Working at home… I had this grand notion of sipping coffee in the morning in my jammies while answering emails and being completely stress free because I wasn’t catching the metro into DC. Yeah right! Granted I am super duper grateful to be working at home. As a mom and especially a single mom it does make my life and Anya’s life a heck of a lot easier, but working at home isn’t always easy. There is an accountability that you have to produce that is much higher virtually than when your in the office. I for one, want my company to be confident that when I’m at home I am working just as hard as if I would be in the office for 8 hours. I think for this reason, I find myself working even harder and being more strict with myself. However, I’ve found that for this telecommuting option to work I need to have balance, organization, and have a plan So here are a few things I’ve learned.
Don’t STAY in your PAJAMAS!! I never thought I would be one of those stay at home working moms that would lounge in her PJs while clicking away at the keyboard.. But I AM! Listen, this is such a bad idea. It started innocently with me having early morning meetings and then answering a snowball of emails and then sending a ton of emails (seriously like 1087 to be exact) then making a ton of calls. Next thing I knew it was 4pm and I’m in my coffee stained nightgown. SO NOT GOOD. So if you are working from home… GET DRESSED! You will feel better believe me. Now that school is starting I think the getting dressed part will be easier, since I don’t want to mortify my daughter as I drop her off in my Pjs. Not to mention not getting dressed and sitting in front of a computer all day looking like something the cat dragged in does nothing for your self esteem. Take a shower, get dressed, do your hair, you’ll feel better!
Don’t Skip Lunch or Breaks Ever! You need a break and if you don’t take one you will quickly burn out. You also need to eat and not munch. Make sure you eat breakfast and lunch. Take the hour and make yourself a healthy lunch full of energy fueled foods. Try big salads with veggies and add some protein and don’t forget hydration is key along with a good multi-vitamin. It is tempting to snack all day or to forget to drink water. Don’t do this! Have some pre-ready snacks available that are healthy and steer away from junk food. Also keep a big bottle of water nearby to swig at throughout the day. If you work through your lunches and breaks you’ll find yourself exhausted by the end of the day.
Utilize Your Breaks. What’s the point of working at home if you can’t get a few things done right? If you get breaks, throw in a load of laundry, tidy up the bathroom, make the beds, get the dishes out for dinner, polish the furniture in one room, pay bills, anything you can do in 15 minutes take advantage of getting it done. This will make for a less stressful week.
Get Outside! Okay you can easily get cabin fever from being inside all day. Even if you work away from the home getting fresh air is a good idea. After you eat lunch go for a walk or eat lunch on the porch. I try to eat breakfast on the porch to get a little sunshine. If there is work you can do outside, by all means do it and take in the outdoors. It can be motivating and refreshing!
Create Boundaries. Just because mom is working at home doesn’t mean she has time to play Candyland. If your kids are home for part of the day, explain that mom has to work and people are depending on her. Let them know that you have a job to do. If you have a meeting or conference call, put a little sign on your door letting the kiddos know now is not the time to ask what you thought of the, “Good Luck Charlie,” episode from the previous evening. Kids aren’t the only ones you have to create boundaries with, sometimes you have to create boundaries with friends on when is an appropriate time to call or visit.
Create a Designated Work Area. This is so important. I have a den that I use as my office. It has 2 windows with plenty of natural light, a desk, comfy chair and a door I can shut when I need privacy. Working in a designated area also motivated me to get the job done, more so compared to if I were sitting in my bed. Make your space comfortable, functional and keep it stocked with the supplies you need. Let the kids now this is not a playroom.
Be Organized. Organize your schedule and have it in full view. Without organization it is easy to get sidetracked. You are now managing your job and home responsibilities at home so make it flow for you. Get a chart or calendar that shows the day’s activities including work and home. Create a calendar and sync it with your phone. Set alerts so you know when a meeting is coming up or if your kid’s ballet class is in 20 minutes. I found myself getting so immersed in work that I forgot about things I had to do around the house or thinking I had time to do it because I worked at home and that simply wasn’t true. Get on a schedule and stick to it!
Get Creative. Find a way to make telecommuting work to your family’s advantage. If you want to be finished with your work day by the time your kids get home, ask your boss if you can work early hours. However, don’t work 6:00 am to 2:00 pm and be so exhausted from the early morning schedule that you’re crabby and can’t enjoy your time with your kids. Find a schedule that is conducive to you getting the most out of your workday while spending time with your family. Really consider and evaluate what works for you and manage your time accordingly.
Be Clear About Expectations. If you want to be successful and keep your virtual position, be clear on your job’s expectations. This means maintaining close contact with your coworkers and supervisors. Let colleagues know you’re available, be aware of what you’re expected to produce, agree on the hours you work and keep the communication flowing. If you are going to be away for extended time let others know how long. Working at home requires trust and accountability make sure your boss knows they can count on you.
Make Your Life Easier. Take advantage of what working at home allows you to accomplish! Count your blessings that you can pick up your kids from school at 3:15 instead of 6:00, go ahead and prepare a fun snack for them, maintain your home, and find joy in the flexibility this opportunity offers you and most of all be grateful!
One last important lesson- KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. Don’t keep working quit at your appointed time. I’ve found myself working way after hours and that isn’t balance. Know when to disconnect from the phone and the computer for yourself and your kids!
Working at home is a privilege and a blessing! Enjoy it!