With nearly the entire country working from home, I find myself reflecting on my own work-from-home experience. I’ve been working from home since February of 1996. Yes, I was a trailblazer. You’re welcome.
I had done PR and media relations at the same company for nearly 10 years when I was about to give birth to my first child in late 1995. Before I began my three-month maternity leave, I presented my boss with a plan to allow me to work from home a few days per week, after my leave was over. He said yes. At that time, practically no one worked from home. I was aware of the concept but I didn’t know anyone who did it.
On the days I worked at home, our IT department forwarded my office phone to ring on our home landline. It wasn’t even called IT then and my company was ahead of the curve for even having a department dedicated to solving computer problems. My clients and other business contacts were not supposed to know that I was at home. Laptops were just barely coming into existence but my husband and I actually had our own PC at home and my company did use email for internal communication, which was also revolutionary and very uncommon.
We hired a nanny to be in the house during weekday business hours. My husband, Brent, also arranged to work from home a few days each week.
When our daughter, Katie was an infant, Theresa, our nanny, cared for Katie downstairs and/or outdoors, while Brent and I worked upstairs.When Katie turned one, I left my company and started a freelance business, writing and doing PR from home full time. Teresa stayed on as our nanny and the setup worked pretty well.
But, when Katie turned 2, she refused to remain with the nanny. She constantly ran upstairs and banged on our office doors, screaming. We’d lock our doors with latches we referred to as AKDs (Anti-Katie Devices). We felt guilty for locking her out and mad at her for intruding. Something had to change. Also, I was pregnant again.
Our son, Noah was born and we somehow kept the nanny-and-work-from-home thing going for a few more months until it just wasn’t possible. So, I gave up all but a very few of my freelance clients and we let the nanny go. At this point, I was a full-time mom who worked part-time from home, and Brent no longer worked from home. I did a lot of my work late at night. When Katie entered preschool, I could sneak in a bit of work while Noah napped.
Eventually, both kids were in school full-time, so I could work then. During summer, I’d often hire a babysitter to play with the kids in the backyard, while I got some work done in my home office.
Today, 24 years later, I am still working from home. It is no longer shocking to hear children, or dogs, or a TV or the general din of ambient sound from a store in the background of a business call.
I have the greatest respect and sympathy to all the parents currently trying to work from home while also having to basically home-school their children.
I predict that, as we ease back into some form of post-coronavirus normalcy, some companies will continue to keep some of their employees working from home. Having part of a workforce at home means easier social distancing at the office. Also, for all those people who adopted dogs during their shutdown, it would be better if all the humans were not away all day. Working from home also means getting a bit more sleep, putting less wear-and-tear on your car, being able to meet the electrician or plumber without taking time off, being able to sneak in more exercise or even run an errand during the day. This might all translate to happier and more productive workers. Even if they are still wearing masks and hording toilet paper.