I Quit My Job Rather Than Return To The OfficeJul 06, 2021
I finally handed in my resignation after a year of pandemic-induced full-time working from home. I calculated the timing so I would never return to the office despite my long notice period.
Yet, I wasn’t driven by a hatred of the office environment. It was the opposite. Before the pandemic, I was mostly happy with my work-life balance. I could work from home a couple of days if I wanted to but I went into the headquarters because I wanted to be there.
But something happened while I was forced to be home. I managed to build significant side hustles, and the temptation to work for myself grew stronger and stronger, leaving me with a difficult decision to make. Go my own way, or go back to the old way? The idea of leaving the job I’d had for nearly 7 years was terrifying, yet equally exciting. I knew I had to make the decision soon. If I went back to the office, I’d fall back to my comfort zone, and it would become even harder for me to take the leap. I’d get wrapped up in busyness, and then my opportunity would fade away in the background.
In the end, I quit because I wanted to avoid sleepwalking into regret. It wasn’t easy, and the stress tormented me into sleepless nights, but I think I made the right decision.
I knew what I was giving up
Despite being an incredibly unpopular opinion on the internet, I’ll miss the office. I wonder how much of this is selection bias, where those most likely to comment online are those most likely to prefer the virtual world to the real one.
My commute was my daily ritual where I was forced to rest. My 20 minutes on the London Underground in the morning was where I could lose myself in a good fiction book. I know others have impressive pandemic morning routines, but I suspect many are like me, who roll out of bed and start working straight away.
I’ll miss going for a morning coffee and catching up with my colleagues. I liked having other human beings around me and sharing ideas throughout the day. Sure, sometimes it was mindless chatter, but I’m not a robot, and I need that in my day. I’ll miss the spontaneity of random after-work drinks without a Zoom link needing to be sent.
The year spent working at home has increased my anxiety and made me feel lonelier. And I’m not the only one dealing with this consequence of remote work. In October 2020, a survey found 36% of Americans feel lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time”. For some people, their colleagues were their social hub, and without it, they feel isolated. Loneliness carries significant risks in the long term, and these cannot be dismissed.
It’s something I’m taking seriously, and I have planned out how to maintain a healthy social life in my new path. For me, giving up colleagues and work social interactions in the office was a significant con rather than a pro of doing my own thing.
Good people can distort career choices
I’ve acted as a mentor for several students who were stuck because they didn’t know what to do with their lives. I always told them they could figure that out later, but a good team matters the most in the short run.
You could have your dream job but have a boss who’s a micromanager, and you hate it. Or you might work in something you never thought you’d like but every day is a joy because your colleagues have your back.
I stayed at my job for so long because of the people. I could have left earlier for places that seemed better aligned with my interests on paper. The risk of being surrounded by people who I couldn’t trust held me back from taking the chances I had.
Yet this is a terrible way to make career choices in the long run. What if the people I liked the most at my company left? What if lots of new people joined and shifted the company culture?
Working at home made me reckon with the actual content of my job. Without the social aspects that I enjoyed so much; it was just me and my to-do list. Time moved much slower. It turns out that jobs aren’t much fun without people around to lift the morale. I didn’t have a burning passion for what I did, and the toil became greater.
You have a decision to make
I’ve seen all the headlines about how work has changed forever now, but I’m a skeptic. We fall back into our usual routines quickly, and the “new normal” may go back to being the old one sooner than we think.
I predict it will be a lot like coming back to school after the summer vacation. Despite the long break, it only takes a couple of weeks of the grind to forget things were ever any different. Life has a way of happening to us without us realizing if we let it.
It’s terrible that it takes a global pandemic to stop us from living on autopilot. But it has, and you can use this moment to stop and reflect before “business as usual” swallows you up. Change is scary, but the return to normal life is a big change anyway. You can use it as an opportunity to make your move. Things will settle, and the stability might keep you from chasing your dream. So ask yourself, is there something you’d rather be doing? Now is the time to seize it.
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