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August 15, 2020

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15 minutes with Nicole McConnahea

Full-time mom and Exec Assistant of BCE

Interviewed by Liz Gordon-Hancock
Nicole Renee McConnahea grew up in Van Wert county, and graduated from Lincolnview High School. She got her Bachelor's in Organizational Communication, with a Marketing minor from Ball State University. She is married to Matthew McConnahea, and they have three children, ages 7, 5 and 2.

McConnahea has the distinction of working remotely. Working remotely means you work somewhere other than the office. This is not like a contractor who spends the majority of their work day out on the job or someone who works flexible hours and is allowed to work from home occasionally. This is someone who does not even have a desk or space allocated to them by their employer. The Icon interviewed McConnahea to get a woman's view of working remotely.

Who do you work for?
The Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs, also known as the BCE. We help grow a great community by assisting local entrepreneurs fulfil their potential.
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What's your official job title? What do you actually do?
I am the Executive Assistant. I fill in any gaps our Executive Director or board members may need. I arrange meetings, send communication, create documents, help plan and run events, and meet any other need that may arise. I work around 20 hours per week.

How long have you been doing this job and/or working remotely?
About 11 months.

How did you manage to escape the office and work from home?
I would more likely say that my job is an escape from my home. I am also a stay-at-home mom and have been for 8 years. Even though I work “from home” having this position gives me something outside of my household to put energy into. I need this for myself. Working from home allows me to still fulfill the commitment I’ve made to my family and also contribute to the workforce.

Has this job always been a "work from home" job?
I used to work outside the home before kids. Now, I have only worked for the BCE in a remote-style employment.

Given the nature of your job, how does working remotely help you do your job?
Typically, our clients have full-time jobs outside of their entrepreneurial passion. I am able to be available to them outside of the typical 9-to-5 work day.

Do you have a designated work space? Where is it and what's it like?
No, and I should. I am finding it increasingly difficult to work on our kitchen table. I send emails from my phone while on the go. I have even taken a meeting over the phone while I sat in my van, in the parking lot of the BFR, while my kids enjoyed a movie in the backseat.  I am finding myself at the coffee shop many evenings to catch up.

Describe a typical work day.
I get my kids off to school then check my email to see if anything new has arisen. If it is urgent I jump on the task at hand immediately. If it is not urgent I try to wait until my two year old is napping to tackle the day’s correspondence. Things get difficult if she doesn’t nap or if another kid is at home sick. Evenings are a time for me to have meetings and collaborate outside of my home.

How do you separate work and home life? What do you do to "switch off" from work?
I never get to switch off from being a stay-at-home mom. That’s constant. I would also say that I never really do switch off from work either. I do designate specific time for work. Whether or not I get to stick to that schedule, is another story.

How do you interact socially with your co-workers? You don't automatically meet up in the break room or get to attend work parties, so how and when do you get to hang out with your colleagues (if at all)?
I really enjoy when I get the chance to collaborate with our only other employee, our executive director. We email and talk on the phone. We do try to have a face to face meeting at least once every other week. I find this time invaluable for my mental health. I enjoy having a coworker.

I imagine many would think that working remotely would be wonderful. You could stay in your pajamas all day, or take your laptop to the coffee shop and work with a latte and donut nearby. What would you say in counterpoint to that? What are the pitfalls of working remotely?
My attention always seems to be divided. I need to flip the laundry, I need to get the roast in the oven, I need to change the baby. Doing my job with excellence is a goal of mine and I feel like it takes some extra conscious effort to do this from home. I also miss dressing up for work. Maybe not every day, but as enjoyable as yoga pants are to wear, I miss feeling like I look my best.

Anything else you wish to share about what you do?
Because of my commitment to being a stay-at-home mom, working remotely is really my only current option to fulfil that desire to be part of the workforce and I am really enjoying it.

This is part of a series; to read other interviews, click on the below links:
Neil Hauenstein
Benjamin Stahl
Bob Gordon-Hancock