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Working from the Hospital

With No Regrets

Earlier this month I spent a week in the hospital after a spontaneous pneumothorax (lung collapse) with the right lung. The experience was not entirely new to me. About 12 years ago, the same thing happened with the left lung. I’m a tall, lean, adult male, so this can be somewhat common for my demographic. When it happened the first time, I was told that there was a good chance it could happen again, and it did.

The first time it happened, I was put on a chest tube and things healed themselves within a couple days and I was out of the hospital by the end of the weekend. This time I was not so fortunate. For whatever reason, the lung was not healing itself and I was in the hospital for a week. I was put on a chest tube again, but this time it was not enough. This time, surgery was required and I spent a full week in the hospital. My wife asked what she could bring me, and along with my personal laptop, a book, and some decent snacks, I asked for my work laptop. If I was going to be there for a while, I needed to feel productive.

Now, you may be thinking, “You’re in the hospital trying to heal. Take the week off and rest.” I get that that is what most people would do, but I just couldn’t lay around and watch Netflix, Max, and Prime all day. (I did get to watch quite a bit of Premier League and Champions League soccer, which was lovely.) I’m not one to just do nothing. So I figured I’d get some work done. I asked the most experienced member of my team to lead all of the team meetings and to keep me in the loop on what was going on. I also told my team how bored I was and to not be surprised to see some PRs come through and to see me reviewing PRs from the comfort of my hospital bed.

Over the course of the week I knocked out 42 dev tasks and reviewed 6 PRs for devs on my team. Keep in mind, most of the dev tickets I completed were low level of effort “tech debt” clean up tasks that did not take me very long to complete, but they’d been languishing on the backlog for ages so it felt good to finally get them done. Knocking those out myself also meant that my team could focus their time on higher value, less mundane tasks.

I was able to get this many Jira tickets done because I was in the ironically fortunate position of not having to attend any meetings. It got me thinking about how much more my team might be able to get done if they didn’t have so many meetings bogging down their calendars. It got me thinking about how much value they provide in attending these meetings. I’ve got some questions to ask in our next 1:1s.

Another “perk” of this week in the hospital was that it was coincidentally and conveniently only a couple of miles away from where my manager lives. He made the effort to come visit and bring me meals and so I got a few in-person and extended 1:1s with him. We didn’t only talk about work, it was nice to have some social time, but we were able to go kind of deep into some work topics that we typically don’t have time for during our regular remote 1:1s.

I have no regrets about working while in the hospital. It gave me something productive to due while bound to a hospital bed for all that time. Thanks to the realities of remote work, my time in the hospital flew by with a little sense of purpose.