Work from home, satellite office, telecommute- these are all ways we describe working from home. And if you’re a mom who works from home, we also describe it as a blessing (most of the time). Because of technology, more and more people are making the switch from a traditional office setting and working from home. Gallup reports an estimated 37% of workers now telecommute, a huge number for the workforce. Employers everywhere are finding that they benefit from employees who are the best at their job, no matter where they live. Moms are no exception to this number, especially when our families need the extra income. While working from home seems ideal to many parents, it doesn’t come without its share of struggles. Perhaps one of the biggest is balancing work and life, when you share the physical and emotional space mutually. As a mom who’s worked from home for over 3 years, I’ve got some tips that I hope will aid you in the balance between work and life.
1. Have A Designated Work Space
Not every mom has an office in her home, but you can still create a work space that is efficient. Having a designated work space is important for a few reasons. First, it helps you keep your work materials in one area and not spread over common areas of the house, like the dining room table. This is vital to being a valued employee because you can meet your deadlines and be an asset, in spite of not being in the office (something you don’t want to squander). Second, it aids in your ability to physically separate your work from personal life. Sure, you may sit down to the computer to do non-work related activities (hello Facebook!), but the majority of your time will be spent working in your work space. Finally, this unique area of your home signals that it’s work time for your family. The kids know that mom is working, and can hopefully engage in other activities while you are putting in hours. Once you step away from your desk, you’re back to your personal life.
2. Set A Work Schedule
While working from home definitely allows for a flexible work schedule, not having set “office hours” can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to balancing your work and home life. If you squeeze work in every free moment, you will either have gotten nothing done (free time, what’s that?) or you will constantly be juggling a baby on one hip and and your email on the other. Setting a work schedule is vital to your sanity, but it also lets your coworkers know when they expect to reach you. Without office hours, you will feel like you need to be checking your email all the time, which cuts into time with family. You will begin to feel like your job runs your life because you’re never “off the clock.” Find a schedule which works for you, and then disconnect when your office hours are over.
3. Consider Removing Work Email From Your Phone
Depending on your line of work, this may or not be an option for you. However, I can say that most things can wait and don’t require an immediate email response. In a former job, I constantly felt interrupted in my personal life because it was hard for me to see that little email notification and NOT reply. For me, I decided to remove my work email from my personal phone because my personality just didn’t afford me the casual attitude towards work email. It was liberating! Can you believe there were never any true emergencies, and that my coworkers didn’t even notice when I didn’t reply within 5 minutes? If you have regular office hours, you will be spending hours with your email every day- there’s nothing wrong with setting it aside when you are off duty.
4. Be Flexible
I’ve got a pretty good routine for myself, working from home, but every day is different. Sometimes I get my 2 hours in the morning done, sometimes I only get 1. Rather than be crabby all day that I have to cram an extra hour in somewhere, I have to be flexible to make working from home good for my family and my work life balance. You’re a mom, so you are probably already good at being flexible, right? Well if not, practicing it as a work from home mom will be a good exercise for you! While it takes some practice, being flexible is the only way to truly have a work life balance. You should also have realistic expectations that don’t hinder your ability to be flexible. Don’t expect your kids to play silently while you’re on a conference call, or not ask you to help them with a game that requires you to get up from your desk every 10 minutes. Working from home is difficult at best, but if you’re flexible, it’s also so rewarding.
5. Be Purposeful With Your Personal Time
Going off the clock from work can sometimes feel like crossing the finish line of a marathon. You’re just glad it’s over, and that can mean spending your personal time in recovery mode. Having a successful balance between work and your personal life requires work for both aspects, not just work. Take up a hobby, plan adventures with your family on the weekends, and have mom’s nights out. You are more than just an employee, you are a woman too! If you give the best of yourself to your work (and kids), but don’t take time to recharge yourself, you will never have a balance between work and life.
6. Be Grateful
It sounds silly that “being grateful” is a tip on balancing your work and life, but it’s the truth. But have you noticed how much more intentional you are with everything, when you realize how grateful you are? When we see tragedies on the news and people tell us to “hug your loved ones tonight,” we are grateful that we can and our own squabbles seem to fall away. When you choose to see the opportunity to work from home as a blessing that meets your personal and professional needs, you are more likely to be patient and work hard to keep your job. You are equally as thankful that you can keep an eye on your kids as you work from the other room, or that you can take play dates in the middle of the day because your work schedule allows. Not everyone has the option to work from home, and if you continually remind yourself that you can, you won’t be carrying frustration from your work into your personal life.
7. Ask For Help
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that work is made easier. In fact, it makes it that much harder to have a balance between work and life since they bleed into each other so easily. You can and should ask for help on a regular basis. Whether it’s hiring a baby sitter to get out of the house to work, or asking your spouse to take care of the kids so you can have alone time and recharge your batteries, you can’t do it all alone. Don’t just ask for help, but allow others to help you when they offer. As moms, it’s tempting to say “oh thank you, but I got this.” WHY is that our first response!? If someone offers to help- LET THEM! Take the help and keep your life in balance.