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Jem Turner

Interview With Web Developing, Home Working Mum Jem Turner

Welcome to the 30th of the weekly interview series where I will speak to a wide range of people who have embraced the working remotely opportunity. We will speak to entrepreneurs, business owners, large organisation workers and freelancers about their trials and tribulations when delving into remote working

This week’s interview is with Jem Turner a 20 something year old work from home Mum. I’m not quite sure how I came across Jem and began following her but she is a really awesome and inspiring character; workhorse too. Not only does Jem look after her young children she also juggles this with client work and maintaining a number of blogs including her fantastic personal blog and Work from home mum network. It’s fair to say Jem managed to have her plate well and truly full on every occasion.  This is an insightful, inspiring interview for those looking to juggle their career with the upbringing of children. You can enjoy Jem’s tweets by following her on Twitter here. Enjoy the interview.

Q: Hi Jem tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now?

I am a grumpy mum and mad cat lady from a small corner of Shropshire, and I’ve lived here all my life (give or take a few miles). I am mostly found glued to a computer.

Q: What company do you work for and what is your role within the organisation?

I work for myself at “Websites by Jem”. I know you’re impressed with that bit of naming creativity.

Q: You run the sensational Work at Home Mum Community. For those reading who haven’t been fortunate enough to venture over to your  community can you give them a brief introduction to what can be found over there?

WAHMweb is a small (but growing) community for mums like me working out of their home. The aim is to provide a go-to resource on a variety of subjects from taxes to tax credits, childcare, parenting… the whole kit and caboodle. I started it because when I was first looking at venturing away from an office job, virtually all the resources I found for starting up a business assumed that I’d be a) male(!) and b) moving into offices of my own with 8+ hours a day to dedicate to work. There’s a real lack of information out there on successful home working, let alone home working AND raising kids too. Anything I did come across seemed to be a “make $6000 in just 1 week!” type scam – no use to anyone.

Q:  As well as the WAHM Network you also run your own personal blog http://www.jemjabella.co.uk/ along with a Freelance web development business working on various client work. How do you manage to balance all these effectively? That’s some achievement!

I guess that depends on your definition of ‘effectively’! It’s a case of prioritising and sometimes the blog gets neglected, there was a whole patch in December when I couldn’t really add to WAHMweb etc. I’m getting better at juggling though (hopefully). Clearly the priority when it comes to online stuff is the client work: if I don’t get that done, the mortgage doesn’t get paid.

Q: Within the last question I failed to focus on the fact that you also have two young children. For the normal working person looking in….HOW? How do you do it?

I’m afraid that if I stop to answer that question I might realise that I’m missing something drastic and it will all fall apart around me..!

Q:  What did you dislike most about the office environment and how does working from home differ from this?

I actually enjoyed working in an office for the most part. My colleagues were good friends and I was sad to leave. I mean, I don’t miss the petty office politics, and someone was always eating my food out of the fridge, but in the grand scheme of things I had it quite lucky in my last job.

Q: How do you deal with stereotypes from friends in regards to productivity when working remotely?  i.e.: Sleep until midday, 2 hour lunch breaks etc.

I think people understand that with kids, there is no such thing as sleeping til midday and 2 hour lunch breaks, so they don’t assume that I’m lazing around to begin with. Plus, most people don’t really ‘get’ what I do, so they have no basis to take the mick. I like to keep it that way.

Q: What is the most challenging part about working from home with young children and how do you attempt to overcome this?

Dealing with the minor day to day ’emergencies’ and still getting stuff done and out of the door. Case in point: my son is teething. This means that he is currently crabby, waking every 45 minutes and so on. It means that not only are my evenings (which is my primary work time at the minute) broken up by regular trips up the stairs (not conducive to knocking out great chunks of code) but I am not sleeping great myself, this has a knock on effect on productivity, will to live etc. Thankfully my boss taught me well about “managing client expectations” so I’m getting there – we’re getting there – slowly but surely.

Q: What are the main positives in working remotely?

Being able to tot up time whenever I need to based on the circumstances of the day. Being able to see my kids meet new milestones. Not having to wear dress clothes just to sit at a computer and type! Web development lends itself so well to working at home, I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

Q: Are you an advocate of work/life balance and how do you try and balance both?

I’ll let you know if I ever manage to get a life 🙂

Q: What’s a typical day for you Jem? Realistically….start to finish . We want to hear about Nappies, Nap times, SQL databases and blog posts. The whole shebang!

Depends on the day – let’s assume you mean one of my ‘working’ days (Tues-Thurs) although realistically I work everyday! I’m usually up anywhere from 5am onwards depending on the kids. Change youngest nappy while laptop boots, coffee on (can’t function without first coffee of the day), breakfasts poured and scoffed. Check personal email, remember I’m halfway through a nappy change, hope he hasn’t weed on the floor. Find clothes for daughter, nag other half into getting dressed, check twitter, ensure daughter is dressed and ready for nursery whilst trying to find time to eat too. Once other half and daughter are out the door the chaos calms a little bit.

Once I’ve got my youngest down for his nap I can shower, get dressed and ready to face the world (or at least my work inbox). I will usually do 30 mins ish of work before son wakes, after that I’ll do some tidying/cleaning, run some errands. I find if I do these while the littlest is awake it leaves max nap time for work. Beyond that it’s just a case of snatching 5 mins here and there between demands for my attention (nappies, feeds, playing, etc) to send emails, tweet, add a few lines to a blog post – i.e. the simple stuff that doesn’t require max concentration. End of the day once the other 2 are home, we’re all fed and the kids are in bed it’s hitting the task list to the max. WordPress dev, design to HTML, that sort of stuff. Things I need more than a 10 minute window to get done!

Q: Do you have your own dedicated office space in the home?

I do – I have my DIY under-the-stairs desk which my other half and I planned and created. 🙂 Because we have quite a small home, there simply was no way we could plot in a room dedicated to my work so we’ve had to get creative with space. It’s not finished yet, but it does the job.

Q: Any pictures of your office?

Jem Turner Workspace

Jem’s small but practical workspace.

Q: How important do you feel family support is for home working Mums? Is your husband/partner supportive of your working conditions?

My partner likes to make sarcastic remarks about being sat on my butt surfing the ‘net all day, but that’s just his way. He’s been mostly great when I’ve had to take phone calls and needed someone to keep the kids relatively quiet etc. I know he worries about the financial side of things and making this whole self-employment / working from home thing work, but I see that less as a reflection on me and more the fact he’s a born worrier. If I needed him to step up and give more support I know he would and I think this is vital to my success, to feeling respected and like I’m actually contributing to the finances of the family (this may not be important to some but is to me!)

Q: Do you have any productivity tools you use to keep yourself efficient which may help our readers?

If I’m having a distractable day, I run Leechblock in Firefox to ‘ban’ Facebook, twitter and a few forums I frequent. I was also using Evernote to track notes and to do lists etc.  I have however since gone back to a plain old pen and pad. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being able to physically cross stuff off a to do list (especially when the list is as big as mine get!)

Q: Lastly. The audience of Generation Y are young, digital savvy individuals. Do you believe more organisations should allow those with web-based roles to work remotely? If so..how come?

Yes, I do. I think if I’d had the opportunity to give working from home (even part time) a go for my previous employer, I wouldn’t have had to leave after the birth of my son (as it was driven by childcare costs rather than choice, unfortunately!) So on that alone, working from home could have in theory saved my employers time and money. Giving an employee the opportunity to work from home implies that you trust them, which can only boost morale, and I think also encourages the ability to self-manage work time which is an important life skill (one that I’m only just figuring out myself!)

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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