Between the increase in flex-time at companies and a surge in the number of newly unemployed people setting themselves up as independent contractors, it’s never been easier to work from home. This can be especially appealing for parents, who are hoping to strike the right balance between work and childcare. Unfortunately, the reality of working from home can easily intrude on your grand vision of uninterrupted hours of productivity followed by calm lunches with your child. If you work from home and you’re looking to keep things sane, keep these tips in mind.
1. Create a routine and stick to it (within reason)—This doesn’t necessarily mean working 9-5. One of the great benefits of working from home is setting your own hours. However, it’s still a good idea to have set “work hours.”
The key here is to be realistic. You don’t need to commit yourself to a strenuous work schedule you can’t keep and only frustrate yourself in trying. When it comes to working at home, working smarter means working when your body and your parenting commitments are addressed.
2. Set boundaries—Working from home can save you the interruptions from noisy co-workers and pointless meetings. However, it brings a new set of distractions, including noisy children and neighbors who stop by and may not understand the at-home work environment. It’s even possible your partner may ask you to perform extra tasks because you’ll be “at home.”
You must set boundaries with your partner and children and enforce them whenever possible. From creating a sign that reads “Mom/Dad at Work” to asking your partner to keep from texting or calling unless it is an urgent matter, boundaries can and will help.
3. Change the scenery—Because it can be tempting to finish chores or do other jobs around the house, it is important to embrace a change of scenery every once in a while. If you feel stuck in a rut, take your child out for a quick trip to regroup. Avoid distracting spots like a park or mall—these can work against your productivity.
4. Be fair to yourself—One of the problems with working at home is not working enough but working too much. The lines can blur between office and home, and you may feel compelled to send one more e-mail or finish one more task on the to-do list. While these things have to happen sometimes, they can often wait. Prioritize. Ask yourself what tasks really must be completed “this minute” and what can truly wait while you spend some quality time with your family.
- Work-at-home parents are on the rise, but they experience their own challenges in productivity and concentration.
- Setting boundaries between a work and home life are important.
- Working parents must emphasize the importance of a quiet and private space to work.
As a spouse of someone who used to work at home, I can say it’s a lot tougher than it seems to be. Especially if you don’t have a home office. My wife just had a desk in the house, so she could not just close the door to an office and work. I could never do it. The best part of going to work for me is not the work itself (I could do without that) but the relationship with coworkers and friends. I don’t really feel the need to hang out with friends after work because in spent all day with people. But if you work from home alone all day, you’ll need to get out of the house more, and your family will have to understand that when they come home from being gone to work or school all day, you were there, and you now want to leave…
I worked from home for several years, and I think setting boundaries was the toughest part. The boundaries for others (husband interruptions, phone calls from Mom) were part of the problem, but boundaries for myself were often an issue, too. It was easy to work a little longer when I wasn’t on deadline, or work at night and early in the morning in addition to the regular workday just to “make up” for leaving to pick my daughter up from school, for example. Pretending your office is an outside the home office is key… So if you wouldn’t drive up to work at night to get something done, it isn’t a task that needs your attention at night when that office is a few feet away.