Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Work At Home Tuesdays

In February 2011, I started to work from home every Tuesday. Here in Newton, MA, the elementary schools end their day on Tuesdays at 12:30 pm, and looking ahead to when Hannah would be attending religious school at 4 pm on those days, I started my work from home journey in anticipation of needing to fill that childcare gap. LinkedIn is doing a series of articles on "Big Idea 2013" highlighting the concepts we need to address in the coming year, and flexibility without shame is one of them.

(Go ahead, go click on that link. And click on the one in the article about "how even just 15 minutes a day of “hair and make-up” time adds up to more than one workweek a year. !!!" Yes, "!!!" is an appropriate response when you do the math on that and get to 60+ hours. But I digress.)

Obviously, working from home doesn't work for everyone. We can't bring our broken sinks to the plumber's house. But for a lot of jobs now, working from home is a completely feasible way to work - if the powers that be can learn to accept it.

When I started at my current company, my back office job would have been very challenging to do from home, especially since I needed physical signatures on documentation every day. But when I moved to the portfolio management side, I knew that things would be more flexible. However, when I asked if it would be acceptable for me to work from home on, for example, days when three year old Hannah might have a doctor's appointment, I was told that I should still come in to the office. That was in 2007. The technology was already in place, but the attitudes weren't there yet.

But then I had the issues with my back, where I couldn't sit or stand without extreme pain, and I couldn't get through a day at the office (believe me, I stupidly tried and did work from the floor of my cubicle). I managed to work from home throughout that ordeal, other than the surgery day itself, and proved that I was capable of doing so much remotely. So when I asked about working from home one day each week nearly a year later, it was instantly approved. It turned out others were doing the same thing - just no one was talking about it (at least not to me).

So for one day a week, I skip the commute. I get to take Max to school. Hannah used to have in-home piano lessons during that gap of time. Sometimes she and I go out to lunch and just talk. I move laundry through the machines. I'm home for the electrician to install the beautiful new light we just put in this week. And I WORK. I make phone calls, review RFPs, update slides and get back to clients. But the time I spend doing other things that help make my life work is probably less than the time some of my coworkers might spend discussing their latest fantasy football picks. And, I think it's made it easier for some of my male coworkers to work from home on occasion too.

Working from home one day a week works for me. In return for the flexibility, my company gets a level of dedication from me that they wouldn't get if I was constantly replacing babysitters to accommodate that afternoon childcare gap, or taking time off to meet the electrician. I hope it's a concept more companies will be able to embrace, and without seeing it negatively, in the year ahead.