Florida Welcomes You

I captured the Florida welcome sign off of I-95 from the passenger seat in July.

Greetings from Florida, my new remote work location.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I never imagined I would be writing this note as a full-time remote worker, but like many of you, the pandemic forever changed my work and personal life.

After a 16-month experiment of working entirely remote from my house in Durham, North Carolina, I had planned to go back to the office this fall for a few days each week. Like many at Duke and across the country, I was ready to join the ranks as a “hybrid” worker.

Leanora Minai

But in May 2021, my wife Heather was recruited for a job in Florida, the very state we left 17 years ago when I was a staff writer at the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times, so I could join the Duke workforce. Her career opportunity would mean a return to the Sunshine State but sad goodbyes to long-time friends and colleagues and our beloved house (formerly the home of jazz legend Mary Lou Williams) in the amazing city of Durham.

After breaking the unexpected news to Paul Grantham, who has been my manager for most of my Duke career, he supportively shepherded a pilot remote work arrangement that allowed for me to stay on at Duke.

I am excited and terrified, all at once. With a relocation, you can gain new experiences that spark creativity and fresh ideas. For example, I had the idea for this blog while driving down I-95 and can use this space to share unique perspectives about remote-first telecommuting that may help the broader Duke community. Still, the past several months have been tough at times with tears at inconvenient moments. With workplaces everywhere evolving, I am in uncharted territory. I feel anxious about my career development and advancement, but I am leaning into this new professional adventure. And whether in a home office in Durham or unfamiliar apartment in Florida, my work quality and ethic have not suffered, and game changers such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams can help bridge any distance.

Yet, I’ll sorely miss Durham and the chance to experience daily campus life such as the East Campus trail and the kaleidoscope of spectacular Gothic and Georgian architectural views during walks to meetings. I am committed to preserving the connections and relationships I’ve built over many years, so at my expense, I will return to campus once a month to attend key meetings, conduct certain interviews, work in-person with my small-but-mighty editorial team, and visit some of my favorite spots such as Duke University Libraries.

Please follow along here at Remote Work Chronicles: Dispatches from Florida [sites.duke.edu/remoteworkchronicles], where I’ll share periodic updates and remote work insights.

Is there something you’d like to know or share, or is there a topic you’d like for me to explore in this space? Please write to me at leanora.minai@duke.edu. I’d love to hear from you.