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July 31, 2013 - 2 comments

Working With Baby: Another Adventure Powered by Table XI

Alicia + ElliottYou’ve seen this on every website for every tech company: “Our company cares about its people.” It’s so ubiquitous that everyone’s eyes skate right across it. The meaning is lost.

However, Table XI’s people-caring efforts are a bit different. If you’ve had a chance to explore the Culture page on our website, you’ll notice the section at the bottom, “Adventures Powered by Table XI.” This section highlights several team members who have traveled abroad and/or worked remotely, continuing to contribute to the company while being away from our main office in Chicago.

Table XI has no formal policy around living abroad and working remotely, but our COO Mark, CTO Matt, and CEO Josh believe strongly that happy employees work better. They apply that idea to this subject in a very real way.

After working as Table XI’s Director of Delivery for a little less than a year, last spring I dropped a few big bombs. First, I let Mark, Matt, and Josh know that I planned to move to Seattle, where I’m originally from. All three immediately suggested that we try to figure out a remote-work situation. Given my short tenure with the company, I was thrilled that they’d even consider this an option. In a stunning surprise to all (including me), a few weeks later I discovered I was pregnant and laid that news down, as well.

As the Director of Delivery, along with serving on the management team and participating in recruitment, resource management, and other operations responsibilities, much of my role falls in the Delivery Assurance bucket: project management, business analysis, and quality assurance. All of this requires a ton of collaboration with other people in the office, and at first, the difficulties in working remotely loomed large. But rather than shy away from the challenges that my working from Seattle might bring, the TXI leadership did what they do best—try to find a solution that works for everyone. We discussed some tools and processes that would help me remain effective despite the time difference and distance, and agreed to give the new situation a solid three-month trial.

TXI continued to be supportive as I moved to Seattle with my husband, set up my home office, and went to the 4,400 doctors’ appointments required of a pregnant lady. As my son’s due date grew closer, I faced the great questions that confront every pregnant, working woman. Will I work or will I stay home once the baby is born? How will I manage the intense focus and energy my job requires and also take care of an infant? How will I take care of an infant at all?! (That question comes to EVERY pregnant woman, working or not!)

In January my son was born and I went on maternity leave. I’d been honest with TXI that I might not be returning, and set a date to discuss my plans with them halfway through my leave. I decided that the best thing for our family would be for me to work part-time, around 30 hours per week. I wasn’t sure if TXI would go for it—after all, most tech companies laugh at the thought of part-time requests—but I put a proposal together and arranged a call to go over it.

photo 2Nervously, I laid out my reasons to Mark, Matt, and Josh and waited for them to respond, saying I understood if they needed to discuss separately before giving me an answer. Instead, they immediately accepted my proposal and stressed how thrilled they were that I was returning. Each of them expressed how much I had been missed, that the work I do is valued, and that they wanted me to find a working situation that would lead to health and happiness. (Insanely awesome, right?!)

I’ve been back at work for about three months now. I work six-hour days Mon–Fri, 10am-4pm Chicago time (8am-2pm Seattle time). Working fewer hours every day of the week versus three longer days is better for my role, since I can check in on various projects and initiatives daily. I pick my son up from daycare after work, and we spend our afternoons together. Once in awhile a meeting pops up that requires me to rearrange my schedule, which is easy to do with advanced warning.

Now, as I approach my two-year anniversary with TXI, I continue to be impressed by the effort our company puts forth in caring about its people. The flexible work environment attracts and retains people like nothing else. People stay at the company longer (our attrition rate is very low), and they tend to be more productive and happier. If TXI had been inflexible, I most likely would have quit and found something else, and been just another part of the mass exodus of new mothers I’ve seen leave other tech companies. Instead, we found a way to make it work, and we all won: I continue to provide value to TXI, TXI continues to employ me, and my baby benefits from a mom who’s professionally fulfilled AND excited to play everyday at 2pm.

Many working moms talk about The Dream: working part-time in a rewarding job while also getting extended time with the kiddos. At Table XI, The Dream is alive and well.