous and immediate collaboration with colleagues. In-person interactions can foster stronger relationships, enhance teamwork, and facilitate better communication, leading to more efficient problem-solving and idea generation.
I agree with that; it’s true, 100%. Collaboration and teamwork are crucial parts of each start-up in its early stages. However, we have many examples of successful start-ups that have never had physical offices for various reasons. Most of them didn’t have official offices at all.
There are many tools that can help your start-up or company find the best way for communication and collaboration.
As a developer, I can’t always be ready for spontaneous meetings or brainstorming sessions because 90% of my time is focused on programming activities, automation, deployment, or other tasks rather than collaboration or discussions. Switching context is not easy to manage for developers.
On the other hand, someone might argue that as a team of four people, you should be ready to discuss something important. But why not have specific time slots dedicated to such activities? It is an open question.
Working in an office provides opportunities for socialization and networking. You can engage in informal conversations, build personal connections with colleagues, and participate in team-building activities. This social aspect of office life can contribute to a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
In my experience, it works for companies with 5-10+ employees, but not fewer. I have worked in companies with 1000+ employees, and it was a great experience: team buildings, cafes & restaurants, and various enterprise activities.
However, when I switched to small companies, there were no such activities at all because small companies mainly focused on earning money and finding potential customers for their products.
Of course, my experience doesn’t cover all cases, but it is what it is. There are many exceptions, as with everything. If you are working in a small company with colleagues on the same wavelength, you will benefit.
If someone asks me about the ideal company in my mind, the answer would be a company with 10-50 employees, preferably remote workers from around the world. Why? Because it opens up the possibility to travel for your company’s business goals and meet your colleagues and teammates anywhere.
Offices provide a structured work environment that can help establish a routine and increase productivity. Having a dedicated workspace away from home can create a clear distinction between work and personal life, making it easier to focus on tasks and separate work-related stress from home life.
It depends on a specific person’s vision of what a ‘structured environment’ means.
Freedom, flexibility, productive hours, and personal preferences are crucial parts for me. Being a remote worker for a long time, I prefer to use my own work environment that fits best with my daily activities and comfort. The absence of a physical office allows me to create my own personalized workspace, whether it’s a balcony, cafe, or co-working space.
When you work from home, you have your own setup, your chair, and a great table that helps you a lot in being productive and organized. Of course, you may have a similar environment in your office, but it’s not my case.
Let’s say I need my own space, where I can listen to music without wearing headphones, do some exercises, or smoke shisha anytime I want. I’m not the person who enjoys small talks in the water-cooler section. Sometimes, I feel frustrated when somebody starts talking to another person, and I need to concentrate on a programming task instead of listening to unrelated conversations.
And last, but not least, I hate open spaces. The only exception is if there are only IT guys who remain silent most of the time. I am not an introvert (like I thought before), but I prefer to stay focused on a specific task for a long time.
Office settings often offer various professional development opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, and training sessions. These resources can help you enhance your skills, broaden your knowledge, and stay updated on industry trends. Being surrounded by experienced colleagues can also facilitate learning through mentorship and guidance.
Let’s say it can be, but not in my case. If you work in senior positions in a small company, you often have so many different activities surrounding your daily tasks that there will be no chance for you to participate in workshops, seminars, etc.
Being a self-taught developer, most of the time I learn a lot from the internet, YouTube videos, Udemy courses, and books. Seminars and conferences are important to me primarily for networking, rather than learning something new. I’m not the type of person who feels comfortable sitting for long periods in conference chairs, so I prefer talking to other people instead of listening to speakers.
Perhaps I missed something important when I was a junior or mid-level developer. My transition was so fast that I can’t recall any personal benefits from workshops or training sessions, except for one instance when I was a teacher and taught people how to use the Ruby programming language for their work.
If I were invited to any workshops, training sessions, or conferences, I would prefer to be a speaker rather than a listener.
Access to Resources and Equipment
Offices are typically equipped with specialized tools, technology, and resources that may not be available at home. Access to high-speed internet, printers, scanners, and other office equipment can streamline your work processes and enhance efficiency.
The office setup is often quite different from your home office setup.
If the office has a massive whiteboard, I would love to work in such an office. Who, as a developer, needs printers or scanners at the moment? You can easily use office spaces near your home to print and scan anything you need. It’s not a reason to work in an office.
What is really nice to have for developers are separate rooms or spaces where people can work alone without being interrupted. This applies not only to developers but also to people in any position and at any level of seniority.
What else? A kitchen, fresh fruits, cookies? Who needs this? But water coolers must be everywhere in the office, absolutely everywhere.
As a smoker, I prefer to smoke shisha and work at the same time. It’s my own Pomodoro method: I work for 50 minutes and then smoke shisha. After that, I take a 15-minute break to update the shisha head with tobacco, grab some water, and get back to work. That’s how I’ve been working for the past 7-8 years. During the first 2-3 days in the office, I only thought about how to smoke as soon as possible. I’m addicted to this bad behavior because it’s my way to relax.
If you play computer games like me, working from home allows you to take a break at any time, defeat a few opponents, and then get back to your work. Being in the office, you will not be able to engage in such activities. Xbox and PlayStation are not my case. I prefer to play in my own home office when I want and when I need to.
Listen, guys, taking a break is not just about having lunch or grabbing some coffee. It’s a period of time where you can relax, step away from your thoughts, and refresh your mind.
Clearer Boundaries and Work-Life Balance
Working in an office can help establish clearer boundaries between your personal and professional life. When you leave the office, you can mentally disconnect from work and focus on your personal activities, reducing the temptation to keep working at all hours. This can contribute to a healthier work-life balance.
I love this section so much because it was an unexpected positive experience when I was forced to be a WFO person.
In every company for the last 10 years, I worked about 10-14 hours daily because programming is my passion, my hobby, and everything in my life. I was not able to divide work and life because they are equal parts of my life. Everywhere I worked was a fun and enjoyable experience, so I worked so hard that it didn’t feel like I was procrastinating or burned out.
When you love your daily tasks, believe in your company and its goals, are proud of your team and managers, and enjoy what you do on a daily basis, you can stick to it 24/7/365. Of course, I also worked a lot on my personal projects, which helped me grow as a developer (some days, your work tasks are so boring, and your pet projects give you a chance to feel better).
I didn’t like offices so much because they usually consumed your time instead of helping you with your tasks or routine. I hated forcing myself to be on time from 10 AM to 6 PM, for example. I am that guy who doesn’t need any help from outside or somebody. If I need help, we can use online rooms, Zoom, or whatever to solve problems easily. I agree with the point that it is super helpful to sit close to one another, but you don’t need it on a daily basis.
So, transitioning to WFO opened me another point-of-view.
When I realized that I can work on my company tasks only while being in the office, I opened myself up to working on my side projects more and spending more time with my family after my 9-5, in comparison to working from home all the time.
I wanted to stream something on Twitch from my office, but I can’t. Silence is the key for streamers. You start a stream, and somebody’s phone rings, so congratulations, you were interrupted. You try to record an educational video, and another guy asks for your help? Okay, let’s do it again, remove the previous video and record another one.
But now I am able to stream my own projects from my home because my work tasks are left in my office. I don’t need to pay attention and can focus on my side projects. Who allowed me to do that? Me.
It’s what I call ‘Work-Life Balance,’ where only I can decide what to do after my working time. Nobody can push me to do some stuff except me. It may sound crazy, or I may look like a dumbass or mad. I don’t care. My real life is not my work life. It’s my balance.
Improved Focus and Reduced Distractions
For some individuals, working in an office environment can be more conducive to concentration and productivity. The absence of potential distractions at home, such as household chores, family responsibilities, or noisy environments, can allow you to concentrate solely on your work tasks.
As I mentioned earlier, the office is my main distraction when it comes to staying productive and well-organized.
My experience since 2011 has taught me that I don’t need to be in the office with a specific schedule to complete my tasks, deliver great results, or participate in meetings or any activities.
Do you need me to be in the office? Then let’s plan a specific period of time, and I will be there on time. After the meeting, I’ll go home to continue working. I can be highly focused on my work when I’m at home, in my lovely environment. There’s no other place that can replace my home.
Now let’s discuss another important activity for me: writing blog posts. How can you manage such an activity in an open space or in a small room? There’s no way. I can only write in silence, without any distractions, external sounds, or conversations. Well, there is a way – a separate room where I can sit alone and stay focused.
How can I summarize this article?
As a full-time remote worker, I used to be focused primarily on my work activities from early morning to late at night, as everything felt urgent and important for our start-up. It was a blend of work and side projects. However, when I was compelled to work from the office, I made the decision to separate my work tasks from my other activities, and that choice proved to be absolutely right for me.
Now, I have designated time slots to work on specific tasks (despite the numerous distractions throughout the day), but before and after my working hours, I can fully focus on my own hobbies, passions, and personal life. Allow me to introduce you to my Work-Life Balance!
I want to express my gratitude to my team, as without them, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the numerous opportunities that come with such activities: building my projects in public, streaming on Twitch, writing blog posts, and connecting with the amazing #buildinpublic community on Twitter. Thank you all, guys!
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Your attention is greatly appreciated!