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- My Mini Digital Detox – by Anna Bell
Does Working from Home work for mums?
Working from home (WFH) or working remotely became more popular across the summer of 2012 to try and keep the human traffic out of London during the Olympic Games. But, it got a bad reputation when the newspapers quoted outspoken Mayor Boris Johnson declaring flexible working a ‘skivers paradise’.
A high proportion of home workers are working mothers attempting to get their work/life balance just right so I’m not entirely convinced that we are all using WFH as ‘a glorified sick note’ like BoJo suggests. Although it is remarkable that employers have recognised the benefits flexible working can have, particularly for working mothers, what does it really mean for us? Well, it does mean that we can get more work done simply by not commuting. Now we can work a lot harder in between running children to and from school, nursery, or preschool, to and from after-school classes, play dates, parties, swimming lessons, football clubs and still have enough time to cook three healthy meals a day, feed the pets, clean the house and do the laundry, before starting any freelance work, evening jobs or helping the kids with their homework.
It is true to say that working mums have definitely mastered the art of multi-tasking, but the addition of home working has forced us into entering a new phase, namely uber-tasking! To most men multi-tasking consists of sitting on the toilet and reading a book at the same time. For mums however, it has a whole different definition. Before home working was discovered, if we got a call at the office saying our child had been sick and needed collecting from school or nursery, we left, picked them up and looked after them. With the new concept of WFH we still get to pick our sick little ones up and take them home, only now, we also get to log on and carry on working too. Because we are genius multi-taskers we get to mop up sick, wipe little noses and bottoms and administer thermometers at the same time as writing reports and taking ‘urgent’ calls from the office.
Are you starting to see my point? Who has the right balance here, uber-tasking mums or office-bound employees?
During the long laborious school summer holidays every working mum had no choice but to take the odd day to WFH to try and balance child care needs. But, if you were at work you would never have to use up your lunch break preparing lunches for your child and their play-date. Often this results in skipping meals yourself or grazing from the fridge all day to ensure that you always appear 110% efficient whilst WFH. Working in the office you also usually get to take a lunch break. WFH you often have no choice but to use your lunch break to do the school run or a Waitrose shop at break-neck speed.
Whilst working in the office you never have to take calls from your Director or a major client with one hand and make a play dough spider or lego urban enforcer to entertain your child with the other. Juggling so many things at one time is bound to take its toll, so would we simply be better off physically going into the office to get that all important human contact and at the same time have a good gossip and a giggle with our colleagues?
Saying that, of course there are also huge advantages to being a working mum and WFH. For example, you would never be able to get away with working in your flannelette pyjamas and bed socks in the office. There is also something strangely liberating about swapping your usual smart work wear for jogging bottoms and your favourite old t-shirt. Being able to leave your hair unwashed and just tying it back with your child’s ‘Dora’ hair bands is also another plus when it comes to WFH (unless of course your office is a big fan of Skype). You might also get some raised eyebrows from writing meeting notes with a big-barrelled, 8 coloured, Hello Kitty pen on a Disney Princess note pad whilst in the office, but at home, nobody knows! I even know working mums who manage to juggle WFH with leg waxing, pedicures and hair appointments. What could be more fabulous?
So before you run out into the garden to convert your garden shed into a make-shift home office, think about what WFH may mean for you. For me personally and a lot of working mums it simply means Working Frantically Harder.