What working from home taught me

8:34 PM

It's been a while since I have blogged! I apologize for anyone following or reading my blog for not getting any regular updates. A lot has been going on. In this post, I want to share that I got a new job, and also moved cities in a short span of time. More has happened, but I will probably write in detail about that later. Of course, my son is no longer a baby and is an active, energetic toddler, and dramatic at times.

Till recently, I was working in Los Angeles. My spouse got a new job in Seattle and moved. I didn’t move with him right away as I wanted to sort things out, for the potential move, ending the apartment lease, as well as figuring out if I could work from home at least for the short term. I also had my in laws visiting and helping us so it didn’t make sense for all of us to move immediately and pay rent in two places.

Luckily, my employer was cooperative and very willing to adjust as I still had a small child. I did not want my child separated from his father, for too long. So, I started ‘working from home’ full scale. I would have to travel periodically to LA. It seemed a decent arrangement, at least for the short term. 

  I am absolutely thankful for the experience and am grateful for my (now ex) employer and manager to give me permission to work from home for months. Here are some more tips and my experience working from home.

Related post:  Tips for working moms

Things will be different than working in an office.

The work from home on a full scale, was very different. Not having an office, colleagues whom you can walk to and talk, but rather having to call, chat and email, was overwhelming at times. That was quite a different experience for me. At one point, it felt like having a long distance relationship and started getting harder to maintain. I still had my office desk in LA, but I wasn't sure how often I needed to travel. There was a level of uncertainty and I was worried about the out of sight, out of mind saying coming true.

Now, a lot of my team was remotely based. Many were in different cities and time zones already, so the transition wasn't that hard. I was still in the Pacific Standard Time (PST) zone. Yet, on some occasions, I felt like I was now maintaining a long distance relationship with my employer. And as most long distance relations go, it started getting harder to maintain.

Family and work can mix if you want.

I was able to spend a lot more time and watch the dynamic life of a toddler very closely. Don't get me wrong, I would still work eight hours daily. Some days even more. And I was able to attend meetings during standard time, without having an angry young man in diapers scream in the background. I was able to spend more time with the most important people in my life, than I could have ever in a job.

I was able to balance it out, as I made sure that working during the office hours I wasn't too distracted with personal things during ‘work hours’. I would work in a different room for many hours so I could really work and get things done. 

Quiet corner in chaos makes you more efficient.

I realized the importance of a nice, clean space to work. I created a little office desk for myself. Nothing fancy, but I recommend a comfortable chair and a decent height for a table. I didn't even have more than one monitor, yet I was comfortable. This also doubled as a place to grab a quick lunch, take calls and have a view of my toddler from time to time.

Having a dedicated space helped to get back into the flow easily. I could take calls and attend meetings during work hours. A place where I could sit and focus, with a nice window view, and still take a coffee or tea break just like we do at work was good to have. Some light days (you will know what I mean if you are in IT), I would have nursery rhymes and a dancing toddler in the background.

Being more efficient means you have more time to do the things you like.

Interestingly, I took far less ‘coffee breaks’. In fact I drank much less coffee, even though I had now moved to Seattle. I drank more water, which made me work better, not sure how. Guess my brain was hydrated!

S looking forward to his walks
As I wanted to really get things done in a shorter time, I was much more efficient. "Lunch time" meant playing with S (and others) many days, or watching him fall asleep. Or some days I would skip a meal so I could take the time to feed him, or we would observe the birds eating together. Other days I would have an interesting conversation with my mother. Even though many of these things did not take up a chunk of my 'work time', they left me refreshed than any other breaks in a proper office. I especially enjoyed a view of birds snacking from our left overs, something I miss now.

Thus, I learnt to be much more efficient and realized the importance of time. I was able to take long walks many a day before 'starting' work or just after wrapping up the day. I wasn't able to do that when working from an office, as most of that time would be spent commuting. Bellevue, a suburb has some excellent walking trails. I highly recommend the Mercer Slough Park, which was just outside the apartment we lived in.
Observing nature at Mercer Slough Park
 We did have fixed hours for certain meetings and everyone would have to attend, but otherwise hours were flexible as long as we finished work on time. I would be able to spend a late night and work and 'leave' early the next day. As my reason for even working from home was to be closer to family, I was able to compensate nights without feeling any work stress or tired, allowing me many hours of doing what I liked. 

Pick your battles. 

When you are working from home, you cannot afford to waste time on petty things. Even though you have a ton more opportunities and temptations to do it. I never (never during work hours) watched TV. I did listen to music a lot. Even if were nursery rhymes or lullabies some days. I also heard many audio books - work related but also to learn new things. You can afford to do some fun things and get away with it, as long as you are committed to the work at hand and the fun things are not time killers. 

On the other hand, I was rarely on social media - other than playing songs on Youtube. 

Traveling alone can give insight you can't get otherwise.

Travelling alone was actually fun. Travelling to Los Angeles was something I started looking forward to, with the sunny weather, familiar places to hang out in, and colleagues. It was a welcome break from the almost "stay at home mom" like environment. I got time for myself, quiet time without being judged by anyone. I enjoyed it, though nights sometimes got boring and lonely without family.

Distance really makes the heart fonder.

I looked forward to meeting my family even more the next day. I realized how much I love them and how important they are to me. We take these things for granted when we see people every day.

You realize not only 'what', but also 'who' is important.

You also realize who really cares for you and who just acts like they do. I am sad to share that not a lot of friends were really interested in meeting up when I would travel to Los Angeles. Even more sad (or is it), is I am not really in touch with them anymore. However, I have no regrets. On the other spectrum, it was always nice to meet folks you have been talking to over the phone or emailing. I had started to hate emails at one point. 

Looks really don't matter unless it's the space you are in.

It helped that I wouldn't have to worry about what to wear, when to arrive at office. I always had my "work from home" desk clean and ready in the morning so I wouldn't have any trouble switching to work mode.

A hot cup of coffee and tea made early in the morning further energized the dull space. A bright light made it cheerful and a soft throw made it cozy. The small things make you realize what you cannot have when you are in an office.

You take responsibility when you see it.

I did not utilize a daycare at the time, as there was none available. By the time I found one available, I had adjusted pretty well to working from home efficiently. Not just work related, but also toddler related responsibilities were efficiently covered. 

I didn't end up going out as much as I would have liked. There were many days when I would go and sit in a coffee shop just to experience being outside and feeling like I'm in a professional space.

But, I could not just go out and enjoy when someone was helping taking care of my son. I need to be there for him as much as anyone else and not take advantage of the help received. However, it was more on the lines of something I always wanted to do, but as a working woman, I never had the chance to. I learned to prioritize not just work but also balance personal and professional goals. Personal goals are a responsibility when you have a child. And it is easier to be accountable when you see your child daily for longer hours.

I never shirked from changing his poop filled diapers, breastfeeding him during nap time or just playing him as soon as I was done with work - no time off there for me. All this, even though I had help.

You learn to thank your blessings.

I am blessed to have had the help of my family so that I could work from home this way with my active son in the same house. I could not have done it without their help.

Definitely use a daycare or nanny if you can’t take help from family. It will give you the necessary concentration to work efficiently. But if you are lucky like me, you can do what I did.

Also, not many companies offer working from home as a short term or long term option. If you have this option, make sure you repay it with quality work. Appreciate the flexibility and responsibility that comes with working from home.

I will also try to write more regularly, as I have had a lot of things in my mind that I wanted to type out. I just have to figure out a regular schedule to do it. Probably will start off with using my time on the bus. When I am awake. Have a good weekend till then!

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About me

Welcome to Sleepy Mom Bliss, written by Amrita. I wanted a platform to share all my experiences, struggles and memories of being a mom.

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