Werk is on a mission—to provide flex jobs to mothers where care + career are equally valued

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Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Like Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean co-founders and co-CEOs of Werk—a platform providing flex job opportunities to women everywhere. Werk supports that life you envision—you know, the one where you’re able to find that elusive balance between work and life—conference calls and family dinners together at the table. Think jobs where working remotely or limited in-office face time is the norm.

Werk wants you to advance your career without feeling like you need to give anything up. We caught up with Anna and Annie to find out what their hopes and dreams for Werk is and how they came together in the first place.

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What made you decide to start Werk? How did the collaboration between you two happen?

Anna Auerbach: I’ve had a dozen entrepreneurial ideas over the years. A few I tried, and most were just passing thoughts. But I’d been fixated on the idea of the challenges of women and work, particularly after my son was born. I had been kicking around the initial idea for Werk for about a year, but I needed the right partner to get it off the ground.

Annie Dean: After my second son was born, he had some medical issues I didn’t anticipate. His birth refocused my priorities. I have always been someone with big dreams, and I knew it was time to leave my comfortable law firm job and act on them. I called all my closest girl friends and said, “Look, I want to talk to the smartest women you know. I want to hear what they’re doing.” And very quickly I was introduced to Anna. At the end of an hour long conversation she mentioned the business she’d been dreaming about for a while. We built a business plan, financial projections and our vision in a week, and we’ve been sprinting ever since.

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What was the need in the market for a service like this?

Anna Auerbach: The best businesses solve a problem the founders know intimately. Annie and I both spent our careers in high-level professional services. We both observed that women were leaving the leadership track in droves, usually because they couldn’t reconcile their career with motherhood, and those that stayed were unbelievably overstressed and overtired.

Annie Dean: When I was a young law firm associate at my firm I was like, “What women’s movement?!” I worked so hard, I fought for the best opportunities, I was compensated fairly, I spoke up for myself, and the men (and women) listened to me. But when I was 27, I got pregnant for the first time and the pregnancy was clearly viewed as a lack of commitment. I was hospitalized during the pregnancy because I was overworked. And when I came back, it was clear that no one respected me anymore. My work streams were gone. I was miserable and my confidence was destroyed.

No matter how hard I worked I couldn’t get anywhere, not at home and not at work. It took me a year to recover from that environment. Then I started critically thinking about what happened. I realized the situation was not my fault, and that potentially it was an institutional failure that could be fixed.

As a culture, we need to figure out how to help women on their way to the top stay on track in the context of caregiving.

Women are going to keep having children. This is an exciting fact for the future of the human race! But unless we fix things, women are going to keep getting squeezed out of the leadership track.

Do you feel the workforce is currently changing for the better for mothers?

Annie Dean: We’re making progress—good progress in some areas—but it’s incremental and based on patching up a broken system that often systematically disadvantages women and parents. The hidden underlying premise inherent in an all-or-nothing work culture, is: “Working moms don’t belong here, at least not right now.” We reject that premise. We’re insulted by it. And we think fellow mothers should be too.

As high-level employees, we’ve been encouraged to focus on achievement, and outsource care. But that’s not what we want.

The next phase of the women’s movement is about embracing ambition and care simultaneously, and equally.

Women need flexibility to perform at their highest potential, and to advance. Companies need women in the highest positions of leadership. If companies do not provide and encourage flexibility, they will force women to opt-out or force them off the leadership path.

We aren’t going to solve this problem by telling women to cobble together freelance work for five years while they have small children. We aren’t going to solve this problem with “family friendly policies” if there isn’t any support for women who need flexible work arrangements, which demoralizes the high-performing women who need them, and the high-potential women that work under them. We are going to solve this problem by building real, advancement-track positions that are compatible with the lives of the talented women that are qualified to fill them—and that’s what Werk is all about.

Is there one key ingredient for making working motherhood work? Is it flexibility? Something else?

Annie Dean: Empathy. Working moms need empathy from the people in their lives, and they need to be patient with themselves. Ultimately, flexibility is about empathy.

How can companies improve conditions for working parents—so that they retain the best of the best talent (some of which are parents) by creating an environment that parents can thrive in?

Annie Dean: We need women to consult on these issues—particularly younger women who are less entrenched in company culture and can be truly vocal about what their needs are.

In the absence of that advice, we need male leaders to actively imagine what it’s like to be a woman and what our needs are. We need flexibility in terms of our in-office hours. We need the ability to respond to our family landscape, like come in late if our kid has a doctor’s appointment or was up all night with a fever. We need breast feeding facilities, and market-rate family leave policies.

These are the very basic elements of what it means to create an inclusive environment for women. There are many, many other aspects of integration that are more subtle. But let’s focus on what we can win at.

What kinds of roles do you offer?

Anna Auerbach: We offer full-time flex and part-time senior-level positions. The full-time flex roles that we offer are regular, full-time, full-compensation, promotion-track roles. They just have an element of flexibility built in. That could mean that the you head out at 5pm every day to eat dinner with your family and put your kids in the bath, so that you can plug back in after bedtime. Or it could mean one or two days working from home, or unlimited vacation days, among other things.

We help women negotiate the deal that works best for them by normalizing the conversation.

The part-time roles we offer are senior level positions at small, scaling start-ups, like a part-time CFO or part-time COO. Startups want the exceptional talent, but they can’t compete with the full-time salaries at big law firms or banks. So we find them the best talent on a part-time salary. And we provide the women with a part-time role that is worthy of her time.

When sourcing our opportunities we require that each role is both flexible and ambitious. No more motherhood penalty, no more mommy track.

How can women use their maternity leave to reimagine or to advance their career?

Annie Dean: I love this question! My two maternity leaves were my most creative and productive periods of my life. I built a company during my first maternity leave, which ultimately failed. And during my second maternity leave, I built Werk with Anna.

Maternity leave can be crazy and very unstructured, and instead of imposing order on the experience, I really let myself just take each day as its own adventure. After I recovered and got settled, I read so many books! I stayed inspired! I sang to my babies a lot. I had so much “free time” to think creatively and think big. As all new moms know—“free time” is a relative term.

The days were disjointed and bizarre. I wore the same outfit everyday and never really washed my hair. I slept in 2 hour increments. But I was able to do a lot of things for my soul.

What inspires you to do this work?

Anna Auerbach: I spent the last eight years of my career in nonprofit and philanthropy. I’ve always been committed to making a difference and, at the same time, being very entrepreneurial. Werk combines those drives in the most perfect way. Every day, I wake up motivated to move this business forward. Not only am I ensuring that women never feel forced to opt out when they didn’t intend to—but it’s also amazing to build a business from the ground up.

What are your hopes and dreams for Werk?

Anna Auerbach: We’re out to reinvent work for women…millions of them. The vision is lofty, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Werk is the only company out there bringing leadership ambitions and motherhood into focus at a scalable level. We see ourselves as the future of the women’s movement—valuing care and career equally. And we’re working like crazy to advance the cause. Demonstrating to the investment community that betting on what women want wins. Influencing business leaders and cultures at large to get the best out of their women employees. And, most importantly, empowering every professional woman who crosses our path.

How did you come up with the name Werk, and what is the symbolism behind the name?

Annie Dean: WORK is all about showing up, going through the motions.

WERK is about nailing it, looking in the mirror and knowing, “I GOT this.”

But no one woman is going to fix this problem on her own. We need to do it together. That’s our inspiration: this generation of women is game-changing. We can’t turn work into werk without the we.

What does “Motherly” mean to you?

Annie Dean: Being motherly is about resilience. It’s about being tough enough to keep giving long after our reserves of patience are gone. As mothers we choose love on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Nothing has made me tougher, more focused or more dedicated than motherhood, and no experience has been more hard-won.

Anna Auerbach: Being motherly means it’s not about you anymore. It’s about this amazing tiny person. And how you ruthlessly reprioritize every day to make sure you do right by them.

?Can we get a slow clap for these ladies? ?


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Babywearing allows newborns to be held close to your body and mama to snuggle with their new bundle of joy—but that's just where the benefits begin. When you're toting your baby with the help of a specially-designed carrier, you're also given back the two hands normally reserved for rocking, cuddling and soothing your little one. That opens up a whole new world when it comes to getting things done—particularly for #mombosses who are masters of multitasking.

We asked four of our favorites about the biggest benefits of their productivity hack of choice (babywearing) and how they got it all done using their carrier of choice, BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Free.

It helps soothe babies more easily

Daphne Oz wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Babies benefit from being in a carrier not only because worn babies cry less but also because a soothed baby means they're more likely to catch a much-needed nap. Rachel Zeilic, VP of Influencer Marketing at Who What Wear and Creative Director for fashion line Marjoelle, wore her son, August, in his early days for that reason. "It was a GREAT method to help him get to sleep," she says.

Sleep aside, decreased crying makes a huge difference in your busy days, even if your baby is super easygoing and loves carrier time, like that of Emmy-winning TV host, author and mama of four, Daphne Oz, whose youngest, Giovanna Ines (Gigi), is 4-months-old. "Gigi has always loved to be held. She's a very big baby, so babywearing is essential to give my arms a break. She loves to be snuggled as much as possible, and you can tell [being in her carrier] immediately soothes her. Sometimes she'll drift off or just rest her head on my chest and gaze around."

Mobilizing is a snap

Rachel Zeilic wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Like so many mamas, Zeilic needed to get out of the house frequently in those first few weeks for doctor appointments, but she found the sheer magnitude of getting out and getting the hang of a stroller pretty intimidating. Instead, she relied on her Baby Carrier Free and was out and about quickly after delivery. "We left the house from day one and we made a point every day of walking around the neighborhood," she says. "It was much more feasible [for me] than putting him in the stroller and going for a long walk."

Ariel Kaye, the CEO and founder of Parachute, was a big fan of babywearing with her now 11-month-old daughter Lou for the same reason. "Especially as I started to get more comfortable getting out of the house, what started as really short walks and gradually got longer," she says.

Carriers are especially friendly for city-dwelling mamas

Ranji Jacques wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

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Having a baby while living in a big city can be a challenge, but babywearing makes going about your day so much more simple. That's how Ranji Jacques, Fashion Director at Condé Nast, gets around New York City. "Everyone can agree that a baby carrier is a must-have, especially if you're in an urban area," says the mom of two to 3-year-old Diego and 1-year-old Lucienne. Why? Because steep curbs and storefront steps no longer pose a deterrent, and (bonus!) you can keep germ-covered surfaces out of baby's reach.

Take meetings with baby in tow

Rachel Zeilic wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

If you need to phone into the office or are a permanent part of the growing work-from-home mama population, strapping on baby allows you to talk shop and spend time with your little one. "I've honestly gotten so many conference calls and deals done with August in the carrier," says Zeilic.

So did Kaye, who would tote her daughter Lou in her BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Free on walks to Parachute's nearby brick-and-mortar store as not only a way of getting outside, but also checking in with work, too.

Tackle housework + make  errands easier (and feasible)

Daphne Oz wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

When you've got a new baby at home, getting the dishes done or folding a basket of (clean!) laundry is a huge accomplishment. But using the carrier can help you tick off your to-do list while spending time with your newborn. "Babywearing really helped me—like it made all of my everyday [tasks] so much easier," says Kaye, because it gave her back her much-needed set of hands.

Oz agrees that wearing her daughter has been a boon to her productivity. "I try to bring Gigi along whenever I can, since my time at home can be limited and [I'm] often stretched thin trying to get everything in order. She comes along to the market and for coffee and on other errands—and I love to use a carrier in the house so I can keep her with me while I'm heading from room to room putting things in order."

It can provide for everyday teaching moments

Ariel Kaye wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

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When you're going about your daily tasks, babywearing provides a front row seat to turn it into an educational experience for the two of you. "It's a special way to be able to communicate with her—I can show her things, touch things," says Kaye. From folding laundry to self-care, opportunities to engage baby can happen anywhere. Just ask Lou, who loves watching mama Ariel do her makeup while happily hanging out in her BABYBJÖRN, a task enjoyed by Gigi and Daphne as well.

Plus, allotting some of your attention to quickie tasks feels more guilt-free when babywearing. "Even though I'm doing other stuff, I can talk to him and narrate what I'm doing," explains Zeilic. "I just feel like it's playing and bonding, versus feeling like I'm sacrificing time with him."

Hello, old favorite activities

Ariel Kaye wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Zeilic and her husband love to use their Baby Carrier Free for hikes—anything under an hour and she'll strap on the carrier, over an hour and Dad's on the job (good thing it's easily adjustable for parents of all sizes). Even if hiking isn't your hobby of choice, resuming your pre-baby favorite activities and feeling more like yourself post-baby is a welcome change to which most mamas can relate, Oz included.

She fondly remembers the sense of confidence and familiarity that accompanied a babywearing outing when her eldest children were a bit younger. "My first, Philomena, was only 20 months old when John was born and still such a baby herself. I remember going out to the beach on a calm day with Philomena to collect shells, and John was strapped next to my chest, snuggly and content. It was one of the first times I really felt confident as a new mother of 2."

You can travel light

Ranji Jacques wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Working in fashion, Jacques has a tendency to be flanked with a host of accessories or at least a go-to purse, but babywearing has helped her limit the amount she has in tow when out and about. "I strap on baby, grab a bottle of water and my wallet and I'm ready to go," she says. Minimalist multitasking has never been so chic.

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

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So far 2020 has been a year of big changes for Meghan Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Earlier this month the royal couple announced plans step back and senior members of the royal family. Initially, the plan was for the couples to retain their royal tiles and raise their "son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born" while also give themselves the space to work and live in North America.

But sometimes, young parents have to make tough choices to do what's best for their new family and that can mean making changes that impact your family of origin.

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This weekend the Queen announced that her family has found a way for Harry and Meghan to move forward, and it means they're not only not senior royals anymore, they do not have HRH titles (His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness) anymore and "are no longer working members of the Royal Family."

The statement from the Queen reads, in part: "Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

"I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

"I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

"It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life."

The Queen's statement explains that Harry and Meghan have "shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home."

Basically, they're serious about being financially independent and they're going to pay rent on the cottage.

Untangling family issues can be hard, and it is hard for anyone to imagine what it must be like to live this out on the world's stage. In her statement, the Queen said she understands the role the intense press scrutiny has played in the couple's decision to forge a new path, and that they will always be her family.

Whether you're leaving the royal family to move to Canada, or just trying to explain to your parents that your own family needs to move to another state, this stuff is hard.

Here's to a new chapter in 2020, for Harry and Meghan and all the other new parents who are writing their own stories.

News

Motherhood is a juggling act. Whether you have one child or many, work outside the home or don't, have a partner or are doing this whole thing solo, you are always juggling something. So how on earth do we keep up the act? How do we ensure no ball gets dropped?

We don't.

All of us, every single one, lets something slip through our fingers on some occasion or another. And that's totally okay.

A friend from college recently commented on Instagram how peaceful and sweet my children seemed. I laughed out loud, and not an endearing chuckle, a wholehearted cackle. What a glorious and erroneous idea that my children are peaceful and sweet. I have three of these beautiful monsters, ages 12, 5 and 4 months. Our house sounds more like a child run circus than a zen meditation retreat.

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It is true that my children are sweet at times. And I will admit I try very hard to create a peaceful life and home, but those are not the two words I would ever use to describe our family. I might choose words like rambunctious, spirited, passionate and intense.

What I realized as I simultaneously smiled and snorted in laughter, was that I put a lot of work into creating a life on social media that looks just like that. Peaceful and sweet. I choose my words carefully, I edit my photos and of course choose only the best ones, the ones where everyone is smiling and we appear to love each other. The pictures of my children pulling each other's hair, stealing snacks and shouting that they hate each other don't get quite as many likes.

Don't get me wrong—my children often smile and we do love each other very much. But by carefully curating the life I post on social media I have unintentionally created something laughable. What a jolt to realize the very thing I'm striving for makes me laugh out loud when someone names it. Is there anything more inauthentic than that?

I am working to strive for authenticity and perfect imperfection.

I make mistakes, hurt those I love, burn dinner and that is what makes me human.

I drop the ball every single day in some large or small way—and that's okay. It is to be expected really.

It's what can give us the gift of connection. We can connect with one another via our faults and our vulnerabilities. We starve ourselves of this by pretending to be perfect.

As I write this I'm sitting in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of our local skate park, my youngest is napping in his car seat, my oldest is wearing a helmet and pads and is driving his new BMX bike as fast as he can up and down hills and ramps set at odd angles with weird curves among them.

This moment feels ideal t. The breeze blows through my open windows as my oldest is getting a great workout and my youngest slowly wakes up cooing.

We can only enjoy the moment if we are present within it. When I live my life constantly in a state of distraction, constantly keeping my eyes on all the balls I'm juggling, I'm not enjoying any of it.

I am not a master juggler at this moment in life. I don't think what I'm doing even looks like juggling. I do not have my eyes on all the balls, I am not even attempting to catch or toss them all in that perfect arc that looks so magical.

I prefer to relish these kinds of moments, soak up their joy, their peace, their sweetness and to do that I have to let go of the charade, I have to accept imperfection in the form of letting some balls drop.

I want to live a life full of authenticity and joy in the simple moments.

I want to live without the pressure of doing it all.

I want to give myself the gift of not doing everything the way it should be done by the imagined deadlines that cannot be met.

I want to enjoy my rambunctious, passionate children.

So I let the ball drop—and I'm okay with that.

Life

Feeding your new baby can be a beautiful experience, but it can also be really hard. We at Motherly have talked about it. Amy Schumer has talked about it. And now Kate Upton is talking about it, too.

Upton and her husband Justin Verlander became parents when their daughter Genevieve was born in November 2018, and in a new interview with Editorialist, Upton explains that while she loves motherhood she didn't always love breastfeeding.

"Having VeVe has changed my life in such a wonderful way," she explains, adding that in the early days of motherhood she felt "so much pressure"..."to be doing all these things, like breastfeeding on the go—when the reality, for me, was that breastfeeding was sucking the energy away from me. I realized I needed to calm down, to allow my body to recover."

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Breastfeeding can take up a lot of a mama's time and energy in those early weeks and months, and while Upton doesn't explicitly say whether she switched to formula, combo fed, pumped or what, it's clear that she did give herself some grace when it came to breastfeeding and found the right parenting pace by taking the pressure off of herself.

Upton took the pressure off herself when it came to her demanding breastfeeding schedule, and she's also resisting the pressure to keep up with a social media posting schedule.

"I want to be enjoying my life, enjoying my family, not constantly trying to take the perfect picture," she says. "I think my husband wants me to throw my phone away. We talk about it in the house all the time: 'Let's have a phone-free dinner.' We don't want [our daughter] thinking being on the phone is all that life is."

Whether the pressure to be perfect is coming from your phone or from society's conflicting exceptions of mothers it's a force worth rejecting. Upton is loving life at her own pace, imperfect as reallife can be.

News

After the treat-filled sugar rush of holidays and birthdays, it can be hard to get back on track with eating healthy as a family. (What can I say, I love cake—and my kids do, too.) It's totally okay to hold your boundary for sugar in your kid's diet, no matter what that boundary is. And you can do it without being the bad guy.

Putting a positive spin on "the sugar issue" (letting kids know that they can have treats sometimes, but not all. the. time.) will help prevent sugar becoming an ongoing power struggle, which nobody wants.

Here are a few phrases that can help your kids eat less sugar, without creating a power struggle over treats:

1. "Holiday and birthday treats are so fun, but they're not for every day."

Acknowledge that all of the extra treats were fun (they were!). You can talk about how some foods are for special occasions and others are the ones we eat every day to have strong bodies and feel good.

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2. "I feel so much better when I eat lots of fruits and vegetables."

Instead of putting the emphasis on why sugar is bad, try focusing on all the good reasons to eat healthy foods. You can talk about how eating carrots gives us strong eyes, eating oranges keeps us from getting sniffles, or eating kale helps us feel good and have lots of energy for playing.

3. "Which fruit would you like to have with your lunch?"

Keep it fun by letting your child choose which healthy foods to eat. Two or three choices are fine. You can let them help pick at the grocery store or let them pick from the options you've selected—the important thing is to offer choice.

4. "Let's see if we can make a rainbow on your plate!"

Who doesn't love rainbows, especially among the under-six crowd? Use their universal appeal to your advantage and encourage kiddos to make their own edible rainbows.

Make it extra fun by writing a checklist with colored pencils, one checkbox for every rainbow color, and bringing it with you to the grocery store. Let your child choose one item from the produce section for every color.

5. "You can choose one treat with dinner, but candy isn't a choice for snack today."

Make sure kids know that they will still be able to enjoy treats sometimes. Instead of saying "candy makes you crazy," or "sugar rots your teeth," just let them know when you're okay with them having a treat. It may be every night after dinner, only on Friday nights, or it may not be until Valentine's Day, but having a clear boundary will help reduce the constant pleas for sweet treats.

6. "I think treats feel more special when we don't have them every day."

Talk to your child about how part of the fun of holiday treats is that they're out of the ordinary. They are special traditions we get to enjoy each year and they help make the holidays feel magical. Just as it wouldn't be as fun if we had a Christmas tree up all year or wore a Halloween costume every day, treats aren't as fun if we eat them nonstop.

7. "I hear that you really want candy. I can't let you have it right now, but it's okay to be disappointed."

Let your child know that you empathize with their feelings about not being able to eat what they want all of the time.

Sometimes children just need to be heard. It might be more important to them to know that you understand their feelings about treats than to actually get a treat.

8. "Let's think of a healthy treat we could get at the grocery store next week."

Brainstorm with your child and come up with a list of healthy treats you could bring home from your next grocery shopping trip. This might be a kind of fruit they haven't had in a while, a granola bar you don't usually buy, or the makings of a fun trail mix.

Part of the fun of treats is the ritual—you can still enjoy the sweetness without the extra sugar.

9. "Would you like to bake with me?"

Carry those fond memories of making Christmas cookies together into the new year to help wean kids off the holiday high of constant treats. Just find something you're okay with your child eating regularly, like a healthy muffin recipe, baked oatmeal, or energy bites—whatever meets your own nutritional guidelines for your family!

10. "I noticed you didn't sleep well when you ate those treats before nap time. Let's think of a better time for treats together."

You can explain the effects of sugar on the body without vilifying it. Sometimes just saying sugar is bad makes it all the more desirable or pits you against your child. But that doesn't mean you can't give them the facts. Just tell them plainly that sugar makes it harder for them to sleep well, makes it harder for them to concentrate, or whatever other effects you've seen.

Here's to a healthy 2020—you've got this, mama!

Learn + Play
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