While the thought of trading in the rat race of an office building or major corporation, and working from home, may sound highly appealing, the reality is, this transition is often more challenging than most people believe. When you’ve gotten used to the all-work structure of an office, coming home and working in the midst of your kids and home life can be like a splash of cold water. How do you manage your family life, without sacrificing work ethic or the deadlines that don’t slow down?
I know from personal experience that working from home is no walk in the park. Whether it’s kids pulling on my arm, ready for a snack, or my husband calling from his office, asking me to pick up the dry-cleaning, remaining task oriented has been something I’ve had to learn as I go. Although I know there are times when I need to remain flexible and allow for interruptions, for the most part, my work must remain a priority.
If you’re transitioning from office to home and are worried your work might suffer, the key is balance. Without it, you’ll feel as if you’re juggling ten glass plates all on your own. The following tips have proven helpful in my own work journey and I’m able to keep my family life in order while maintaining my profession.
Dedicate a space to work.
There is a reason why office buildings and cubicles exist – they are dedicated spaces where people complete work-related tasks. If one of the reasons you’re considering working from home is to escape the cubicle, trust me – I’ve been there. Although I’m not suggesting replicating a cubicle in your home, I am saying that a dedicated work space in your home is absolutely essential to success.
If you have a room you can turn into your office, do so. If not, dedicate a corner of a quiet space to your office. The kitchen table or the living room couch is probably not the best space to spread your stuff out. Papers are easily lost or spilled on and the distractions are numerous. For me, going out and buying a room partitioner when I first started saved me from hours of insanity and distraction.
Have all the essentials in place.
The great part of working at an office is that everything you need is right there. A printer? No problem. Fax machine? Your corporation probably has several. When you transition home, however, you may need to go out and buy these essentials. Do this right away, so there’s no scrambling at the last minute when an important deadline comes around.
I like having everything in my workspace. That means the printer is right where I can reach it, and my fax machine is just steps away. Even though other members of my family make use of these items every so often, they still remain in my office, regardless of who needs to use them. Whatever your tools are – keep them where you work.
If your office is a mess of supplies and papers, then set aside some time to get it in pristine condition. Purchase supplies and containers to keep your things attractively organized. Knowing where everything is helps me keep my cool and manage my work more effectively.
Organization is essential.
If you’re a naturally organized person, this tip is like second-nature for you already. However, I know that I need every other tool out there to keep myself on track. When you’re managing work deadlines at the same time as soccer practice and doctor appointments, a planner will become your go-to.
Purchase a large calendar and write out all your tasks for the month. Try to do this at the beginning of every month, for as far out as you can plan. When dates are nailed down far in advance, you know what’s coming up and therefore, what you can say yes, and no, to. I’ve found that a daily planner is helpful, as well. Being able to create and check-off items from a daily to-do list makes me feel more accomplished and in control of my day.
Set your hours.
Working from 9-5 certainly has its drawbacks, but truthfully, the structure of a workday is often what keeps people successful. The same applies when working from home. Not having a set work time really throws a wrench in your success, something I learned the hard way.
I find it’s best to plan your work day around your family, especially if you have kids. When your kids are off to school for the day, settle down in your office and get to work. If you work steadily through the school day, that’s a good chunk of time spent on work-related tasks. As important as it is to start when you say you will, it’s equally important to finish on time, too. My kids find it frustrating when I say I’ll be finished by four, and I’m still pounding on the keyboard come 5 o’clock. Stick to your hours. You’ll have a happier family because of it.
Make it clear you’re working.
Just because you are home doesn’t mean that you are free. Although one of the hardest things to learn about working from home, it is also one of the most essential. When I began working from home, friends felt free to call and talk for hours, and I often let myself get caught in this trap. However, your friends, and your family, need to understand that work must get done even though it’s getting done from home. Let your loved ones know that you have a job that needs to get done, and you’d love to socialize, but after work. Difficult? Yes. But necessary? Absolutely.
At this point, you may be wondering if working from home is really worth it. Let me tell you from personal experience – yes. While it does require a high amount of discipline and time to learn how to manage the balancing act, in the end, you’ll find much more joy in your work and in your family. Begin setting boundaries early, and working from home will become a breeze.
About the Author: Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. As a mom who works at home, she knows how challenging it is to keep a balance and distinction between family and work. These tips have been some of the most helpful when transitioning to working at home, and she enjoys helping other women find success in their work ventures.