Working from Home: A Game Changer – by Elaine Spector

After over 21 years of working in an office, I finally had the opportunity to take a leap of faith to work from home. Many people have questioned me about the move, and how I am fairing. My response is simple: “It is a game changer.”

Like many Americans, I’ve spent a majority of my working life in a brick and mortar office. On a typical morning, I would take a quick shower, eat a hurried breakfast, and dash to my car in a futile attempt to beat the traffic. I have been in the law practice for 21 years, most of which were spent living and working in Washington, D.C.- a city notorious for its congestion. After a move to Baltimore, I continued to commute to D.C. for seven excruciating years.

During the seven years I commuted to D.C. from Baltimore, I left my home at 5:30 AM, returning no earlier than 7:30 PM. These fourteen hour work days were balanced out by the fact that I had two days off completely, and one day working from home. But still, during that 7 year time period, my children would wake up missing their mommy, and their mommy totally missing them. I would wander into their bedroom before my 5:30 AM departure and yearn to hug them, but dare not stir them. There was often a call from home, a teary child who didn’t get a hug that morning from mommy. That was a tough period for me.

So, when an opportunity presented itself to work at a private law firm from home, this mother of three could hardly resist. This was a very unique opportunity for an attorney, where law firms have historically been against working remotely. I decided to apply, and within a couple of months, was offered a position. Finally, the years of commuting would be in the past. Yet, the decision to work from home was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had such great relationships with my colleagues, and the thought of being “alone” all day, even for this introvert, caused some serious hesitation.

Despite my hesitations, I resigned from my previous position, and began the adventure of working from home. My children attend the same school and are out of the house for over nine hours, which gives me sufficient time to attend to the day’s work, and be ready for them when they return home. When they enter the home, I come up from my office in a manner that’s completely different from the frazzled woman coming home from a long commute. I am present for my children, in a way I’ve never been before.

In addition to the time saving and calm within my home, I’ve enjoyed shedding the “business woman” persona I carried for so many years. Being at home allows me to be more of who I really am, and not the image I projected. The suits, the makeup, the attitude, all things of the past. With the exiting of the old, I’ve clothed myself in simplicity, both physically and mentally.

Working from home is not for everyone. For those who are not self-disciplined, you may struggle. For the extrovert who craves being around people, this might not be for you. But for those of you who love the idea of working from home and are lucky enough to have the opportunity, I offer the following tips.

1. Find your “Corner Office.”

When I transitioned into working remotely, I had two options for an office space- a room on the main level and a room in the basement. Although the room on the main level is a beautiful space with vaulted ceilings, I decided against it. I chose the basement space, which I affectionately call “my corner office.” With plenty of natural light coming in from the windows, the space is sufficiently isolated from the rest of the house to allow me to concentrate on my work, without being distracted by the noise (and chores) of the home. Your office should be a respite from the day to day household chores, and if at all possible, a sanctuary from the rest of the home (no offense, kids!).

2. Designate your space for working only.

My office is my office. That’s it. And by all means, keep it clutter free. I look forward to getting into my office on Monday morning, because I keep it very organized. Think Marie Kondo. It also helps that all my files are now electronic. There are no files on my desk, just a pad of paper and my day planner. Keeping a clutter free space leads to a clutter free mind.

3. Set defined hours, but be flexible.

When I first started working from home, I pushed hard to be at my desk by 8:00 AM. I wanted to set a rhythm for a consistent work life. For the first few months, I worked a disciplined schedule. But after some time, I decided to give myself some breathing room for activities that help renew, such as prayer and quieting of the mind. Be disciplined, but also be good to yourself.

4. Make time for Mom.

Exercise has always been an important component of my life. I still wake up at 6:00 AM for my morning run. You still need to be efficient with your time, even though you no longer have a commute. Make time to do things that you enjoy and that keep you both physically and spiritually healthy.

5. Stay involved with your colleagues.

Relationships are key to feeling fulfilled in life, particularly in your profession. My new firm is located in Fairfax, Virginia, and I periodically visit the office, especially for important firm events. I have found that it is easy to stay connected to my colleagues and build professional relationships. Definitely make the extra effort to stay connected. It is worth it.

Working from home is definitely a game changer for me and my family. I am hopeful that many more women and men will be able to experience this amazing gift.

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