10 Ways To Make Working From Home Work For You
As a working mom the opportunity to work from home can offer a bit more balance during the week – shortening commutes and allowing you to spend more time with your children.
Whether you only work from home on an ad-hoc basis, do it every week, or are self-employed and work at home all the time, here are some ways to make working from home work for you.
1. Create your space
Be it a corner of your bedroom, a desk in the spare room, or the luxury of your own office – have somewhere to call your own. Mentally this helps you get into work mode when you sit down. Wherever you work from, try to create a space that you find inspiring – from clutter-free minimalism to a creative mood-board. Having a pile of ironing behind you isn’t soothing to anyone’s soul!
2. Set boundaries
Decide your working hours and share them with others. Work out what works for you. Some people prefer to have regular office hours, whereas others find that fitting in hours between school drop-off and pick-up and working in the evenings works better for their situation.
3. Build trust
Particularly if you work for an employer, the temptation is to show how many hours you’re doing. One senior manager told us ‘I don’t need to know someone’s every movement just because they’re working from home. I trust that they are doing what they need to do’. Once you’ve shared your working hours, be confident that you’ll be productive and avoid justifying your every move.
4. Stay connected
Working from home can be lonely at times. If you have colleagues in an office, it's worth making a trip into the office just to connect with people and catch up on what’s going on. Very often there are things happening that people may not think important enough to update you on, but are good to know. Or, if you’re self-employed, build a network of people who you can meet for a coffee (either face to face or virtually).
5. Dress it up
As tempting as it may be to stay in your trackie bottoms all day, many people find that when they make an effort and wear something smarter, they feel more switched on and productive.
6. Schedule breaks
One of the handy things about working from home is that you can do lots of little jobs like putting on a load of washing. One of the down sides is that you can do lots of little jobs like putting on a load of washing. If you have even an ounce of procrastination in your body, all of those little jobs can suddenly seem so much more urgent and important than finishing that report off. Schedule regular breaks where you can go and take the washing out whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
7. Turn it off
With no-one to look over your shoulder it can be tempting to ‘just quickly check’ your social media or the latest property on daft.ie. If you’re disciplined enough, reward yourself with a 5-minute social surf every hour or so. And if you need to – set a timer to make sure 5 minutes doesn’t become 15!
8. Stay focused
Strange as it may sound but it can be harder to focus in a quiet room than surrounded by the hubbub of office life. Playing a radio in another room can help create a buzz without being overly distracting.
9. Set goals and structure your day
Decide each day the key thing you need to achieve and start with that. As with any office, doing the difficult or unpleasant tasks early on can mentally free you up for the rest of the day. I’ve been working at home for 10 years now but I still sometimes miss the structure of a day in the office. I chunk my day into tasks to get variety, and schedule challenging things for a time when I know I’m at my best.
10. Managing children
If you’re working at home with small children in the house then it can either be wonderful or woeful. On a good day you can join your kids for lunch, or pop out to do school pick up. But on a bad day it may feel like all you’re hearing is crying, or a little head suddenly appears in the background as you talk over skype with your client. Here are some specific tips that can help:
Make the rules clear to whoever is caring for your children, and to them. For example, because I do a lot of work virtually I can’t have noise in the background or have anyone coming into the office. So we have a ‘no visiting Mammy’ rule when I’m working. We’ve kept the stair gates on so no one can sneak upstairs. Even on a quieter day I still stick to this rule otherwise it becomes confusing for them.
Avoid interfering: When you’re working at home and you hear your little one upset, the first thing you often want to do is rush downstairs to see what the matter is. Unless something major has happened and you’re called for, try to butt out. By going down and giving that cuddle or sorting out a dispute you’re undermining whoever you’ve left in charge.
Go into hiding (if you have to): Just as some children cry when you drop them off at crèche, they can also find it hard when you leave them to go to another room to work – although arguably in this instance it's worse for both of you as they know you’re there and you can hear them upset. With my first son I was able to come down and join him and his minder for lunch, or to have a little cuddle during the day. With my second it just caused him (and everyone) too much distress if he saw me. So I’d have to hole myself in upstairs armed with a flask of coffee and a packed lunch. It was only when they left the house I could sprint downstairs and re-fuel (and put the wash on).
At Mumager we support both working parents and employers to create and find win-win solutions. If you’d like more information about solutions for employers and working moms, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter and Facebook.