Working from home: no to mascara and high heels, yes to school runs and meals with kids, and best of all reduced guilt….
Lots of people work in jobs that are not suitable for working from home, and plenty of other people are not allowed to by employers. But if you have children, and have ever considered seeking to work from home even one day per week, below are seven good reasons to try it:
1. It eases the GUILT
Working mum guilt is alive and well, curling its tentacles around the anxious hearts of office-bound mothers everywhere. It’s one of the most common concerns expressed by mothers working outside the home and though we know it’s a pointless, wasted emotion, it’s very difficult to assuage.
Working from home can help – although you will need childcare, by being at home too, you get to see the kids during the day and with a little bit of poetic licence, consider it almost as good as not working, at least from the child’s perspective – which is what counts when we’re talking about guilt.
I work three days in the office and one from home – my childminder comes when I’m at home on Thursdays, and my daughters are out at school in the morning and at gymnastics in the afternoon. I see them in between all of their to-ing and fro-ing, so basically I’m just missing out on the driving (or so I tell myself).
From guilt perspective: I reassure myself that I practically work a three day week, and myself mostly believes me, so I’m all set on the guilt front. Mostly.
2. You can have meals with your kids
On a work-day I’m gone for eleven hours and have no family mealtime. On Thursdays, I get to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with my kids, without doing any less work or getting any less pay – brilliant!
This was a big selling point for me when I first thought about working from home – I pictured breakfast time exactly like it is in American movies – a big bright kitchen, sun streaming in the window, tousle-haired children with sleepy smiles being cute while eating their pancakes. It is not quite like that.
Mostly it’s me hurrying the kids while throwing apologetic glances at the childminder because her normally perfectly timed routine has been thrown all out of kilter by my presence – they are late every, single Thursday now, without exception. I don’t even get to eat till after they’ve gone, so it kind of defeats the purpose, but all I know is my three year old sees me in jeans instead of a suit every Thursday morning and says “yay, mum’s working from home today!” So I must be doing something right.
3. You can do the school run
Anyone who does the school run every day might not see this as a big advantage, but when you only do it once or twice a week, it’s a BIG DEAL.
My eldest is in junior infants so I’m only now understanding how important it is to connect with your daughter’s school life in person every now and then if you can; to see the teacher; to meet other parents, and most wonderful of all, to see your child running into school, greeting friends, smiling and laughing – the fear that she might not be settling in is abated once again.
My “lunch break” on a Thursday is spent collecting my junior infant (and grabbing a sneaky cappuccino for the journey) – she is so delighted when she sees me each week, and realises that not only am I collecting her, but I’m on my own so she has a special few minutes where it’s just the two of us. This is truly priceless and in itself makes working from home worthwhile.
Now, I know people who think that working from home is code for having a two hour lunch break watching Home and Away, and I’m not advocating lending any credence to this stereotype.
But, there is always time to put on a wash, or carry some laundry upstairs or spend a few minutes tidying away the pile of clothes that’s been sitting in the corner of the landing all week.
These tasks don’t take any longer than the pockets of time spent at work waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of tea or walking to the water cooler, standing by the lift or chatting to colleagues. Especially if you have chatty colleagues.
I get so much more work done at home than I do in the office, I don’t feel bad about a few minutes here or there putting on a wash (and if my boss is reading this, I’m only joking, I am at my desk morning to night)
5. You don’t have to wash your hair
Or put on mascara. Or wear high heels (unless you want to). I’m not suggesting that you work in your pyjamas (though I’m sure many people do) but you don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to have the cleaniest-of-clean hair, and if you’re not leaving the house at all, anything above basic grooming is sort of a waste of precious time isn’t it?
6. You don’t have any commute
A no-brainer advantage to working from home, but one worth emphasising. I commute for over two hours a day, so on Thursdays, this is a whole extra two hours that I can do whatever I want with. A precious, precious gift for any time-poor parent.
When work is busy, that time is given mostly to work, but when it’s not too hectic, that time goes to the kids.
Though I have to confess, there’s often a fifteen minute window in between finishing work and making my way downstairs in the evening when I go online, tidy my room (yes I know that sounds less than scintillating but I never get to tidy my room!) or just sit, before going down to my other full time job in my chaotic teatime kitchen, and part-enthusiastically, part-reluctantly sending the childminder home early.
7. You get loads of work done
People who work from home used to say to me “It’s amaaaaazing how much work you get done!” and I used to think “Indeed. I know you have to say that, but you’re really spending two hours a day watching Home and Away”.
But now I know: it’s true!
You get so much work done. There are no interruptions, no time spent walking to meeting rooms and waiting fifteen minutes for other people to join and start the meeting, there’s no long walk to get a coffee and no stopping for chats.
That last one is the reason that I wouldn’t like to work from home every day – I’d miss the chats, one day a week is enough for me. But it’s a productive day, and this is a good way of showing your boss that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
So that’s it – there are some downsides – it can be lonely if there are no meetings, it can by worrying if your IT connection fails, and awkward if your children burst in excitedly when you’re in the middle of a call.
But on balance, I’d say go for it, it’s hugely rewarding for all the reasons above and many more.
My loveliest moment so far was when my eldest arrived home from gymnastics and came upstairs, passing my room where she knew I was working – she knew not to come in, but I heard her blowing a huge kiss to me from outside the door as she went past. I thought “this is working”.