After a miscarriage, a high-risk pregnancy, seven weeks of bed rest, a premature baby, and four months of maternity leave, I was back to work at my corporate finance job at a big name Boston financial services firm. It was January, and I’d been gone since July, but somehow I managed to get an even better job while I was out. I was eager to start this new chapter, but nervous too. Despite the fact that we’d chosen a good daycare for my baby daughter, I was worried – worried that I’d miss her, that she wouldn’t be happy, that she belonged home with me. There were also logistical concerns. I had over an hour commute on public transportation, and I wasn’t sure I could get my work during the workday while still dropping her off and picking her up on time.
Two weeks later, I was exasperated, and was giving up. We’d already had a snowstorm, and daycare was closed, requiring me to miss work. I also felt like I was working a half day, yet my daughter was usually the first one in and the last one out. I also had to take breaks during the day to pump breast milk. I couldn’t do it, so I decided to quit.
I went in to see my boss, a tough but fair manager who liked me. I felt awful – they saved this incredible job for me and I was leaving two weeks in. I told him about the problems I was having, and that I needed to quit.
“Can we talk about solutions?” he asked.
I was shocked, but open minded. He proceeded to tell me that his wife worked from home for many years and that it worked for them. He was willing to try it for me. I’d be just a few miles from my daughter’s daycare and could pop in at lunch. Since I wouldn’t have to commute, I’d save over two hours per day. But there were some rules. I couldn’t do any housework during the day. My daughter had to have appropriate childcare. I also had to have a dedicated phone line that work would pay for, and I would need to forward my work phone. That way, no one would feel awkward about calling me at home. It was to be a three-month trial, and I had to check in with him every morning I worked from home (a benefit actually, because I often needed to talk to him and he was usually very busy during the day.) I would work three days from home and two in the office.
I tried it and it worked. That arrangement worked for me through three different managers and another pregnancy. I stayed for over three years, until my job moved to a different state and I decided to take a severance package. I even got promoted during that time.
That’s why I’m so disappointed to hear Yahoo!’s latest news – they are no longer allowing employees to work from home. Working from home CAN work, if you set appropriate boundaries. I was probably even more effective from home because there was no water cooler, no coffee breaks across the street to Starbucks. It helped me keep my career for three additional years, and allowed my employer to retain a long-time employee. I really hope this isn’t the direction other companies take, because it’s the wrong direction.