Carson Design Associates Blog

Creating Office Space for the Working Mom: An Interview With Alison McCully

AUTHOR: Carson Design Associates - Indy   POST DATE:

In April 2017, Alison McCully entered the Carson Design Indianapolis office for the first time as a mother—12 weeks after the birth of her son, Myles.

It was a familiar territory, but an unfamiliar role. Whereas she used to work 40-50 hours a week and manage all the nuances of client communications, she now works more from the shadows—juggling 30 hours a week at the office and at home amidst ongoing nursing and nap schedules.

We recently asked our contracted marketing consultant—Joe Dudeck of Keyhole Marketing—to chat with Alison about the expected and unforeseen changes to her life as a working mom and how she and Carson Design worked together to create a suitable space and flexible schedule.

On Setting Up a Work Schedule With Carson Design…

JOE: When you first found out you were pregnant, what were some of your initial thoughts? Did you ever consider quitting work altogether? Was that on the table?


ALISON: No. I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, and so I didn’t really consider being a stay-at-home mom—at least not now. If we have more children, it could be a possibility.


JOE: Why was it so important for you to come back to work?


ALISON: I love what I do, and just having that intellectual capacity still. Taking care of a child is a huge responsibility and the best thing you can do in life, but you’re not using your trained skillsets. Even if I did take time off, I wouldn’t want to lose that capability. Those talents and those traits I would think would start to diminish, if not used for an extended time.


JOE: Talk about how you mentioned it to your managers here at Carson Design?


ALISON: It was actually interesting when I found out because—before I told Carson—Julie {Berry} and I had breakfast. And in that meeting, she mentioned that part-time could be an option once Paul and I were ready to start a family. Nobody had ever done it before here at Carson Design, and so it hadn’t occurred to me to ask for that opportunity. The conversation got me thinking, though, that it could be the best of both worlds.


JOE: And so what was the part-time schedule you set up?


ALISON: I’m here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.—for a total of 30 hours per week, which allows me to receive full benefits and health insurance.


JOE: How did you ultimately make the decision to work 30 hours per week?


ALISON: Financially, it was going to be very expensive for me to get on my husband’s insurance, because the family plans are outrageous. So Myles is on my husband’s plan, and I’m on an individual because we have really great insurance here at Carson Design. The cost savings was huge for me to work 30 hours. And then when they said that six hours could be mobile, it was a no-brainer.


On the Challenges of Working Part Time…

JOE: Who watches your son when you’re in the office?


ALISON: We’re really fortunate that my mom does childcare for now. She comes to our house every morning, which has been a huge blessing. But once Myles starts crawling and walking, she’s not going to be able to keep up with him. At that point, we’ll need to reevaluate childcare. Paul’s mom also helps three days a month.


JOE: So you’re in the office 27 hours a week, and then work the remaining three hours at home?


ALISON: Yeah, on Tuesday and Thursdays, I work while Myles sleeps during his morning nap and once again when my husband gets home from work.


JOE: And how accessible do you make yourself on those Tuesdays and Thursdays?


ALISON: I have my email open, and of course it’s on my phone. I am available to check it if something comes up, but for the most part everybody knows that I’m out of the office. Clients do as well.


JOE: Before you went on break, how many hours were you averaging?


ALISON: Probably 45 or 50 a week.


JOE: And so how has working part time impacted the way you do your work—in terms of starting, stopping, and organizing your day?


ALISON: The order of priorities have become more important than ever. It used to be that as things came in, I would think, “I can just do those tomorrow, because tomorrow is just another regular day.” But in my case now, tomorrow is a completely different day. So I have to really think about when I do certain things, and what I can actually do from home.

Even though we are set up to be very mobile, there is a little bit of lag time working off site from home and pulling files off of our server. And even though I can get them, it takes a little bit of time. I’ve found that it works faster to create a “Working Files” folder on my desktop that I work from all week, and then copy back to our server at the end of the week.


On Balancing Work and Home Life…

JOE: How would you describe the expectations of both people here at the office and your clients?


ALISON: I would say both have the expectation that I’m not going to touch anything on my days off. I think it’s more my own discipline that I need to put work down during those days. But if I’m honest, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to that.


JOE: What’s the struggle you’re experiencing?


ALISON: In the back of my mind, I’m struggling with things that I still have to do, but yet I don’t want to ignore my baby. And he’s at the age where he can kind of sit and play for a little bit, but nothing long enough for me to actually do something. So that’s why that morning nap and then the evening hours is when I try to commit my time, where my work doesn’t suffer and neither does my time with him.


JOE: Balancing work and life can be a challenge. What are some things that you’ve had to do personally to try and strike that balance?


ALISON: I think it’s really a mind shift. I used to work 50 hours a week and didn’t have to rush home. I could get home whenever, and Paul and I had our flexible evenings. So I didn’t have to worry about scheduling meetings around pump sessions and things like that.


JOE: And how has it changed?


ALISON: I’m leaning on my team members to take some more of the meetings, and then I do more of the production. There’s less face time in front of a client. And, because I’m now leaving at four every day—when I used to just leave when I was done for the day—some things are left undone. And I don’t like that because I like checking things off my to-do list, and it feels too often like nothing’s getting checked off.


JOE: Yeah, I’m sure that has been difficult. Have you found any techniques that are helping you adjust?


ALISON: I’ve just had to prioritize my time differently. Less face-to-face meetings and less rep meetings allows me to work more efficiently when I am in the office. I also save finish selection work for when I am in the office, since resources are at my fingertips and easily accessible with our design library.


On Designing a Great Office Space for Moms…

JOE: Being an interior designer, how has being a working mom impacted the way you look at office spaces?


ALISON: Currently, I go to our server room to pump because there’s less foot traffic there. We have a chair with a filing cabinet and a fan because it’s pretty warm in there with the servers. It’s great, I have no complaints.

Thinking about that space for our clients, though, I would design a mother’s room with a residential-type chair with a sink and a small fridge. That way, mothers can store their milk in the room, as opposed to the break room with everyone’s lunch.

I also recently learned about Mamava, a company that creates mobile lactation rooms. It could be an interesting concept for offices to incorporate. I know I would definitely use it when traveling.


JOE: What about when you were pregnant? Were there things that made life easier to be here nine hours a day while carrying a child?


ALISON: Carson Design definitely made huge improvements that were really helpful. Getting new height-adjustable desks, for example, allowed me to sit and stand with ease. That was great, especially as my back began to hurt more toward the end of my pregnancy. And having comfortable couches to lounge on and work from was great, so I could change my posture frequently throughout the day.

Also, working from home a couple days now, I’m more grateful for the dual monitors and ergonomic task chair that Carson provides. I appreciate these items in the office more now because I really miss them when working in my home office.


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