When the nature of a job allows it, today’s technology removes virtually any obstacle to working from home. As long as an employee has internet access and can link to company servers, he or she may never need to go to the office.
For me, the notion to propose a mostly work-from-home scenario (four days home/one in office) arose when we had our first baby; it escalated to nearly full-time-from-home when my husband took a job in another state.
Fortunately, TNSC management recognizes the importance of a healthy work-life balance, so nine years ago, they took a chance that it would work. And it has. I get to continue in a job that I love while being present for my children; the company, which valued the institutional history and skills that I possessed, didn’t have to hire a new employee.
But while it is succeeding as I hoped, working from home still brings challenges. Here are some of the top challenges, and ways I’ve found to overcome them:
Work days can be longer: When you have to calm a crying baby or clean up the toddler’s mess, your eight-hour workday may take ten hours. This could be an issue for coworkers or customers who may need something right away. I find that prioritizing my tasks helps; if there’s a hard deadline, if someone is waiting for me to do MY job before they can continue theirs, or if it is going to affect cash flow, I give the task high priority.
Work-life balance: Most people ask whether home life prevents me from focusing on work life, but actually, the truth is that either one can infringe on the other, because the boundary is gray. The solution is to create a disciplined structure (i.e. “going to work” at the same time each day in a set-apart work space), and stick to that routine as much as possible, so that you can more easily focus on what needs your attention in any time. It’s a delicate balance, but one I’ve found comes easier with time.
Help required: Work-from-home moms need family support. When we started this, my husband and I agreed that we’d do whatever was necessary to make this incredible opportunity work. The trade-off for me being home is that he’d have to help as necessary. So he gets the kids on the school bus if I have an early call or gets dinner ready if I’m working late. Now, since my children have gotten older, we have an “all-hands on deck” policy, so when I say, “please play quietly,” they know to go to another room and give me the time I need.
More difficult to get answers from coworkers. This doesn’t contradict what I wrote in the first paragraph, because I’m not talking about the MEANS to reach coworkers, but how difficult it can be to get hold of them on occasion! I have the ability to call, email or instant message them, but if they don’t answer, I can’t simply walk down the hall for important face time. I’ve found that contacting an on-site co-worker who CAN walk down the hall helps when an urgent need arises.
Missing out on company culture. Being off site is hard, especially at a company like TNSC, where office shenanigans are a daily part of life. Being in the office once a week in my early days of working remotely kept me plugged in to the culture. But today, having moved to another state, I can’t be there as often. The solution was to work one day a month in our headquarters, to meet new employees and stay connected to the culture vibe. I also try to attend as many special events as possible. Completely missing out on this would be a real loss.
Working from home is not always easy – sometimes I feel pulled in a million different directions – but the benefits make the challenges worth it. With great freedom comes great responsibility, so I live based on that. I’m grateful that TNSC valued me enough to give me this opportunity.