Returning To Work (Even From Home) Is Still Hard

J.R. Heimbigner

Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

I recently spent the last 12 weeks on FMLA. During this time, we had our third child and I finally got to spend extended time with my newborn before going back to work.

To say the least, it was one of the best three months of my life.

For both of my older daughters, I was only able to spend a few weeks at home before having to go to work. While we managed and so far they have turned out just fine, this time was different.

This time, I got to know my third daughter. The beautiful thing about it was how I got to know my big girls too. Each one of my daughters is special and unique. It really has been good.

On Monday though, I returned to work. Except, it was different because work wasn’t in the office place, it was in my home. Instead of leaving the house, I go into a separate room and close the door.

It’s by far the hardest return to work because our company is still 100% work from home.

Setting The Right Expectations

Prior to my return, we started setting expectations with our kids and ourselves for what it would be like for us. This was really the key for our family. My kids knew what to expect from my work time. My wife knew what to expect from my work time. I knew what to expect from the home around me.

If we hadn’t set the right expectations early, this could have been a lot harder.

Yet, my daughters know that when the door is closed, daddy is on the phone or focusing. My wife knows when I have open time to help her with the kids. And I know what everyone is doing at any given time so as not to disturb them.

Returning to work after a long absence doesn’t have to be hard, we just have to have the right expectations.

Work From Home Is Great, But It Has Challenges

When you are away from work as long as I have been there are a lot of challenges to be ready for when you return. I have definitely been experiencing them too.

Computer Updates

For one, I didn’t update my computer for three months. At our company, we update things a lot. By the time I returned on Monday, barely anything worked. I spent all day updating my computer.

The reason it takes all day? Because I’m not connected to lightning-fast internet or the office LAN connection everything goes slower. Especially with the big updates.


Then there were the emails. I had over 700 emails from three months. Which wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it was still a lot. Especially when some of those were external emails from people who failed to read my automated response (five or six times).

This took most of Tuesday. I spent much of this day figuring out what needed responses, what was for reference, and what was utterly useless. It was the 2-minute rule on steroids.

Coworker Turnover

This was a little unexpected. Seven people from our department got promotions. Some had already left and others would be leaving soon. This happened before any backfilling could take place.

It’s wild to have such turnover. And I get to hop in the middle of it. This isn’t bad, but it will be very interesting as new people get hired and everyone’s inventory gets moved around.

And yet, I’m at home. So it’s not like being in the office where you can congratulate someone in the break room.

Finding Your Groove

Over the next few days, I helped out other reps, got reacquainted with our processes, and got used to the daily routines which have not been part of my life for months.

It was unusual, to say the least.

After being gone for weeks, my routines had changed. Going from work routines to caring for my kids and back again. It wasn’t like riding a bicycle like I thought it would be.

It was more like going back to someplace you used to live. It was familiar, but not the same as it once had been. I really needed to find my groove.

Returning to a New Role

The last challenge for me personally is returning to a new role. Things are changing for what my day to day will look like and so I had to get settled into the new job.

It’s exciting but adds to the overwhelming feeling of working from home. Nevertheless, it’s the best time to start a new role. It’s like a fresh start twice over. So, it will be good, but it will be challenging.

Work from Home is Still My Favorite

Even though there will be challenges, it is still my favorite. In fact, it's the future for a lot of jobs and as it continues to be part of our world we will realize this more and more.

I love it and my family loves having me at home.

Gone are the days of hour-long commutes in the morning and night. No more do I spend most of my waking time in a cubicle wondering what my family is doing. Now, I get to have them right here, and I get to complete my work.

What is the hardest part of working from home for you? Are you hoping to stay working from home? Or do you look forward to the day when you go back to your office? Share in the responses below.

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My goal with my writing is to help people get everything done they want in their very busy lives. I believe we can we all can achieve our dreams and I know it starts with having the right mindset, systems, and taking action every single day. My writing shares how to do this through self-improvement, inspiration, and productivity.

Spokane, WA

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