I love working from home as much as I hate it. Coming out of 10 years spent in the corporate world, sitting at my desk, in my pod of 4 (loved my pod) was brutal, and I had not seen it coming. I had focussed so much of not having to commute, that I did not realise what I would be missing – the buzz of sharing the latest news/defect of the European political system, the banter, the chats at the coffee machine, having lunch with people in or out of the office. At the same time I was glad to leave behind the fact that my boss was sending me an email and 2 seconds later was at my desk to tell he sent me an email; the politics of internal promotions; full time versus part-time; and the travelling (European politics requires going to Brussels, Frankfurt and Paris on a regular basis). I hated the commute, and yet loved that I was reading at least one book a week and was feeling on top of my admin – because you can actually achieve a lot during 2 hours of commute every day (even 4 days a week).
However when it was time to think about going back to work after being on my maternity leave with Leo, I was filled with dread. How was I supposed to do it all, when I was never really back before 7pm (there is always that last email to send, that meeting that never ends, I just always find it hard to leave)? I assume the solution would have been a childminder or nanny. I really loved Luc being at nursery and making a lot of friends, so it would have been a hard decision to make. As it happened, and really sadly, I never had to make a decision, of course.
But I do keep asking my friends in London how do they managed to do it all? And here some of them are lucky enough to be – yes, working from home. The holy grail. When I worked full time in London, working from home was amazing, I could do the washing, my admin, as well as being on a conference call (that mute bottom) in my pjs, and finished the minutes I hated so much to write – without distraction (mainly said boss coming to my desk). And no commuting.
I realise that I am going to sound really ungrateful and I am not. My chief Executive took a real leap of faith by allowing me to create my position and let me work from home on a consultant contract, knowing that I wanted to pursue other activities – but not in finance. This is unbelievable and every day I am thankful for the opportunity. but…
After having worked from home for a year and a half every day and I have also realised that there is a lot missing, and it really is hard work – to network, gather information without realising you are and get human feedback. Yes it becomes boring, even when you are busy, and you could become isolated, not necessarily great when you have a tendency towards depression. I have been home for much more than that year and a half as well, as I was on maternity leave with Louise for a year. That is a long time out of a real office.
In January this year Marc and I had a chat about how I could be working whilst meeting other adults. He got fed up with me being down in the evenings I think. We discussed going to a shared office, there is one where we live. I cannot really justify the price at the moment, as I don’t work enough hours in my contract. I started going to cafes for a couple of hours here and there, and it does create a certain buzz around you, a lot of cafes have wifi, plug sockets, dedicated spaces for people like me, I really like that. I started meeting people as my work developed at some point – by me focusing more on my local area and basically sending messages to people – and I started to have appointments. I started running Create Conversations with Kate as well as insta meets – oh yes I was on a mission to meet people. And that is how I met Anna who runs Kitchen Social, a lunch at her house once a month for 10 people, who may or may not know each other.
I had met Anna quite bit before I went to one of her Kitchen Socials (I could not make any of the other dates). We had met, talked a lot on instagram as she does food photography, got on really well. We have been to a couple of events together locally as well. Anyway I was desperate to go because I thought of running something similar at my house at some point, but had no idea how I would do it. The idea has gone, now, others will be coming in.
I managed to get in a week when Marc was away. I had the 2 kids on my own, we split responsibilities very evenly in the evenings, and he comes back at 6.30pm, so when he is not there, it feels pretty full on. So knowing that I would have a lovely home cooked lunch on Thursday that I would not have to make, felt pretty special.
The menu was – basically my kind of food –
- Harissa Salmon
- Burrata & burnt orange salad
- Roasted Broccoli and red onion with tahini dressing
- BBQ aubergine & quinoa salad
- Lime and dark chocolate cheesecake.
In the end I was the odd one out – the other Mums have their kids going to the same school (not Luc’s school). Except that in our town, everyone knows someone else – especially if your kids do sports activities, and Luc does (so) many. I did meet new people, discussed working from home, as well as school curriculums, catchment areas and everything else you would expect Mums to talk about. It was a lot of fun. I felt really quite uplifted after it. It probably worked really well that I knew Anna before. It might be hard to come without knowing at least one person. I am not a total introvert but I can be really shy.
It is an amazing concept, it is like a supper club but during daytime, so never clashes with bedtime. Anna’s house is really lovely too (so instagrammable), and of course Anna is super welcoming. You do not get a lot of 3 course lunch, with prosecco, priced at £15. It does last a bit longer than your lunch hour, but so do working lunches in a restaurant usually. It is a great way to meet new people – and a wider range of people.
After a year and a half of working from home, I am starting to have things in place to help me recreate the buzz I am missing. I will definitely go into London more often in the next months, because I do feel out of touch of what is going now for them, but more as information gathering (and making sure people remember I am here) than feeling alive again.
I figured one way of doing it for the time being, and my job (or portfolio of jobs) is evolving all the time. If you are more settled, I would probably explore a co-sharing work space, if you can afford it and makes sense financially. Or go to a cafe, you are likely to meet the same people at the same time as well.
I do not want to put anyone off about working from home. As a Mum, I am not saying that my work/life balance is better, it is probably quite shocking actually, but I am there at pick up, can come within minutes if there is a problem at school, can develop other areas of interest as well (more thanks to the number of hours I am doing though). And I feel I am more involved, and know what’s going on. As a woman, I feel like sometimes I am not looked at the same way because I am working from home (operative word is working), and I did feel a bit depressed at some point. But realising that I was finding it hard, led to me to find great solutions as well. And now it is more a case of trying to be more at home, and plan my day to be more efficient. Once I figure this one out, I am sure there will a post about it.
I would love to hear how other people manage their work/life balance and their experience.