I Run A Remote-First Company — Here’s How I Make Sure Remote Work Isn’t Taking A Toll On Working Moms

“Can you give me some tips on how to balance work and motherhood?”

“How do you create a WFH culture that doesn’t leave women out in the cold?”

I get these questions a lot and more frequently in the last couple of years when remote work really took off. I’m the CEO of a 100% remote company, meaning that my team is distributed across six countries and three continents. I’m also a mom of four, and I’m keenly aware of the difficulty of juggling a demanding career with the needs of a growing family.

This is why I’ve worked hard to make it easier for the working moms in my company to integrate their family life with their professional life. At this point, we have 60+ employees, and nearly 60% of our team — and 50% of my executive team — is made up of mothers.

Here’s how I make sure remote work empowers the moms I work with:

Offer flexible work schedules 

Encourage your employees to be honest about what works for them. There isn’t one perfect schedule or work setup for everyone. Instead of imposing your personal preferences on employees, help each individual figure out what their optimal work style is by asking questions like “What days and hours work best for you? What works well for your family? Where does the work need to get done?” Then step back and let them try it out. You’ll probably find that they surprise you with just how much high-quality work they can produce when given the right circumstances.

Destigmatize asking for help 

It’s important that your employees know they can count on the support of their managers and peers.

At my company, we aren’t shy about asking for help. We understand that no one is perfect; everyone has weaknesses. When someone is working on something outside their specialty, they are encouraged to reach out for help. It helps everyone learn new things and level up their skills. It also sends the message that no one should be afraid to make a mistake. And, really, if you mess up, chances are it won’t be the end of the world.

Create guidelines for how people should communicate

When employees are in the office, you can see when they’re in meetings, when they take their lunch breaks (and sometimes what they order), and if they’re having a bad day. But when an employee is remote, it can be harder to tell how (and what) they’re doing.

If you don’t set guidelines for communicating, like when people should be answering email and DMs, then things become chaotic. How long do I need to wait before I bother this person? When is it okay if I text someone instead of calling them? What does an “urgent” email look like?

At my company, we’ve developed common expectations and communication guidelines, and all of our team members know what is expected of them. We’ve laid out the rules about when to check in with direct reports, how to get their attention on Skype, and what kind of language they should be looking for from us (and vice versa).

Is it easy? Not always, and certainly not at the beginning. It takes effort and commitment from all sides. But making sure that everyone knows how to communicate effectively has helped create productive remote relationships.

Give people time for non-work banter

It’s important for people to feel comfortable when they’re working from home. We keep the lines of communication open between employees by having informal/non-work chatrooms and special interest groups that let us communicate easily with each other and talk about interests, hobbies, and our personal lives. While remote employees miss out on many in-the-moment conversations, I’ve found that these opportunities for bonding help my team feel connected even when they’re not sitting next to each other in an office.

By staying involved in our team members’ lives outside of work, it’s easier to be there for them when things get tough or when they need someone to listen to them during difficult times—which is especially important.

Don’t underestimate the power of empathy

A lack of empathy is one reason why women are given fewer opportunities or judged more harshly at work. Women are often still treated as if they’re newcomers on the job, no matter how long they’ve held a position. When you think about your new hires, make sure you don’t fall into this trap yourself. If you see someone getting overlooked or passed over for opportunities due to something outside of her control (e.g., children), make a point to say something.

Speaking of empathy: one thing we’ve done in our company is create a group chat for moms where we share relevant articles and resources about balancing family life with remote work, check in with each other, and talk about our adventures in parenting.

Review your company policies and incentives to ensure that working moms are taken care of

What does your maternity leave policy look like? How about your vacation policy? How do you handle emergencies, say, if a team member’s child is feeling poorly? These policies all communicate whether or not people are valued, so make sure they reflect the way you want to treat your employees.

Every mother I know is constantly doing too much. With children, parents, partners, extended family members to take care of, chores, and work… there just isn’t enough time in the day. And COVID pushed the struggle to balance career aspirations and family responsibilities to the limit, forcing many to leave the workforce.

As an employer, I know that my team members are often juggling multiple responsibilities. They want to excel at their day job while being dedicated parents, spouses, friends, and community members. And if we don’t support them in this balancing act, we risk losing talent.

I’m proud of our progress as a company, but we still have room for improvement. I know we can do even better in creating a work environment where women feel safe, supported, and empowered to learn, grow, and thrive without sacrificing their personal lives.


Catherine van Vonno is the President and CEO of 20four7VA, a trusted remote staffing company. She oversees the overall growth and success of the company, leads the short and long-term strategies, and manages the company’s finances.