I'm never going back to an office again

My last job wanted a return to work in the office—and I decided I didn't.

Return to work after COVID

I was lucky—very lucky—to get a job at the beginning of the pandemic. I was hired in February, right when everyone was still unsure how long their work-from-home arrangements were really going to last, and waited seven weeks to start while the company figured out their new onboarding procedures. Like a lot of people at the time, I thought COVID might be handled within a few months and I'd be in an office by the summer.

And then… that didn't happen. I didn't mind. Every time someone asked me how I was "adjusting" to working from home, I had to remind them that I've been working from home since 2014. At first, I was as anxious as anyone to go into an office: I thought it might be nice to have a commute again, to ride my bike into work, to sit next to my colleagues. But as 2020 dragged on, I realized that not only do I love working from home, but I think offering permanent work from home is more ethical than forcing employees to come to and sit in an office.

Now, I know that I never want to go back into an office again.

In-office work puts people with disabilities at a disadvantage.

While I was working for this company, I started an employee resource group for people with disabilities, neurodiversity and invisible illnesses after realizing how badly I needed it to exist. I have severe and sometimes debilitating chronic conditions, and it was difficult for me to explain to my team why and how I was struggling without feeling like I was oversharing or making an excuse. We had ERGs for women, LGBTQ+ people, and for racial and ethnic minorities, and I figured that if I was uncomfortable talking about how my illnesses affected me at work, my colleagues probably were, too.

The group was an immediate success. I'd never worked in disability activism prior to founding the ERG, and I learned a lot in the process. At the same time as the C-suite started talking about mandatorily going back to the office early in 2021, the ERG was talking about what our experiences had been managing our conditions while working from home versus doing it while working in person. For the most part, the group agreed: Even though 2020 had been hard, the upside was that we were managing our conditions better.

It made sense. Some of my colleagues needed to refrigerate their daytime medications but didn't want to do it in a shared refrigerator in a break room, where their colleagues could basically take a peek into their medical history. Some of them had chronic migraines and couldn't exactly ask for the lighting fixtures in the office to be changed as an accommodation. Personally, I was managing my chronic pain with stretch breaks and a daily couple of micro-naps, and I knew that one of my mental conditions makes me work in short bursts with a lot of pacing around the house in between. I just didn't want to have to explain the professional idiosyncrasies I'd developed over years of working at home to coworkers and managers who could be less than conscientious about disability.

The pandemic isn't over.

Then there was the fact that not just the company where I worked, but many companies around the U.S. had started talking about a mandatory return to the office before their employees had even had the chance to get their vaccines. Some of the ERG members pointed out that they or their loved ones had high-risk conditions that they still had to take into account if they were vaccinated. They didn't want to return to the office because they were still susceptible to COVID, and the CEO had said that he likely wasn't going to require proof of vaccination.

In fact, some of my coworkers were openly hostile toward the idea of having to provide proof of vaccination to work in the office. It was hard to tell whether they were concerned about the ethics of an employer requiring employees to share medical information or they just weren't planning on getting vaccinated (or both). For me, this highlighted how risky it was to return to the office, and it was upsetting to know that the company was so anxious to get back to the "old normal" that their executives would ignore that risk.

Parents, mothers especially, benefit from flexible work.

I'm one of the 4% of mothers who have a partner who takes the lead on caregiving for children, and one of the 26% who are able to rely on daycare, according to Motherly's 2021 State of Motherhood survey. But many of my former coworkers weren't so fortunate, and had been working triple-time as an employee, a teacher, and a parent during the pandemic. It was hard for me to imagine returning to the office with a vaccination honor system and putting my son and his classmates and teachers at risk of COVID exposure. But for the mothers who had been unable to get daycare, returning to the office was an impossibility.

There are things that companies can do to help mothers. According to the State of Motherhood survey:

  • 63% of mothers want longer, paid maternity leave
  • 58% want more flexibility in their jobs
  • 53% want employers to help with childcare, either by providing it onsite or by subsidizing the cost of childcare

But where are the corporations taking the bold stance that they're going to return to in-person work and open an onsite daycare? The needs of the parents who work for them just aren't being taken into account.

Mothers took on an incredible burden during the pandemic, with 2.7 million women forced into unemployment and many of them staying unemployed even as workplaces reopen because they don't have (or can't afford) other childcare options. But concern for women's, and especially mothers', employment has simply not been part of the conversation about reopening offices and mandating in-person work. Since children under 12 aren't going to have a vaccine available until at least September, employers who mandate in-office work are willfully ignoring the needs of the parents they employ and in effectively forcing women out of their jobs.

Remote work makes hiring diverse talent easier.

I had been neck-deep in the company's diversity and inclusion initiatives right from my first day. Like at a lot of tech companies, my colleagues were predominantly white, though not as male as the industry standard. After George Floyd's death, we started having fairly frank conversations with the CEO about the lack of diversity among salaried employees and how we could make the workplace, and particularly our hiring practices, more inclusive.

We were facing an uphill battle in this regard, because Austin has lost two-thirds of its Black population over the last few decades. The irony was that this had to do with gentrification on the east side of the city, and the company was headquartered in a shiny new building in east Austin. So when we started talking about a mandatory return to the office, it didn't make sense to me: If you care about diversity and you know that you're headquartered in a place that doesn't have a very diverse population, why wouldn't you keep your talent pool open to the whole country?

Remote work doesn't hurt—and often helps—business outcomes.

Maybe the biggest head-scratcher for me about returning to an office was that over the pandemic, the company had its best year. It was a startup, and we'd become profitable in 2020, which was much, much earlier than expected. Yet, like many CEOs, my former CEO claimed that in-person collaboration was so important to business outcomes that the benefits outweighed the risks despite clear evidence to the contrary.

We weren't the only company that had had a smooth transition to remote work. A Mercer study found that 94% of employers said they were at least as productive, if not more productive, after moving to work-from-home in 2020. And now that they've experienced remote work, a BCG study found that a whopping 89% of workers want at least a combination of remote and in-office work.

I'm never working in an office again.

I know that not everyone has the option to work remotely. My husband, for instance, works in clinical research and has to see patients in person. He spent all but a few weeks of the pandemic working in-office to work toward medical solutions for people with severe degenerative diseases. And, of course, there are the daycare employees who have taken care of and taught our son and his classmates over the past year so that we can work. Having worked in grocery stores for a good part of my adulthood, I also think the grocery retail employees who kept all of us afloat over the past year are downright saints—maybe especially here in Texas, where a lot of customers didn't respect mask mandates and social distancing guidelines.

What gets lost in debates about remote versus in-office work is the fact those of us who could work remotely saved potentially millions of lives by participating in lockdowns—by not taking the bus or train to work, by not sitting in close quarters with our colleagues for eight or more hours a day, by having remote happy hours. While it might be tempting to say, "Yeah, but we have a vaccine now," these facts remain:

Work is the primary reason that people leave their homes and see other people, and we accomplished something nearly miraculous by moving work into our homes. Why any CEO would push for a move backward in the name of collaboration makes my head spin.

When it came time to look for a new job, knowing that I have always been able to do my job remotely, I decided that I would only look for fully remote roles. I'm thrilled to be at a point in my career that I can be picky in a job search, but given the personal and communal benefits of working from home, I don't think that remote work should be something you have to be picky to get.

Beau Brink is an assistant editor at Motherly and a prolific editor and author of essays, romance fiction, research reports, and other content around the web.

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.

    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:

    Belly oil


    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.


    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)


    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.


    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!


    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class


    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.


    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.


    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.


    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.


    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.


    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.


    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.


    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.


    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.


    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.


    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.


    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.


    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.


    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.



    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

    Back to School Landing

    This viral comic about working motherhood is so true

    It's not really an even playing field.

    Mothers can be found at the top of many professions, and the current generation of fathers are doing more than the dads that raised them, but we can't pretend that working mothers and working fathers are on the same playing field.

    We are jumping over hurdles while the men beside us are sprinting down a clear track. This simple metaphor illustrated by a Peruvian cartoonist at La Republica captures the complex challenges faces by working mothers. Thanks to a tweet by Mumbai-based billionaire Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, the cartoon went viral and has gotten people talking about the hurdles in our lane.

    Even now, in 2019, mothers in heterosexual partnerships are often seen as the default parent. We carry a heavier mental load than our male counterparts, work more hours doing unpaid labor, spend more time on childcare and have less time to care for ourselves. Research has actually found that men's leisure time increased after parenthood, while mothers see their workload at home increase.

    Mahindra tweeted the image after watching his grandson for a week. "I salute every working woman & acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts," he captioned the comic.

    Mahindra is right that we're putting in more effort, but we're certainly not being paid more. When men become fathers they often see their earnings increase, while many mothers get passed over for promotions and report being hit with the "motherhood penalty". And women still make $.80 to a man's dollar in America.

    This isn't just bad for moms, but for the men married to us, too. According to a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, marriages suffer when women feel they are sacrificing their careers and doing more than their fair share for the family. "Mothers in dual-earner households experience greater parenting inequalities than do similarly-situated fathers," the researchers note.

    This breeds resentment, and it can also create a situation where dads don't feel like an equal or capable parent. The solution, according to experts, is simple: We need to divide household responsibilities more evenly between partners. Only then will the playing field be level.

    This cartoon didn't go viral because it's funny. It's the opposite. But it is relatable to many mothers. The good news is that we can knock down those hurdles, and investments into childcare and paid parental leave can help us do it. Being a working mother is hard, but we can do it.