When I began my career more than 16 years back, my set of goals and priorities were different. I look back to the day I got my first offer letter, the feeling of triumph was undeniably the best ever! Over the years as time went by and I worked towards making a career and looking after my family, Corporate India matured and evolved towards the way women worked and wanted to work. I was always fortunate to work with people who valued my skills more than they valued my physical presence at work. Hence began my journey to Work From Home. Majority of the times and very rarely I was needed to be around at the office. My meetings, conversations, discussions took the shape of endless phone calls, skype calls and conference calls. Whereas, I had the liberty of not stepping out and even working in pyjamas, I had to keep the work time and the business hours.
Why am I writing about this? Not because I propagate WFH. I personally feel that people energize people and hence unless one has no option left, one should go to office(work!). It is also not because I have started feeling bored, complacent and out of the run that I do not want to WFH. I just want to write about it because there is a belief and a strong mind set that unless one goes “off” to work, there is simply no “work” that gets done.
So here is the thing, while I juggle and balance professional life with my personal life (both of which are extremely important for me! and I just can not seem to give up on any one of them), there are times when I am exhausted, tired, unhappy, stretched and extremely snappy. I maintain a demeanor of being in control because both sides of my life simply cannot suffer as the line between profession and personal life gets erased at least in the physical sense. There have been times when I have attended calls in the midst of warming up lunch for the child who has come back from school. There have been times when I have sat under a tree taking an interview while waiting for my child to finish her Bharatnatyam class. There have been times when I have stayed awake long after the world has gone to bed just to complete the report that could not be done because the child had to be rushed to the hospital. Yes, I have a job and I love them both. I don’t mean to sound like I am cribbing. Not at all. I love the mayhem, the chaos and the ultimate high that I get on being able to achieve so much (Yes, you guessed it, I have not an iota of self doubt).
But, somewhere, when we talk of women and the way we work, I look for “respect”. I need “understanding”. I expect “compassion”. I demand “me time”. What truly hurts is when the all efforts of doing my best (of course it is my choice!), there are still people around me, the eco – system who feels that I do “nothing”. That I look after my family is something I “ought” to do. That I WFH is something that is not regarded as “work” at all. Many a times I have been asked, “What can you possibly do without going to office!”, or “What are you so stressed about?”, or the killer of them all “How much can you earn sitting at home?”
Call it the naivety of the people who I am associated with, but let me clarify here that WFH is a full time job. It demands as much (if not more) than the normal “to office” work. Companies are struggling with retention of talent and many women today look for opportunities that give them the option to WFH. With the changing scenario at the work place, I somehow feel that there is a huge gap in the understanding of the whole concept. The concept is looked upon, at times with ridicule, condescension, frivolity and dis-respect. I have many friends/ colleagues and acquaintances who are in the same grind as I am and we all “connect” on this very well. On the days then, when I get swarmed by this chatter in my head about what people say (I try hard not to get affected, but I am human right!), this is what I say to myself: The next time someone gives you that smug “oh so you are WFH, life must be so easy” smirk, go ahead smile back and say “yes life is easy, because I reached a point where everyone values my work – from home or otherwise”.
To the amazing tribe of women who WFH, we are a special lot and we deserve our place in the family / the society / the eco – system that can look at us and say “Wow! Now there is one who WFH, she must be special!”…wishful thinking I suppose as I write this today but for the future I am hoping it is not… meanwhile, let me get back to my “real” job..and this?..well just venting of my thoughts on a normal day when I WFH!!
- A small note, I also know of countless men who WFH but I don’t mention them here simply because I don’t know if it affects them the way it affects me. Needless to say, you also are my tribe !