We are so lucky to live in the day and age we do. The internet and mobile phones bring the world to our fingertips with the touch of a button and nowadays we can work anywhere and at any time. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities for our working lives.
For many of us, the idea of working from home seems like a dream. We imagine ourselves conducting serious business in our pyjamas, and making the most of quality time with the kids. We imagine being able to schedule in that weekly game of golf or that great yoga class that starts at 9.30am. We think it will make our lives so much easier than the day-to-day grind of getting up and heading into work in peak hour traffic. And much of the time, we are right. Flexible work hours are soon going to become the norm.
However, when you have children, working from home only works if you manage it effectively. Even if you have a partner at home part of the time, or have the children at home only for part of the day, working at home requires discipline – perhaps even more discipline that you need working in a formal office.
To make it work – you have to be super organised. Here are some tips to help you manage the work you need to do, and still have the kind of lifestyle you dreamed of.
Create a Designated Work Space
Sometimes you need to separate work spaces from family spaces. This will train children to learn the difference between times when Mummy or Daddy are available and when they are working.
A designated office also keeps you away from temptation. Everything you need to work is there – and nothing else. No house and garden projects, no jobs to be done. No television to watch.
Figure Out What Work Times Work Best for You
Part of the joy of working from home is making your own hours – so figure out what is best for you. You might like getting up early and working for a few hours while the house is quiet. You might power through nap times or kindergarten classes or school hours. Set your own schedule and stick to it where possible.
Also schedule family time that work can not get in the way of – weekend trips out and family dinners are also an important part of your week.
Figure Out What Your Key Distractors Are
Sometimes – we are the problem! The kids might be at school or day care…. But we get caught up surfing the net or watching the TV or tinkering in the garden or shed. Although this kind of flexibility may be what appeals to us about working from home, we still have to get work done!
Be honest about where your time goes and put systems in place to avoid these during your routine work times. Put aside the mobile phone while you are working, or lock yourself out of the internet if that helps.
Get Your Partner On Board
When you are at home during the day, it may be tempting for your partner to assume that you will be available to take care of all the little jobs that need to be done… the cooking, cleaning, gardening, school drop offs and pick ups and the running of errands. You need to stand firm that working from home is still working, and while you can manage your share of all of those things, you cannot manage it all.
Have a frank conversation about what you can and cannot achieve based upon the hours of work you are going to commit to each week, and create a plan for all those little jobs that can easily suck up your day.
Keep the House Tidy
Nothing is more distracting than dirty dishes, broken light bulbs and piles of laundry. Keep the house tidy and finish each day with a quick clean up so you can get back to “work” in the morning without feeling like you should be doing other things.
Involve Your Children
My job allows me the flexibility to work from the office or home. So when the kids are sick, or there’s a student free day, school holidays etc, my home turns into my office. When coordinating work and children, I find that involving the kids in planning out the day is the best way to keep the stress away. The kids know I’ll be on the computer from 8am. We leave the house for some activity (movies, park, lunch etc) between 11am and 2pm. Then the afternoon I’m back on the computer, setting the kids up with a home activity, which might be just playing outside or doing arts and craft. It’s not perfect, but it works for me.
Find Ways to Create More Time
During busy periods – or if you are starting to fall behind – you may find you need to create some childcare options. Find another parent to swap play dates with – you help them out one afternoon, and they can help you out another time. It’s also great for young kids to be social and learn how to share with others.
You may also need to invest in some childcare – either paid childcare or the type that a family member gives to help you out. Occasional Care Centres can be a great solution here. Contact your local council for more information.
Be Ready for Anything
Anything can and will happen – you will be the first parent on call when an accident occurs at school, or when a door-knocker comes by or when tradesmen need to be called. Abandon your dream of working in your pyjamas and make sure you are up and dressed each day. This also means you can make the most of any unexpected or spontaneous coffee breaks too.
Working from home and balancing family life can be tricky. The solution is to know how to give both of these things the time and respect they need. Treat work at home like a job and you are halfway there. Ask for help when you need it. And remember that family is the main priority. That important paperwork will still be there in the morning. Watching your child practice for that school play or helping them master that Maths concept won’t be.
I would love to hear how other parents juggle working from home! Feel free to give me a call on 0408 991 855 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.