Interview

Working from home gives Sandie Lane, account director at Recognition, more time with her family

by Liz Marchant

Age: 50
Number of kids: 3
Age of kids: 8, 10 and 13  

What’s important to you in a role? 

Two critical things for me are flexibility and being appropriately remunerated for the level of skill, expertise and commitment I bring to a role. I think as the lines continue to blur between work and home life, it’s even more important to maintain work/life balance to ensure longevity. It’s crucial to have mutual trust between an employer and employee, and an understanding that you will take care of each otherI’m very fortunate to have found that in my current workplace.   

Can you describe what’s involved in doing your job on a day-to-day basis?  

There is no typical day in the type of work that I do, which I really enjoy as there is loads of variety and scope to shape the role the way I want it. I do a lot of copywriting and proofreading, as well as strategy development, team mentoring, and client relationship buildingI really enjoy that my role has a huge creative focusIt gives me the opportunity to innovate every day.  

Did you have any personal concerns or worries in relation to family or out-of-work commitments when you started combining working and parenting? 

I was fortunate that when I first became a parent 13 years ago, I had a home-based role with a large IT company, so there was no pressure for me to go back to a physical office and leave my son in childcare. The trade-off for me was that I was in a global role, so I worked day and night but that worked really well for me around the needs of my familyI think the biggest worry for me back then, and even now, is being torn between having to be in an office and having time with my sons as they are growing way too fast. I really love the freework culture we have at The Recognition Group where it doesn’t matter when, how or where I get the job done, as long as my work is high quality, and the clients are happy. It’s a great partnership between an employer and an employee, and I think many organisations could learn a lot from this workplace model as it drives more personal investment in the organisation.  

What kind of support do you have? 

I didn’t have much support at all when my children were younger and admittedly it was a very big and exhausting juggling act for many years. I often found myself caught somewhere between mummy guilt and workplace guilt, and feeling as though I was an air traffic controller. Now that my husband works from home and I’m able to work full-time from home, it has become a lot easier for us to juggle our boys and their many school and sporting commitments between us.

What are your work commitments? 

I have a great balance where I work four days across five, with the scope to scale up as the business needsIt’s a great flexible balance for my employer and for our family. I’d like to think of myself as part of the new agile and scalable workforce.  

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced finding a balance between work and parenting commitments? 

Time has been my greatest challenge. I have learned a lot about time management since juggling work and parenting, and when to say no on either side, which has saved my sanity more than once. At the end of the day, you are only one person and you can only do the best that you can do. If you fall over, then everyone loses, so it’s important to get that balance of time right that works well for the business and your family.  

How long did you take out of your career when you had your sons? 

With my first son, I took six months of maternity leave, three months off with my second son, and I was working literally the day after I arrived home from hospital with my third sonI can’t recommend doing that, as it just about killed me at the time but I was working freelance by myself back then and couldn’t afford to take any time off. Luckily on all three occasions I returned to home-based work, so with my youngest I had him strapped to me while I was working at my laptop.   

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave? 

Plan well in advance and save as much as you can to take as much time as you canWork will always be there but your children grow so quickly, and you can’t get that time backEnjoy every moment of being a parent while you can. Also see if you can arrange home-based work, which gives you the support you need to return to work earlier without feeling as though you need to leave your children.

What advice would you give someone returning to their career after having kids? 

Try to keep your foot in the door as much as possible, even with freelance or part-time work, while you are on leave because that will make it much easier for you to come backTechnology and workplaces continue to change at light speed so you can easily be left behind if you are out of the workplace for too long. 

Are there many women at your level juggling family and work at The Recognition Group?  

There are quite a few women and men juggling family and work in our company, including the business ownersIt’s great because it’s like we are all one big family together, and we get the challenges of starting a career, buying a house, starting a family and growing a family. As a close-knit team we are all going through this crazy journey called life together and supporting each other.  

Do you find time for yourself? And if so, how and what do you use it for? 

Early in my career, and before children, I was literally a machine when it came to workI couldn’t switch off and my employers would get a lot from me both night and day but that also led to burnout, which wasn’t so greatNow, I know how important it is both for the organisation and the individual to find the right balance. One of my employers once told me that he didn’t care if I could do my job within four hours a week on the beach, as long as clients were saying nice things about meThat really stuck with me and I realised that he wanted me to be happy and productive at work in whatever way that suited meI now schedule two mornings of busy time each week in my calendar to attend aqua aerobics, which gives me more energy for when I start work. I also try to go to the beach and do a bit of surfing from time to time to keep active and energised  

Do you have a daily routine, and if so, what does it look like? 

I have three growing sons and work, so there is completely zero routine at our houseWe are doing well each morning just to get the boys out the door to schoolThe best way I can describe my house is highly organised chaos but it seems to work.  

How has COVID-19 impacted your work environment? 

I don’t travel at all now for work, which has given me more time with family so that’s been a good thingI am looking forward to the odd trip or two in the future but I’m definitely happy with less travel. 

My job was already home based so COVID-19 didn’t impact the way I worked.  

What are you reading right now and what do you recommend? 

I’ve joined a Happy Hour book club and we are about to pick up a new book from author Tony Park, who also happens to be a good friend of mine and an all-round fabulous personI can’t go past Tony ParkHe is the new Wilbur Smith.  

What advice do you have for others adjusting to this new style of working? 

If you haven’t worked from home before, absolutely embrace itI’ve been doing it now for over 15 years and I would struggle to go back to an office jobYou become so much more organised at home, you get more done (I was a very big socialiser in the office), and you get the benefit of more time back with your family, including your fur babies, which is priceless