Remote Work: A Love Story

Engagement photo of Jesse and Holly, who are adorable, in Oceanside.

Photo credit: Jessica Harrington.

I’ve worked from home a lot over the past 8 years, for several reasons, but for one vitally important one that isn’t often discussed.

When people talk about working from home they mention something time saving or economical - like saved commute time, money saved eating at home, or the pure joy that comes from getting to wear pajamas all day. The conversation is generally centered around productivity and focus, which is all true and well and good but isn’t the main reason I work from home.

More than being more convenient and productive, working from home helped me maintain my sanity when my fiancee Holly received devastating medical news, launching us into a frightening, painful, and unpredictable journey that we’re still making our way through.

Complications

Six years ago doctors found a 10cm tumor in Holly’s esophagus. Luckily, the tumor was benign and was surgically removed. Since then, she has been plagued with complications that doctors are unable diagnose or effectively treat. Before this happened, I always assumed that modern medicine and our health care system had the answers. If you have a problem, you go to the doctor, they run tests to figure out what’s wrong and tell you how to fix it. I assume this is how the process works for the majority of people; unfortunately, there are outliers like us.

Search For A Cure

Working from home allowed me to maintain our income while staying at home and taking care of her during her recovery from surgery. During this time she was bed bound, and using a J-Tube for nutrients and all of her medicine. She was reliant on the help of others around the clock for basic human needs. After she was able to eat solid foods again the symptoms persisted. In that first year, we probably spent more time in hospitals than you ever will in your lifetime. Frequent ER visits. Traveling to specialists in other towns. Staying for all kinds of different tests and scans.

This whole time I was able to be by her side and still complete my work. The feeling of helplessness when someone you love is suffering and you can’t do anything to help is the worst feeling. Work helped me cope with some of that frustration and sadness by doing something I enjoy and that gives me purpose - engaging my brain solving problems. Being able to work remotely during these times gave me something else to focus on when my mind was on overdrive. I can’t imagine being in that situation and also having the added stress of how I’m going to pay our bills as well.

False Promise

As our journey progressed, we discovered a procedure called Radio Frequency Ablation which cauterizes the nerve endings that cause pain. That procedure worked miracles for a couple years but over time the positive effects of the treatment lasted less and less time until eventually the procedure stopped producing any positive results at all.

We were back to frequent ER visits and trying to figure things. At one point, we considered it “good" if we could stay out of the hospital for more than a week. Sometimes visiting the ER twice a day because they don’t know how to fix it so they'd release us. The knowledge you gain going to the ER this much is odd. You learn when the best times to go are. You see the absolute insanity of patients that ER nurses and doctors have to deal with on a daily basis. You also learn how the systems work internally which helps you communicate with doctors and nurses to facilitate the best care and move certain processes along faster.

Remote Work Means Trust

If you’re going to the hospital this much in a traditional work environment things can get awkward. Your supervisor, who might be judged by people sitting in desks, is caught between protocol and real life. Taking a couple sick days to go to the hospital is usually not a big deal but when those couple days turn into a week then a month or a year you might not get the same leniency and understanding as time goes on.

Conversely, working in a remote culture the philosophy is based on deliverables, a lot of communication and a ton of trust. Despite the instability of these moments on a daily basis, I’ve been blessed to work on teams that are more concerned with weekly deliverables or hitting milestones than having me sit in a chair. The sense of loyalty and gratitude that is formed when these situations are handled gracefully is immeasurable. I might not have much of a social life and my spare time is spent playing catch up but compared to the alternative, I’m happy I’m able to maintain my career without sacrificing Holly’s well being.

Signs Of Hope

Fast forward to present day. We learned how to minimize the occurrence of the symptoms, hospital visits are much more infrequent and we’re doing much better.

Who knows what tomorrow brings and who knows what the cause of it all was? Thankfully, through all this I’ve been able to work and take care of my fiancee when she needs me. If the option of working remotely didn’t exist, I would have had to choose between taking care of Holly and going into work, a Hobson's choice that many are forced to make. So thank you to all of the companies who embrace the remote working philosophy and trust their employees to be productive during weird hours. They might be going through a hell you’ll never understand…all during “normal” operating business hours.

Notes