Sunday, March 17, 2013

Working Mama - From Home, Office, or Both?

I've been thinking about the recent no-work-from-home rule that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently relayed to her employees. It hit home for me, especially since (as many of you know), I'm beyond blessed to have the opportunity to work for an organization that allows me to work part-time from home and do part-time hours in the office. Here's my thoughts:

So many of us mamas struggled - even when our sweet babies were simply a thought - about how or if we would continue working in the office world once our sweet bundle of joy arrived.

I recall late night talks with Jack, who (like me) only wanted me working part-time while caring for our young family at home. Ideally we would have enjoyed me being a full-time SAHM, but it was that and watch my low-salary teacher husband work another 3-4 jobs and never be at home (ridiculous that our teachers can't get paid better, but that's another story!), or have me work part-time to complement his ridiculously low pay and still make it with a growing family. Besides, I love my work and how so many in our community benefit from it - I don't think I could have found myself not working outside the home in some capacity!

I had an idea - one that stemmed from an ever-popular Chamber speaker who talked about how thriving communities (and businesses) are adaptable to the changing world around them. That businesses are now starting to understand that a warm body who sits in a chair from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for 40 hours a week doesn't necessarily equal productivity.

I blossomed that idea into a 4-page letter and proposal (it was longer, but I thought I better edit it down!), justifying how and why me working from an office two days a week and then from home the rest of the week would work.

My bosses accepted my proposal - and then the hard part started. (and no, that wasn't having the baby!) It was six weeks later, when I set up shop in my home office and started my part-time working schedule.

I had to prove myself all over again. I had spent the last 2.5 years proving my young professional self to the work group - a close-knit group who (most of them) had worked together for the last 25+ years. I fit in well and they became a family. But I feared their reaction to my proposal and "modern" work schedule. I feared they would think I was being lazy and that was only picking up a paycheck. I feared they would talk to my bosses who accepted the proposal and try to convince them that it was the worse idea they ever had considered.

Silly me.

While I did prove that working from home and office was feasible - I also learned that my co-workers were open, receptive, and supportive of my family decision. It took some scheduling adjustments - still does, at times - but we work through them. They know I'm passionate about my job and that the passion equals the productivity, not the warm body in an office. (or I hope they do!)

It's actually more difficult working from home than the office. And it's not because of the two little joys in my life. It's because when you work from home, you don't turn off work. I work extra-early mornings, extra-late nights, and every other time my kidlets are sleeping (naps) or being occupied by Mickey Mouse. I've done call-in radio shows with the bathroom door locked and shower running to drown out the noise of my toddler screaming at the top of his lungs. I've done conference calls while nursing a hungry little babe. Shoot, I've even been coordinating volunteers for a special event via telephone while going pee and nursing at the same time in a bathroom stall. (TMI?)

Not everyone who works from home is lazy and unproductive. In fact, I'd be safe to bet that the majority of people who continually work from home are indeed better employees because of the flexibility. There's something gratifying and having great pride in your job when your organization supports you and the life/career balance. I've done some of my best work in the last 3 1/2 years I've been doing the part-time office/work-from-home schedule.

Others agree, such as the NY Times.

So does Google. Look at how that powerhouse search engine company continues to offer its employees flexibility and an inviting work environment. They're the top dog of search engines. When's the last time you Yahoo'd?

I'm not saying that working from home is for everyone. And I'm not saying that everyone is made for it. But for those of us who thrive from it - keep on keepin' on. And thank God over and over again that He has provided and blessed you with a job and boss who allows you that flexibility. Because we truly are matter how many times we burn the midnight oil and work around the clock to get our work done.

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