I returned to the office for the first time since the pandemic began—after having a baby. Here’s how it went
This is part of CNBC Make It's My First Day Back series, where people share their stories of what it's like to return to the office after working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Are you planning to return to the office soon? Share your stories with us here.
Name: Katie Lutz
Office: Salesloft's Atlanta office
Working home since: March 12, 2020
Returned: Dec. 14, 2021
Return requirements: Proof of Covid-19 vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test result
When Katie Lutz packed her office to work from home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she had one thing on her mind: snacks.
"At that point, we thought the office would be shut down for two weeks because of the virus," she tells CNBC Make It. "I remember taking some chips from the kitchen — Fritos, Lay's — and thinking, 'How am I going to work without the office's snacks?'"
The 29-year-old has been working at Salesloft, an online platform that helps customers find and improve business sales, for four years in various roles and is now a senior enterprise marketing manager at the organization.
Lutz wouldn't see her co-workers or office for almost two years. In that time, she and her husband Rhys moved into a new house, welcomed their first child, Hayes, in June 2021 and discovered the joys and challenges of being working parents during a pandemic.
Through it all, Lutz reveals that she missed her commute and was itching to get back to in-person meetings and lunches with her co-workers.
"Some of the people I work with are my best friends, so I missed seeing them every day," she says. "As much as I love not wearing jeans, having a reason to get up, and get dressed up is something that I wanted back in my routine."
While Lutz is still adjusting to daycare pick-ups and breastfeeding in between meetings, her return to office as a new mom has been "easier and more fun" than she expected.
CNBC Make It: What was the hardest part of returning to work after giving birth?
Katie Lutz: Being on maternity leave, even during a pandemic, was the best 16 weeks of my life. Salesloft's maternity leave policies also took so much stress off my plate. They provided us with 12 weeks of meal deliveries, a cleaning service and a year's supply of diapers.
Returning to work was more difficult. We had been on a daycare waiting list since February and weren't able to get in until October 2021. I started working again in September, so for the first few weeks, we both worked from home with Hayes there and quickly learned that that is a very tough balance.
I worried that he would roll over for the first time while I was upstairs on a Zoom call. When he started daycare, it made it a lot easier to focus on work.
Why did you decide to go back to the office?
I became very comfortable in my little bubble working from home on the couch snuggled up to my cats. As much as I loved remote work, however, there's a lot of drawbacks.
I feel like I take better care of myself when I work in the office — I drink more water, for example because it's a nice break to fill up your water bottle in the kitchen and chat with other co-workers there.
I was a little anxious about how returning to the office would be, if I would have time to pump for Hayes and get everything done while catching up with co-workers. But I didn't have any safety concerns because Salesloft has done a great job about communicating their policies and keeping us safe in this ever-changing pandemic landscape.
How did the first day go?
Returning to the office felt like coming back to a full new experience: we moved to a new floor, had new desks, new teammates and new designs on everything because we re-branded during the pandemic. It reminded me of the first day of school.
Salesloft grew a lot during the pandemic, so I got to meet a lot of our new hires, and it was awesome to spend time with people in real life that I've only spoken with on Zoom.
I'm still breastfeeding Hayes, so I need to take four 20-minute breaks during work to pump. Our office has an awesome mother's room with a fridge, microwave, sink and comfortable chair to pump in. I actually feel more comfortable pumping in the office than I do at home — I don't have laundry staring at me!
A group of us went out to lunch around noon. It was such a nice change of pace because I usually spend my lunch break at home alone scrolling through TikTok.
Then I had a couple in-person meetings and grabbed drinks with my team before heading home around 5:45 p.m. — just in time to feed Hayes dinner and tuck him into bed.
How often do you plan to be at the office?
Salesloft has allowed employees to choose whether they want to be remote, come to the office on a hybrid schedule or work from the office full-time. I chose the "flex plan," which means I come in 2-3 days each week then work from home the other days.
After the holidays, I plan on coming in every Tuesday and Thursday, then some Wednesdays. On Mondays and Fridays I'll work from home.
My husband is handling daycare duties for Hayes on the days I go to the office, and I will take care of it on the days I work from home.
As I was preparing to return to the office, I kept wondering, 'Am I going to enjoy this or will it be kind of exhausting?' but I was surprised at how natural and nostalgic it felt to be back. I had forgotten how much I loved being in the office with my friends. It's been a 10/10 experience so far — especially because the snacks have been restocked.
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