Every job has its own share of advantages and disadvantages. Working from home is no exception. Tip the scales more towards advantages by sticking to structure and a certain measure of discipline.
When my friend turned parent, she had to quit her job and take up work from home. Nevertheless, she was excited about her decision and was looking forward to it too. A few months down the line, she realized that working from home is more challenging and began to dream of going back to office! True, working from home grants flexible hours, the comfort of home and zero commuting but it also gets you to multitask and leaves you with no spare time. Striking a work-life balance is the key to this issue.
Some ways to go about setting boundaries and have children give you your work space when you are a work-at-home parent are:
1. Set up a workspace: Bring in your office to your home. Turn a space in the house into an office and keep it dedicated solely for work. Office equipment like your desktop, printer, chair and desk should be set up here. Once you are in this area, you should firmly tell your children that you are not to be disturbed unless there is an emergency. This should be a standing instruction.
2. Establish working hours: Have designated working hours and stick to them like you would when in an office. Do everything it takes to make this clear to your children, family and guests. Have an ‘at work’ sign or dress professionally if need be.
3. Stick to a schedule: Make a schedule every day as soon as you start work and stick to it. You can maintain the practice of emailing the schedule to colleagues too so they will know at what times you are available for work.
4. Say ‘no’ to household tasks during work time: Having set up standard work timings, reiterate firmly that you are not available for household tasks during these hours. Taking on chores, running errands, helping around the house or cooking up a quick meal eats into your professional time and you are likely to do more work but achieve less.
5. Prioritize: Just go for the most important task that needs your full attention and completion when the first opportunity presents itself. A time like your kids’ nap time allows you to work productively and undisturbed, so utilize it to complete the important tasks on your list for the day.
6. Shell out for hired help: Even if you are at home full time, if you have a demanding work schedule, do not hesitate to hire help. You and your kids will benefit from doing so. It is hard to juggle professional work and childcare and do justice to both.
7. Set practical targets: Simply because you are telecommuting does not mean that you agree to every assignment. Focus on the task at hand and concentrate on meeting its deadline before taking on another and leaving things half-done. As a consequence, if you have to wait in between assignments, make use of this free time to spend quality time with your kids. It will refresh you too.
8: Say ‘no’ to working round the clock: Since you are not required to follow a 9 to 5 schedule, do not make yourself available for work every minute of the day. It is not imperative to answer every email or add finishing touches to a presentation that your boss requires after you have shut down your desktop. It has to wait till morning or you will have to let your kid sleep without his/her bedtime story.
9. Set ‘unplugged’ time: Do not give in to the urge of responding to work notifications on your phone every minute of the day. Do not check your phone at bedtime or better yet, just go unplugged after your scheduled worktime. You will enjoy the undisturbed time with your kids.
10. Schedule in interruptions: While factoring in time for interruptions is required of any job, it is more so for telecommuting jobs. Let your clients know that you are a work-from-home parent, so a sudden wail from your kid during a conference call or a demand for attention can be excused.
A little planning, organization and prioritizing can help big time when you are a work-from-home parent. Every twist to your arm goes unnoticed when you see the smile your presence at home brings on your kids’ face.