Working From Home

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today marks my first year since I started working from home.

I remember exactly a year ago, I wrote a very depressing blog post about the lack of support I got from a previous work place when Dylan came down with HFMD. I felt unfair and unjust for mothers because we are often forced to choose between work or our children, and nothing in between.

I left my full-time job 6 months after I gave birth to Dylan because I feel that work is taking away as much as 12 hours of my time every single day, leaving very little for me to spend with him. To me, a choice between my children and work was very obvious. If I have to be bringing home $0 to be with the kids, then we will just live frugally with one income less. Thankfully, Nian is very supportive on this and he has never once showed any reluctance of letting me stay at home.

After resigning from my full time job, we changed Dylan's full-day care into half-day so that we can spend more time together. For the other half of the day when he is in his day care, I worked part time to supplement our combined income.

Both part-time jobs I held over the course of one year had very little staff welfare. Being a part-timer, I don't get paid when I don't work, and my bosses are generally working on very lean operation so I am usually not allowed to take leave/MC, making it very difficult for me, especially on days when Dylan falls sick or the childcare center is closed for various events.

In March 2014, a friend, who is also in the PR sector, caught up with me and asked me if I would like to take over some portfolios from him on project basis. The commitment level for these clients are considerably low, so I wouldn't need to report to work in office. I'll just need to attend meetings and then work from home from there.

One year later, now, things have moved on from there and I've taken over a lot more projects.

Most of the days I feel extremely thankful and happy that I can work in my pyjamas, go catch a movie with my husband whenever he is free, or basically scoot around anywhere to have my meals without having to be confined to a particular area every single day.

I can be cooking and working simultaneously, or working and having Alexis sitting on my lap watching me typing away, while Dylan sits by my legs, fixing Legos and telling me they are robots.. and bring back the same salary I used to draw when I was working full time.

It is the exact thing I fantasize about all the time back then. Freedom and money.

Other difficult days, I WISHED to be in office because sometimes, work really gets done faster when you're at where the action is. I haven't had a lot of difficult days until very recently, but thank goodness it has already passed and it is smooth-sailing again.

Having worked from home the past year, I thought of sharing some insights of working from home. Do you plan to work from home? If so, I hope the information below will help you in getting a head-start. :)

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Q: I'm planning to work-from-home after I give birth to my baby. Any idea where I can start looking?

A: Personally, I feel that there are a lot of opportunities to work from home these days, especially after NTUC, WDS & TAFEP got together to push for something like this.

According to statistics, the proportion of firms that provide at least one formal flexible work arrangement rose from 38 per cent in 2011 to 47 per cent this year, as reported by the Ministry of Manpower.

If you have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, this could be a good time for your to launch your business. Otherwise, there are many companies right now that provide flexible working schemes. Some companies are Ernst & Young, OCBC etc. In fact, there is a list of 69 family-friendly companies that you can consider working in that may allow you to explore flexible working hours.

Q: How much pay cut do you have to take while transiting from a full-time employer to a work-from-home one?

A: I took a whopping 80% pay cut when I first left my full-time job to work on a part-time basis.

Q: Do your clients take you less seriously, or think that you're not as professional, when they found out that you are working from home?

A: In my company, we work as a team. We have full-time colleagues and also work-from-home mothers and together, we help one another to assist our clients. Working from home doesn't mean you are incompetent, similarly, working from the office doesn't make you professional as well.

With the increasing number of MNCs coming up with flexible working hours, along with the convenience of Internet, it won't be long that most skilled professionals you meet are working from home.

Q: What do I need to standby if I have plans to leave my full-time job?

A: Savings, if you are like me, ready to take the plunge even before you find a job that allows you to work from home. You may also need a part-time adhoc caretaker, for days when you simply just wanna have a day off, or have actual meetings to attend.

Q: Will it be difficult if I decided to get back to work full time again?

A: It really depends on what you were doing, and what you are going to do. Generally, if you're sticking to the same sector as what you were doing from home, it means you're still relevant. If that is the case, I don't see why it will be difficult for you to return to the work force.

However, I'd tell you that you would probably hate working full time again because just by squeezing on the morning/evening train and eating with the crazy lunch crowd will be enough to put you off lol.

Q: Surely there is a disadvantage to working from home?

A: Yes. For one, you have no strict working hours. During lull period, you can go on for days not touching work at all (and still get paid, hehe) but during peak period, I've tried working from morning until midnight.

Sometimes, you really need to pick up that phone call, but you cannot concentrate at all because one kid will be screaming in the background, "Mummy! Mummy! MOOOOOMMMMYYYYY!!!!!!" while the other one would be crying to be carried.

Also, because everyone's into this Whatsapp chat group thingy, which I personally feel it is very unhealthy because it really disrupts one's work-life balance (I have clients who would whatsapp us on a Saturday, 7.30AM. Or Sunday night 10PM), you are basically on-call 24 hours.

Nian always tells me to mute them until the next day but I always have this fear that client is looking for me because something urgent cropped up... I mean, why else would someone text you at 10PM on a weekend about work right? (But sometimes it's really because client has no life. Really. I won't lie about this.)

But with the benefits I enjoy, I can live with such hectic peak period every once in a while. I think I may stay in this arrangement for quite a while. :)

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