Life as a WordPress.com Happiness Engineer and a parent

So you’ve heard about this new cool and amazing job called Happiness Engineer. Now you are wondering if it would be possible to reconcile being a parent of young children and working from home for this awesome company. Look no further 🙂

My name is Davi Pontes, and you can get to know me better by checking my personal blog at davipontes.blog. I come from a full-time career as an operations manager for a national distribution company, so I can appreciate the things I have now when compared to what I had (or didn’t have) before 🙂 I live in London, Ontario, with my wife and three boys – we are also expecting our first baby girl!

Let’s start with a brief review of what a typical day looks like for me:

  • 6:30am – 7:40am – Wake up and work through the morning routine of having two kids in school (5 and 8), and a toddler: coffee, breakfast, get school stuff ready, get them dressed, deal with the whining, bathroom stuff, get them out the door by 7:40 so they won’t miss the bus. Walk them to the bus stop.
  • 7:50am – The bus comes, we say our goodbyes, I walk back home (it’s a 5-7 min walk.)
  • 8am – I grab my second coffee and start working.
  • Noon – lunchtime: I usually make myself a sandwich or pick up something at the Tim Hortons around the corner from my place. If I am at a coffee shop or similar I’ll grab something there.
  • 12:30ish – 3pm – Work.
  • 3pm – Walk to the bus stop and pick up kids from the bus, walk them back home.
  • 3:30 to 5pm – Finish my workday.

There are a few variations to the above, such as days when my wife is home (she works as a Ph.D. student and teaches at our local university) and she can pick up the kids. On those days I usually finish work earlier and can help with dinner, for example (she usually cooks because I’m terrible at it).

Breaks?

Working from home allows me to use my “away from the keyboard” time for more meaningful things as a parent. When taking breaks during the day, whether it’s for lunch or a short break, instead of grabbing a muffin at Tim Hortons, which will give me nothing but a few calories and some immediate compensation-based happiness, I can empty the dishwasher or run a load of laundry. Maybe I do need some time to unwind and I can watch some TV or chat with some friends or colleagues. These little things turn out to be huge time and sanity savers around bedtime when everyone is tired and both my wife and I are exhausted.

Self-selected work availability, and working weekends

At Automattic, we can choose what time we are available to work and can change this availability as soon as two weeks in advance, in any way we want, or most importantly, in any way we need. This means that if there’s a PD day for my kids, I don’t have to arrange for childcare anymore (and pay for that); I can easily mark myself as unavailable that Friday, and choose to work on Saturday when my wife is home. If I have a medical appointment coming up, I can schedule my hours around that, with no need to take a sick day – but knowing that if I do need a day for that appointment, I can work that out with my team lead as well. If the company needs coverage on Saturday morning, I can get some hours of work done that Saturday, and take a Wednesday off. Pretty cool when you need to find time to get that grocery shopping done 🙂

One of the crazy awesome benefits I get with this type of work, and something I had never considered before when looking into it, is to be able to work when I’m most productive. Consider this: you might be most productive in the morning like I am, and then there is that time of the day you are not productive at all, like, say, from 4-6pm. You can schedule yourself to never have to work those hours.

Then, there are those times when, all of sudden (for some amazing miracle), the kids go to bed earlier. It’s now 8pm, and my wife needs to read a book for school. I have a couple of hours to play with, and I feel really productive and got some ideas in my head – I want to sit down and get going on those ideas, and put in a couple of hours of work. As a Happiness Engineer, I can. I find this to be extremely empowering and rewarding.

Challenges, as in every job

There are challenges too when it comes to working from home as a parent – but I don’t choose to see these as problems because every career has challenges. One of the challenges is making sure kids understand you are working when you are working. This is something I advise putting a conscious effort into so it doesn’t become an issue.

The other thing that can be an issue is time management and task management. I have personally invested a good chunk of my career so far into learning and applying time, task, and project management solutions and ideas into my day-to-day, and today I reap the benefits of that. If it’s something that you could use some help with, I would suggest looking into learning more about time and task management.

More time invested in the things that truly matter to me

These privileges help me bring a better balance to my work-life dynamic. One small but meaningful example is the fact that I don’t have to drive to work anymore – this not only means I now save a good chunk of money every month in gas, and contribute to reducing gas emissions on Earth, but it also means that I’m closer to my family at least 365 hours per year (my commute prior to this job was 30min each way). It also means there is a greater chance I’ll be around to watch my kids grow and to be part of those moments we really want to be part of.

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