Over the last ten years, my work has gradually shifted from “traditional,” as in outside of the home, to less-traditional: working from home most of the time.
Though this change happened over time, it was a deliberate shift that I made. The work I have pursued not only can be done at home, but there is more flexibility to it: I often have the option for the specific time I spend on tasks. I can choose to work early morning (I don’t), during nap (usually), or at the end of the day (always).
Working from home has been a great choice for our family, but it’s not without its challenges. If you’re thinking about making the shift, or are transitioning to be a work-at-home mom, here are ten tips that may help you.
- Make a schedule. Whether you block out time, such as 7a-9a is when you’ll get work done, or you schedule specific work-related tasks, I’ve found some sort of schedule is a must. Without it, it’s too easy to let the day go by without much work getting done. A schedule also allows for clearer communication about time and boundaries to the members of your family.
- Understand that schedule will get changed. Unless you are completely child-free for your work hours, you will get interrupted. Even if your kids are out of the house, as a mom who works from home, you’re likely the one who’s going to go get the kids if they’re sick or drop off something that was forgotten. Working from home often means that there needs to be flexible with our scheduling. If the job you have requires consistency or quiet at certain times, consider how you can deal with this, whether it’s hiring childcare, or scheduling specific tasks during nap or early morning before people are awake.
- Prioritize (Both work, and home tasks). Due to the interruptions in the work day, or the lure of playing with your kids, it’s possible you’ll be less productive than you were previously, especially if this is a new set up. Plan your day so that you know what you have to get done, and then what you would like to get done. This is both true for work and home. We have a better balance when I’m clear on my daily and weekly work tasks as well as fun family activities.
- Find ways to keep your kids busy so you can work. The ways you do this will vary depending on the age of your child, but if you are working with kids at home, you need to have them out of the way at times. I personally use my younger son’s nap time to work. But, I have an older son, so my work time is when he relaxes in front of the TV for a bit. We also have some workbooks and learning activities he can do at the table with me while I work.
- Watch out that work doesn’t take over. You might think “Yeah right—work won’t take over.” But it can. Think about it: you’re never really leaving the office!! Yes, you leave for a bit (more on this soon), but you’re technically always at work when you’re at home. Make sure that you set boundaries for your time and stick to that as best you can. If you have a deadline, sure, work more, but try not to get into the habit of “just one more thing” before you shift to focusing on your family.
- Take care of yourself. This is hard for me. I often jump right into the day. I get the kids settled and then I get to work. So, I often skip breakfast. And then, all of a sudden it’s lunch time, so I feed the kids. And I clean a bit, and we hang out and then I’m back to work at nap time and it’s 1:00 and some days I’ve barely eaten. This is where your schedule and prioritized tasks can be important. Don’t be afraid to write “Eat breakfast” on your to-do list!
- Get out of the house. When you work from home, you’ll spend a lot of time there. In the beginning, this is really nice, but if you don’t pay attention, you can feel cooped up. Try to make it a point to get out of the house daily, and not just for pickup or drop off. Take a walk, take your kids to the park, or plan your errands throughout the week so you can get out and into the world.
- Designate a work space (if you can). I find it’s helpful to create boundaries for your work if your work exists in a specific place. This also helps with keeping you organized and not losing your work. If you don’t have an office space, with a door, think about how and where you can organize yourself.
- Know that work-life balance may not exist. Balance is an ongoing (often elusive) process. It seems like working from home may help create more balance and what I’ve found at times is that it actually makes balance harder. Because you’re always around work. And, if you’re someone who likes work, and is an entrepreneur, it can be very hard to turn your mind off and stop working.
- Socialize! One of the things I miss most while working from home is interacting with others on a regular basis. Since you might not have as much (adult) interaction as you used to, be sure to find times where you see other people (plan dates with your partner, or time out with friends), but also consider projects you can work on where you get to work with others. Collaboration and the social aspect of work can get lost when you work from home.
Bonus tip #11! If you have the option to work from home, or see the potential to make this change in your current position, consider it! And, really think about going for it. Working from home has so many amazing benefits. The transition can be a bit bumpy, but for myself, and many of the other work-at-home moms I know, the benefits FAR outweigh the drawbacks.