Vanessa Tierney is a mother of two and business-owner who has moved back from the UK to settle in Wexford. She talks about the benefits of ditching the commute and working from home – the premise on which her business is founded.
Thank you for taking part in this interview series for Office Mum – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
I have two small girls aged five and three.
And now could you tell me a little about your job – what do you do and for how long have you been working at this?
I’m co-founder of a career platform, which matches employers direct with smart-working professionals who want permanent employment opportunities, whether full-time or part-time, without the daily commute. The company is called Abodoo, which comes from the word abode (your home) and doo (work). However, the roles on our platform empower people to work from home, a hub (local co-working space) or a hybrid model. It allows people to retain their city career but live rurally, helping people avoid the housing crisis, but also allowing mums to make the school
run and attain an all-round healthier work: life harmony.
What kind of hours do you work?
Generally, I consider myself a flexible worker but based on the freedom to allow myself to work around my lifestyle when I do work it’s pretty full on and I love that dynamic. My husband and I are co-founders of Abodoo, which means we both work flexibly and can support each other in being
there for the girls.
As business owner, do you work from home?
We embrace the hybrid model at Abodoo where we work from home three to four days a week and then one day from our HQ in The Hatch Lab in North Wexford, which is a really great co-working tech hub. It’s great to have a professional area to have meetings, knowing you won’t be interrupted with “Mummy I need to go to the…” and can get together with the team, value our time together and be creative. I love the flexibility – It’s the best of both worlds.
Do you have to travel for work?
I travel once every two weeks as I meet large companies and government agencies that want to understand how they can embrace smart working. I also get invited to speak at events where I champion the advantages of remote working as often as I can.
What kind of childcare do you use?
We have tried it all; crèche, nanny, au pair and babysitter, however we came to the conclusion that we love to do as much as we can ourselves. Finally, I think we have found what works for us, which is after-creche and school support with a childminder on the busy days and the odd evening babysitting, so we can have some social fun.
Do you have any regular “me-time” or do you have something that you for yourself?
Yes, in one word – Bootcamp! My new year’s resolution was to not let anyone or anything get in the way of my twice a week bootcamp sessions. Most of the time I succeed. Perhaps I’m not applying the mantra correctly.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
Abodoo answers this in itself as we are strong advocates of remote working and we champion the benefits of this on a daily basis. I have a strict cut-off when finishing work every day and this is why I tend to start the day very early. Like most parents we tend to take our holidays during the school midterm if work allows it, or at least part of. The most challenging part is more to do with the fact we are in high growth mode so the workload can increase and it can mean laptops opening when the children are asleep.
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I really enjoy the odd day that I dress up and go off to events or meetings so luckily there is no guilt because I get to be there for our girls most days.
On the times I am away a few days, the gnawing feeling you get of missing them and not being there for them certainly kicks in. I spent my twenties in a car doing on average 12 hours commuting each week and to do that with children I can only imagine the despair it can cause, especially when you
get that awful phone call to say they are not well and need their mummy.
Do you think there’s an optimal solution out there – a perfect balance that enables a mother to have a fulfilling career while being there for her children?
Yes, I really do think there’s the optimal solution and that is smart working, where a mother is empowered to work at a location that is convenient for her whether it is in her home office or in a local hub dependent on the age of her children. This will give mothers the ability to not have to sacrifice all the hard work, effort and education acquired because they can continue on their career path and be close to their children. For women expecting, on maternity leave, or with children, they can demonstrate by trialling even one day working remotely and show how it will not impact productivity. In fact if anything employers experience an increase in performance because it’s proven people are happier.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
It would be this job that I have now because our cause and platform is having real impact on lives for parents and those exhausted from long commutes. For employers it’s great to hold their hands through the transition period but what I enjoy the most is seeing those who were office mums, now being home offices mums with amazing careers.
Would you be a stay-at-home mother if there were no financial considerations?
Life’s most valuable commodity is time and that is the very reason why I work flexibly. Your time is your life and I’d prefer to give that to my children rather than earn or save a buck. However now that there is a choice of being at home and having a career I chose this.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
Firstly, and this might sound biased, but sign up to www.abodoo.com. We understand the struggles with returning to work and smart working can allow a lot of freedom to mums when returning to their careers.
Secondly, if you are returning from maternity leave you should check with your company’s HR team to see if they allow a gradual return-to- work programme.
Thirdly, just remember you made and brought a human being into the world, nothing is bigger than that, so no matter what challenge you face, be kind to yourself and know that there is a solution – it’s just easier when you have your home comforts around and your children close.
Any other comments?
Life is a journey not a commute – our motto at Abodoo
Thanks Vanessa, and congratulations on your new business, I love the motto! I first discovered working from home when a friend suggested it to me after my third maternity leave – it hadn’t struck me to ask for it, and I was surprised at how quickly my boss said yes. I did one day at home every week, which meant I could do the school run, avoid the two hours commuting, get more work done, and then walk downstairs at 5.30 and spend time with the kids. I couldn’t believe the difference it made, and how much work I got done. I worked three days in the office, one day at home, and had Fridays off, and at the time it was the perfect balance. (Now I work from home all the time, but without childcare, which is a different story!)
I love the ethos of Abodoo, and I think if we can move towards more remote working, it benefits everyone – especially parents. Less traffic, less time driving, less pollution, and the option to do school runs, or have lunch with the kids. And I can relate to what you said about getting to dress up and go off to events or meetings – I think for many of us, being at home all the time isn’t ideal either. But different set-ups suit different people and it depends on the job too of course – some roles are going to need more face-to-face contact than others.
I agree too that asking for a trial run is a great idea – in my previous job, that was the MO for almost anything any of us wanted – ask for a trial run; one day a week, or a six week period, and it’s much harder for an employer to say no without seeming completely unreasonable.
I think we need more openness to remote working and there’s still a huge amount of presenteeism in Irish workplaces, but we’re heading in the right direction. Thanks again for doing the interview, and very best wishes!
See Abodoo.com for more details on Vanessa’s service