This isn’t my first working-from-home rodeo. But this time around is different.

Right out of college, I worked in offices for about seven years, then took the plunge to be a stay-at-home mom not long after our first daughter was born. Those were lean years, for sure, and I found myself a little restless, so I almost always had one or two freelance projects cooking. The days flew by, as I tucked in work between naps and timeouts, trips to the park and the pediatrician, endless practices and school field trips. All of it felt like I was making a choice, and I was always keenly aware of my privilege, despite the chaos and interruptions that just come with the territory when you have young children and family life in general.

I started working full-time again about 10 years ago, and during that time, ended up with two stints during which I needed to again turn my dining room table into an office. Both times were necessitated by needing to accommodate health issues. I started experiencing seizures that happened multiple times a day and made it almost impossible to work in an office setting. At the time, my employer was very open to letting me do my work from home, as I could not safely drive. The kids were all in school, so it was a different experience. Isolating, in fact. Once my health was in better shape, I was relieved and thrilled to be back amongst my co-workers and to have a routine again. Just a few years later, our son became very ill and it was clear that I needed the kind of flexibility that only freelancing could offer. I was fortunate to secure some solid work and get us through that tough time. It was isolating, but I had the freedom to give our son what he needed and I’m still thankful when I think about that period in our lives.

Three years into the full-time office scene again, and I have a confession to make: I love it. I like the relationships I build with colleagues, the energy of being part of a team, the routine and just having a space that’s dedicated solely to getting the job at hand done. I like dressing professionally and just being part of the working world. When you are passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t really feel that much like work. I actually like Monday mornings as much as Friday afternoons.

I guess this explains why this sudden pandemic-induced return to camping out at home to do my job-- even though it’s the absolute right and responsible thing do as a member of the global community-- isn’t that fun. This isn’t whining. It’s simply acknowledging that I miss my work friends, a good printer, easy access to my files, and frankly, just the energy that comes from being with people. It’s an appreciation for all that is normal. And as I fumble with Zoom, try to be efficient and still accomplish things with dogs and my whole family underfoot during this very unsettling time, I’m still humbled. I know that I am very fortunate to be among the lucky who are even able to work from home.

For me working from home is kind of like riding a bike—you never forget how to do it. Ever since my first work-from-home gig nearly 25 years ago, I’ve embraced some strategies that at least make me feel more productive and effective:

About the Author

Anne Heinrich is Vice President of Development for Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri. She has worked in communications and the nonprofit sector for over 30 years. She and her husband, Bret, live in the St. Louis area, and have three children.