It’s a fact all first-time parents quickly encounter–babies have the ability to contort space and time to an extent that would make Einstein seasick. Once the little one arrives, reality shifts such that 3am is a normal time to have a meal, the kitchen is the most logical place to get dressed, and simply leaving the house can take 45 minutes.
The tricks this kind of upheaval plays on the mind and body are the biggest hurdles to continuing a professional career soon after a baby’s arrival. While the desire and creativity for work may still burn, the realities of irregular feeding times, long late nights, and the sheer physical toll of caring for a newborn make the former work routine near impossible to recapture straight away.
So when, and where, does career fit in this new space-time continuum? The answer to returning to work quicker may, in fact, be never leaving home.
You Are Not Alone
Each year in the U.S. more than 3.8 million women have a baby (or babies, in the case of the more than 100,000 moms who have twins). With a mean age of a little more than 26, that’s a hefty percentage of the 72 million-strong female workforce that will be beginning, or continuing, the hectic balance between career and motherhood each year.
And with the majority of the maternity leave questions decided between employees and employers–less than 60% of women aged 16 to 44 qualify for the basic job protection mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act–there are as many differences in the way women approach the career-family balancing act as there are differences between those 3.8 million women themselves.
The continuing evolution of video conferencing, and its firm establishment within the modern business world, offers another option for women looking to step back into the office after baby. With a little negotiation with the boss, and the help of a partner, relative, or professional, enough time and space can be carved out at home to bridge the gap between not working and the resumption of a full career.
Recapture Some Time to Transition
The key to maintaining a virtual presence in the office, without taking on the rigors of a 9 to 5 commitment, lies in finding a dependable window of a few hours each day within which to actually work without distraction. And that’s not just physical space and time; it means finding a way to put baby aside in order to find enough peace of mind to let thoughts wander back to work.
Remaining at home, and telecommuting to work via video conferencing, offers the most efficient way to slip between worlds. A sturdy desk, ergonomic chair, some solid lighting, time to focus, and an employer willing to recapture otherwise lost talent are all that’s required.
Be it a few hours every day, or a couple of longer days within the week, quality face time with both colleagues and the boss is critical to the remote working endeavor. Regular video meetings help build trust on both sides, maintain a functioning connection, and aid workflow.
The Perfect Setup for the Working Mom
There are a number of companies currently producing agnostic video hardware for the home office that will operate in concert with all the leading video conferencing services. Depending on whether mom has an entire room to dedicate to business, or just an isolated corner within the everyday flow of the home, there’s a device to suit.
Personal webcam and microphone setups that can comfortably perform one-on-one video calls cost less than $100. If the need arises to host larger meetings, group video products that handle dozens of participants are also available.
While many video conferencing services offer basic packages free of charge, a business subscription of as little as $2 a month can open up a range of integrated options. Skype for Business, WebEx, and Fuzebox are among those to include handy tools such as group video calls, document sharing, integrated calendars, and chat recording in their premium services that can make working from home go even more smoothly.
The Many Benefits of VC
The majority of office tasks can be distributed and completed over a remote connection, as most internal calendar, email, and intranet services can be replicated online. And it’s not just that what you do in the office can be done at home; it can even be done better at home. In fact, one survey found creative workers were actually up to 20% more productive when working remotely.
And, as there’s no commute to worry about–a joy shared by America’s 3.7 million employees who work from home at least half the time–it should be easier than ever before to make that 9am staff video call.
On the flip side, less time commuting to and from the office gives mom more time with her newborn. In fact, it leaves mom with more time for every facet of her life. It allows her to build gradually from weeks without any office contact, to perhaps months with 3-4 hours a day, before finally returning to full-time service. Baby gets more days with those crucial hugs in the afternoon, mom can breastfeed for longer, and she can still enjoy the challenge and achievement of her career.