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Plugged into the Home and the Office: Why Four Work-at-Home Parents Would Have it No Other Way!

By Stacey Ross

The news that Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer pulled the plug on telecommuting in the workplace has sparked discussion and debate surrounding the pros and cons of telecommuting and company policies. I contend it is a good thing, because it opens up an important topic well worth discussing.

As technology evolves, a good number of employees, in one way or another, are bringing their work home via laptop, smartphone, Skype, etc., and parents are joining in! Many work-at-homers claim to be getting a lot more done than in the traditional office, love that they do not have a commute to worry about, and are proud that they are able to stay close to the nest while raising a family.

About 13.4 million people in the United States work from home, according to a Census Bureau report from 2012, an increase of about four million since 1999. Working out of the home is not without its unique challenges (childcare, finances, office space, etc.) but it has become a great way for parents to not only build job skills and even earn degrees, but also bring in a full-time salary and/or a supplemental income.

As a work-at-home mom myself, I was eager to learn from those who have established a successful work-at-home system, and find out how they are using technology to help them be more effective. I interviewed four colleagues and found that while they are not associated with one another, they all possess a common thread in how they emphasize two things: the value of flexibility in their schedules, and how they use technology as their lifeline to the outside world.

How working from home keeps a family closer

Jaimie Shulman, an Oracle manager and father of two, described how working from home helps him save money and time on commuting and clothing, and take better care of his family.

“Working at home allows me to be connected to my family and two small kids,” explained Jaimie.” I get to see them grow up every day. We all get to sit down from time to time to eat lunch together. I am able to be results-oriented and that provides the work flexibility needed to support my wife's part-time work, without having to get additional help.”

Ken Schmitt is the owner and founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and a father of two. He focuses on placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across a variety of industries throughout San Diego and Orange County.

“My wife and I rely on each other to pick the kids up from school as soon as classes are over, and be home to respond to any issues, challenges or stresses that come up in their lives. The kids are able to come home to at least one adult every day, and I am able to be a more present and available father. I can set my hours around the kids' schedules and they take center stage.”

And here’s entrepreneur and single mom, Jessica Bern, co-founder of Two Funny Brains:

“Working at home helps enormously. My kid is an athlete who trains about 16 hours a week. I can feed her a good dinner on those nights and make sure she gets all her homework done. I can pick her up at school and get her to the necessary doctors’ appointments.”

Denise Young, founder and webmaster at DMY Studio, consults, designs and develops web sites and currently works with an organization that has business offices on both sides of the continent.

“I have a network of developers, designers and other professionals who almost all work out of their homes. I realize that for some people this kind of technological dependence may sound off-putting, but I am thankful for the flexibility it gives me to arrange my days so that I can be the kind of parent I want to be.”

How technology makes all the difference

All four individuals stress the need to not only email and text with their colleagues but also establish a culture of connecting:

“I have a mobile office,” said Jaimie. “I can work anywhere there is power and an Internet connection. A laptop, a smartphone and wireless headset are key. Our company provides the Voice Over IP and an instant message service on our laptops and smartphones, so everyone can be instantly in contact with one another.”

Ken employs three people and two independent contractors, all of whom work from their homes. He built his business through speaking engagements, teaching workshops, referrals, repeat clients, social media (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook), and his website.

“We couldn’t survive without our CRM system, called MaxHire, a shared database that all four of my employees have access to.”

As an entertainer, Jessica relies on networking and collaborating with new people on a regular basis.

“I have networked with people I likely would have never have met IRL (in real life) who have introduced me to others in my field. Having our videos online has brought me clients I did not know were out there and helps me to compete against some of the bigger guys.”

Denise added more detail about her use of technology:

“We share files using Dropbox and communicate via email, Skype and text messaging. We have weekly MarCom meetings locally, but recently, I was laid up after a surgery for several weeks and physically unable to attend these meetings in person. Not a problem! I still conferenced in, and using GoToMeeting everyone was able to go over the visuals and content and brainstorm ideas together from our various locations. We also use Google Drive to securely share various materials that we are collaborating on, and maintain our intranet with various employee access levels.”

Hopes for the future

I love how Denise sums up the overall sentiment, repeated again and again by everyone I interviewed:

“I love that I'm able to work throughout the mornings until it is time to pick up my two boys from school. I can then focus on what is really near and dear to my heart: assisting them with their homework, attending basketball practices and going through our night-time routines. After they are asleep and the house is quiet, I am often at work, 'plugged-in' again. And in today's world, that might mean conversing with an associate who is just beginning his day on the other side of the globe.”

I am optimistic that a growing number of parents are going to value the incentives and flexibility that working at home offers and become either self-employed or work-at-home employees. It is also my hope that more and more employers determine that it's in their best interest to explore flexible work models.

Are you a work-at-home parent? Do you foresee this opportunity as a viable, growing option for work? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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