Working from Home
In the years since I graduated from college, I've worked at a wide variety of businesses. My first job was as a studio manager for a commercial photography studio (run by two very talented photographers) in Kansas City. I moved on from there to do more graphic and web design work for a start-up that employed about 30 people under the age of 30. After some time there, I left to do design work for the company I work for now, a Fortune 500 company based out of NYC with an office in Kansas City. I have worked on an IKEA couch in a photography studio in the West Bottoms, an open-concept start-up that was totally cool with me working barefoot (complete with occasional Nerf gun wars), in a cubicle in slacks, and now back on the couch happily barefoot in my yogas. I've loved each and every place for different reasons, but I love working from home most of all.
I've found that a lot of people see working from home much different than the reality, and it's partly because we live in 2017 where working from home can be defined in numerous ways. In fact, when I was on maternity leave, I read tons of blogs about balancing working from home and being a mom, and none of them really resounded with my situation. Sometimes when I tell someone that I work from home, their reaction leads me to believe they think my job is a little easier, less hours, etc. than other jobs. In reality, that couldn't be further from the truth! This is why I wanted to put together a little post about how I ended up working from home, how I balance everything, and why it works for me.
I started working for my current company in 2014, and I was 100% in the office for the first 6 months that I worked there. I traded in my jeans and hoodies from my life at the start-up for slacks and button-up's. I fully embraced my new cubicle space (it was actually pretty roomy and private!) I was excited for the move up in my career, and the change came at a perfect time in my life. After about 6 months of going in to the office every day, I was given permission to work remotely a few days a week from my apartment. I loved getting to work in my sweats, in my cozy apartment with my dog. My productivity was the same whether I was at home or in the office, and it was nice to be in the comfort of my own home once or twice a week while getting my work done.
After about a year of working there, I realized I was ready to move back to Wichita. My entire family and Jordan (we were talking engagement by then) were there, and I was spending almost every weekend in Wichita at that point. I approached my manager about the possibility of me moving and working remotely, and the approval was made for me to work from Wichita out of my home. The move was really seamless, work-wise. I work with people all over the United States, and on the rare occasion I'll even speak to someone overseas. I'm used to managing schedules around time zones, and handling meetings over the phone. Most importantly, my focus didn't change. Working from home can require a large amount of self-discipline. When there are dishes to be done and your dog is whining at squirrels outside, it can be tricky to focus on work. I was much happier being back in Wichita after years of living in Kansas City, and it affected my work in a positive way.
Fast forward to now, post maternity leave... Life has changed, but my work life is pretty much the same. Here's what a typical day Monday - Friday looks like:
8:30 AM - B wakes up, has a diaper change, and gets a bottle. I get started at my computer, check emails, and drink my coffee.
9:00 AM - Our in-home sitter gets here (my sister-in-law, to be exact!) and takes over with B. Headphones go on, and I get to work either on the couch, at the kitchen table, or in the home office upstairs. I take a lot of conference calls in the home office, and spend hours that I need to focus on designing on the couch with headphones. I work best when I can float around to different spots - I even worked from bed sometimes when I was pregnant when working at a desk was really uncomfortable.
12:00 PM - Lunch break! Sometimes I take this opportunity to run a quick errand while my sister-in-law is with B, or I'll heat something up to eat. On a really good day, I'll get to throw dinner in the crockpot. Occasionally, B's nap time overlaps my lunch break and I'll rock her to sleep before she goes down.
1:00 PM - Sister-in-law leaves, and my mom comes in the afternoons to help with B. I work 8 hours a day, but instead of getting another cup of coffee or taking a quick break "at the water cooler" like in an office, I can get a little B cuddle in.
5:30-6 PM - Work day is over.
I literally would not be able to get my work done if it wasn't for the help we have. I love the set-up of getting to be here with Brooklyn daily, putting her down for a nap over my lunch break, and watching her play and learn while I work at my computer just a few feet away. However, I'm 100% at work when it's Monday - Friday between the hours of 9AM - 5PM, and conference calls don't revolve around B's nap time. If I tried to juggle having B by myself and working at the same time, I'd get probably 30% of my work done for the day and B wouldn't get the attention she deserves. There's just no way anyone wins there! And because my job is for a large corporation, my flexibility is a little different than a lot of other work-from-home moms who run their own businesses. I may not create my own schedule, but the awesome part is, when the work day is over, it's over. I get to spend weekends and evenings focused totally on my little family. And during the day, I'm still within cheek-pinching distance of B while she gets loved on by family.
Working from home is a unique set-up whether you have kids or not. It works great for our family for a number of reasons. The main reason it's been successful for me is because it works well with my personality. I've always been able to focus better in my own space - in college I studied best in my apartment. Trying to study at libraries and coffee shops was like a social hour for me! Also, I am lucky to live in a town with tons of family and friends nearby. Working from home can alienate you from coworkers, since phone calls are more for formal work conversations and meetings. In the beginning, I missed the hubbub of the office and banter with coworkers. Now that I have family helping during the day with B, I'm never lonely! Before that, I had to make a bigger effort to get out of the house once a day, meet a friend for lunch, etc. If you're considering making a move to work from home, here are a few things I suggest:
Have Help: I don't just mean childcare either. We have a monthly cleaning service, and I use grocery pickup once a week. Just because I stay at home while I work doesn't mean I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom. Getting extra help makes a huge difference in everyone's sanity.
Find Your Focus: I can wear noise-canceling headphones and get totally immersed in work very easily. For some people, a separate room works better. Find what works for you, and stick to it. Focus and routine are key to making working-from-home work.
Leave the House: Getting out of the house almost daily is still a priority for me. Taking a walk, treating myself to a carryout lunch, and making evening plans to look forward to (date nights and friend dates) are all ways to avoid Cabin Fever. It creeps up on you in the worst way! Another option is working out of the home once a week, if you're able to. Even just spending the morning at a coffee shop with your computer work could be a great way to escape the monotony of the house.
My situation is unique to me, and I really like how it's worked out for my family so far. I wouldn't go as far to say that working from home is "having it all" (who even came up with that crazy idea anyways??) but it's a happy arrangement for me as a mom.