For those of you who are new to working from home – I get it. I have been working from home for the past nine years. In that time, I have raised twins (they were 1 when I started) and had a third child. So I understand the challenges that come when you have work and family responsibilities to attend to.
Here are some tips I have learned over the years that might be useful for you as you navigate working from home.
Working from home offers certain comforts you don’t get when you work out of the house. However, one of the most important things I have come to understand is that sticking to a routine is hugely important. Set specific hours and days for yourself that you will be available for work calls and video chats and maintain this schedule. You don’t necessarily have to work 8 hours straight. Still, if you can communicate to others that you are available between the hours of 10 and 12 for meetings, then you can coordinate with your children or spouse that these are the times you are not available for them. Having a routine will ensure you are spending quality time at work, and quality time with your family. Secondly, it helps you plan your day since time in the office is valuable.
2. Maximize your time in the office.
If you know you have to fit six or eight hours of work in a day, can you be flexible as to your start time? For example, during the workweek, I set my alarm for 5 am so that I am able to get three hours of work in before my kids wake up for the day. I find this is the best time for me to work on projects that require attention to detail because I am not getting distracted with phone calls or emails; not very many people are trying to reach me at 5:30 am with a work -related question. I also enjoy drinking a hot cup of coffee (or two!) in the peace and quiet and am very productive at this time of day. If working into the later hours in the evening is more your thing, once again, try to leave projects that you can do independently to this time. After I put my three hours in in the morning, I take a break to get myself and my kids ready for the day.
Communicate with your children and your spouse (if they are also working from home) what your schedule looks like, and what their schedules look like. Try to find times that work for everyone, and be collaborative in your planning. I find that some days are be better for you than others
4. Set Rules
I’ve found it is very helpful to set rules about how my children can contact me while I am in the office. Let’s face it – fights happen when you leave your children to fend for themselves while you’re in a meeting. One thing that works for us is I will turn their wi-fi on so they can text me with any questions, or they will slide a note under the door, and we can communicate.. When they were younger, I would make them have quiet time for a couple hours in the afternoon. While they napped or played in their rooms, I would get my work done. They also understand that in order for mom to be able to continue to work from home, they need to respect my time in the office; this means no yelling or roughhousing while mom is working.
5. Establish a dedicated space for work.
If you’re like me, I like to set up my work for the day, so that if I need to leave to do something else I don’t have to clean it up. If you can, try to set up your workspace in an area that can be closed off from the rest of your family. If need be, even a closet will work! Try to find a space where you can walk away and not look at your work during family time. I’ve found one of the cons about working from home is that my work is always there so making sure it is out of eyesight helps maintain boundaries.
6. Maximize Video meetings as much as possible!
One thing about working from home is you don’t have the social or team interactions you would get working in an office setting. One thing that has helped me is to use video conferencing as much as possible. Video conferencing also forces me to make myself look presentable and gives me some social interaction to look forward to.
7. Use Video Conferencing tricks to your advantage
When on video calls, I also tell the people I am meeting with that my family is home and ask them to excuse any background noise. Ten out of ten people understand this. I will also make sure to use my headphones to minimize the risk of background noise during meetings. Applications like Zoom have the ability to blur your background. I recommend using this feature. You can also change your background on Zoom to one of their pre-selected options. If need be, you can always turn off your video or microphone for a minute to attend to an emergency.
8. Set Boundaries for Yourself
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I worked until 2:00 in the morning, and then set my alarm to wake up at 6 to get back to work. No employer would ever expect this. Just because your work is there doesn’t mean you have to work all hours of the day. Obviously, there are times where you are under deadlines and need to get things done, but an important point I need to make is that it is essential to set boundaries for yourself so that you don’t spend all your time working. You need to spend quality time with your family as well. So whenever possible, set boundaries for yourself. One boundary I have set is that I don’t work between 5:00 and 8:00 at night, and take one day off on the weekend. I communicate this with my colleagues, and everyone understands because they also work from home. I also communicate this with my family, and they know they will have my undivided attention during these times.
Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate working from home. There will be days that are better than others, but please remember we’re all in this together! Good luck : )
Here are some links you may find helpful during our Covid-19 Quarantine: