Giving back, is it easier to do when you work from home?

Last night, I chaired my last board meeting at my church before my term ends.  This marked the end of a 5 year journey in leadership for me.   As I reminisce about these last 5 years, it is not lost on me that my work at home situation has afforded me this opportunity to volunteer my time.

When I agreed to serve on the board, I was winding down a job in an office, with occasional opportunities to work from home.  Shortly after, I switched jobs and began working at home full-time.  The flexibility of this arrangement has really allowed me to commit time to the church that I would not have otherwise been able to fit in.

Sure, it hasn’t been easy.  As time went by, I did have to remind others that I couldn’t be on call at a moments notice for everything, and that I did in fact have a “day job”.  And, like many other things, my duties could become a distraction from my paid job too.  In the end, both my volunteer leadership and my employment thrived.  At work, I have received numerous performance awards, and been highly rated in all of my performance reviews.  How did I balance the competing responsibilities?  Here are some things that worked for me:

  1. I tried to always put work first.  If my work was done, I could then devote time to volunteer work.  This was easier some times than others.  In the end, you have to pay the bills, so you can’t let that slide, even if the volunteer work may be more rewarding or fun.
  2. When I needed to devote some work time to my volunteer work, I planned ahead to accommodate it.  This included working late some evenings, taking PTO, and keeping my boss informed.
  3. Be honest with all involved.  I told my boss what I was doing in my free time, and gave him updates on any situations where I needed to leave early or come in late.  If I needed to miss a day at work, I took PTO and planned it well in advance.  I specifically did not try to “hide” my volunteer work.
  4. Get the job done and everyone will be happy.  Many successful work at home relationships work under the principle of getting the expected work done, without regard to the time it takes to do it.  I work this way as both an employee and as a manager.  In my experience, most good managers will focus on the work accomplished, not the hours put in.  This gives you some freedom to volunteer time outside of work.
  5. Clearly set expectations with your volunteer colleagues about when you are and are not available.  Just like setting boundaries with work colleagues and your family, set the appropriate expectations and you’ll suffer fewer disappointments.

While this chapter in my life is coming to an end, it has opened up some interesting opportunities for me to try some new things, and maybe even be paid to do them.  I don’t know what the future will bring, but whatever it is, I am better prepared to tackle this new challenge because of my work at home job.

What challenges do you face balancing work and volunteerism?  Are you able to do more because you work from home?  How do you keep thriving at your day job while working to improve the community around you?

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