I started my journey on how to build a remote working environment when I fell pregnant with my daughter, Alice, in 1994. As an equity partner in a law firm I wasn’t entitled to maternity leave, or at least felt I wasn’t, and the then senior partner wasn’t interested in making it that easy for me. I expect many women can relate to this when it comes to being pregnant and having to keep working.
So with networks still in their infancy, as was email, I decided to set up a computer on a dial up link in our spare bedroom, and started to work from home. I worked the entire period of my confinement – and then 3 months after Alice arrived by checking in on that system. As a person who didn’t really enjoy being pregnant I enjoyed keeping busy right up until the day before Alice arrived. I had help from my team in the office, and I was able to keep my partners relatively satisfied that I was “doing my bit”.
And that’s how it all started for me. I was working remotely. I didn’t have to get up in the morning while heavily pregnant and put on maternity dresses (which I hated). In 1994 maternity dresses were still like tents and showing your bump was before Demi Moore showed her’s on a Vanity Fair cover later in the 90’s.
Fast forward to 2018 – 24 years later – and so much has changed. Maternity wear is great, mum’s to be like to show off their bumps – and we have paternity leave! But do we have freedom to work where we want, and what’s the thing stopping more employers from offering this life changing benefit to their teams? One word sums it up – trust. Just as my old partners couldn’t see what I was doing, and therefore could assess my productivity and contribution, so today it’s the trust factor which I believe stops people from making remote working part of their business environment. How do we tackle this? I hope to answer that in future blog posts – and ask you to share how you have made remote working a success in your organisation.
And finally thanks to Ruth Gawthorpe for inviting me to make this contribution. Alice is now 23 and working remotely herself 2 days a week as an analyst at Accenture. I really did trailblaze for her!