I spent 18 years in corporate life building a career as a senior marketing, research, and product management professional. While a good portion of that time was exciting and fulfilling, in the end, my corporate life culminated in devastating personal, professional and health challenges (for more on my personal story, see my book Breakdown Breakthrough).
As a high-level professional and a mom of two young children, there were times that my working life almost broke me – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Work-life balance as I defined it – that ever-elusive juggle of contributing fully as a professional while serving as an involved and caring mother – was completely out of reach and utterly impossible.
As a result, when I hit 40 years old, I awakened to the realization that the life I’d created was unsustainable. For four years, I had been chronically ill (with a disease called tracheitis – a serious and recurring infection of the trachea). I was exhausted, depressed and overcome with the guilt and misery of letting down everyone and everything that truly mattered to me.
Now, 11 years later, my entire life and career have been transformed. I run my own career, leadership and executive consulting business – Ellia Communications – and I work on my own terms. My business is conducted from my home office, and my ability to balance my key priorities in both life and work has improved dramatically. As a result, I am physically well and professionally rejuvenated – I feel excited, passionate, and energized by the work I do and the people I serve.
I’ve directly experienced the benefits of working from home, and because of the transformation it allowed, I cannot recommend it highly enough to women and men equally. Working remotely or from a home office — either in your corporate role, or in your own small business, entrepreneurial endeavor or consultancy – is a true life-changer.
How did working from home save my career (and my life)?
Below are the 6 key ways:
1. Seamless integration of the personal and professional
As a career and executive coach, I’ve observed that working professionals thrive best when their personal and professional identities are not highly distinct or separate entities, but connected symbiotically, nourishing and enlivening each other. When I spent hours each day every day in a corporate office, I experienced my professional persona as something completely different from my personal one. Now, whether I’m working or spending time with my family, I’m the SAME person – integrated, whole and honoring all key aspects of my personality. Working from home has allowed a deeper connection to my true self, and to operating with authenticity, integrity and transparency.
2. Productivity boost
I’m immeasurably more productive working from home. I can craft my work schedule as it suits my needs, and tailor it to when I’m most energetic, productive, and focused. I’m there for my family when I need and want to be, and also available to address my work roles and responsibilities the minute I wish to for as long as I wish to.
3. Healthier, more active lifestyle
Since I began working from home in 2002, my chronic illness, exhaustion and depression evaporated. (Interestingly, my tracheitis disappeared the day I was laid off from my last corporate job after 9/11, and hasn’t returned). I sleep and nap when my body requires it, and I make time for healthy activities such as tennis and walking. I eat as my body requires, not based on a forced, unnatural schedule. I’m stronger and more energetic by shaping my day in healthier ways.
4. Family focus
Being deeply involved in my family’s life – in the fabric of my two children’s daily lives – was what I dreamed of when I planned for and gave birth to them. But I could never find a way to achieve that while holding down a job that required 3 hours of daily commuting, a 50+ hour work-week, and extensive travel. Being able to serve my family in ways that honor my unique values, needs and priorities has made all the difference in my life.
5. Well-defined boundaries
In my marriage and family therapy training, I learned about the power of personal boundaries to create a happy, healthy life, or impede it. Boundaries are the invisible barriers that separate you from your various outside systems (work, family, church/temple, school, friends, etc.). Your boundaries help you regulate the degree of input and output between you and the systems with which you interact. Boundaries can be measured on a scale from diffuse (overly-permeable) to rigid (impenetrable, preventing the necessary flow of input/output). Working from home, I have strengthened my boundaries – I know where I end and others begin, and I control the flow of input and information in ways that are most beneficial for me and my family.
The quality of my life is directly proportionate to the degree of control I have over my time, the people with whom I interact, and my endeavors and activities. In my work, I’ve seen the damaging effects that loss of control brings about in life. Feeling out of control leaves people feeling victimized and powerless over their fate and their future. Victimization often brings with it illness, depression, rage, and disengagement from life and work. Working from home gives me a direct line to greater personal and professional control.
In the end, running a business from my home that I’m passionate has given me a new lease on life and allowed me to contribute at the level I long to, to both my family and my work.
National research confirms the innumerable benefits of remote working for both individuals and enterprises. There is no longer a question about its positive outcomes. The more we can create new pathways for successful remote working, the greater the opportunities for success, growth and innovation for individuals and businesses around the globe.