This week in our Raise Your Game series, we have a brilliant piece from the fabulous Jo of Slummy Single Mummy on the juggling act of working from home.
Jo flies solo as a mother of two, a blogger and a freelance writer and has some great tips on keeping your eye on the prize, even when daytime telly’s calling!
Working from home is often seen as the dream scenario – you can stay snugly in your pyjamas on cold days, break for tea and biscuits whenever you fancy it, and even have This Morning on in the background should that float your boat.
Working from home, especially if you are self-employed, also gives you more flexibility for family life, and eliminates the need for the commute, saving you precious time and money.
The reality however can be a little less idyllic, and careful planning is needed to make an at-home gig work for you.
It can be very tempting when you’re working from home to get distracted with other jobs around the house, especially if you’re prone to procrastination. You may be saved from interruptions from colleagues, but at home it’s more likely to be domestic appliances demanding your attention. ‘I’ll just pop this washing on,’ you think to yourself, and before you know it you’re halfway through the washing up and no work has been done.
Hot Tip: To help me get down to work, I keep an egg timer on my desk. I decide on a manageable chunk of time – normally about 20 minutes – and choose one task to focus on for that time. I often find I just need this as a kick start, and before I know it I’m an hour in and have got loads done already.
Define your Workspace
This isn’t always easy, and many people don’t have the luxury of a separate room just for work, but if possible do try to create an area of the house just for you, even if it’s just a small desk under the stairs.
Having this physical space helps to create boundaries, and will make it easier to walk away from work at the end of the day – quite literally. It can also help make it clear to other members of the family when you are working, and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Be Firm with Friends
For some reason, friends and family seem to think that if you work from home you must always be available for coffee/lunch/random chats. It can be difficult to say no to visitors, but you need to make sure they respect the fact that although you may be at home, you are still actually at work. Part of this is ensuring that you value your own work time and respect work/home boundaries. If you are clear with yourself, other people will quickly pick up on this.
Sort Out Childcare
Getting anything done at all with a toddler in tow is practically impossible, so don’t feel bad about calling on friends and family for childcare support.
“I really want to put my son into nursery for a day a week,” one friend told me recently, “but I don’t feel I can justify it when I’m only at home.”
You must justify it! You wouldn’t think of taking a child to the office with you would you? Prioritise work at home as you would any job. Alternatively, think about how you can structure your working day around your children.
Maybe you’re an early riser, and could have a very productive hour before they wake up? Or perhaps you’re a night owl and work well when everyone else is in bed? The beauty of working for yourself and working at home is that you have the flexibility to plan your day in a way that suits you.
While you do want to stay focused while you’re working, it is important that you don’t become a total recluse, biscuit crumbs covering the front of your pyjamas, so schedule in time to get out and about.
Making sure you regularly meet clients or colleagues outside of your home can be a way to do this, or if your work is more remote, you could think about sharing office space.
There are plenty of places that offer options for ad hoc hotdesking, so if you don’t want to commit to anything, but fancy a day or two a week away from home, this could be a great solution.
Respect Family Time
I am terrible at this one, so this is very much a case of do as I say, not as I do. When you work from home, the temptation just to ‘do a bit of work’ when you’re supposed to be spending time with your partner or children can be overwhelming, and pulling my phone out to quickly check emails when we’re out and about leads to much eye rolling from my kids.
Learn from my mistakes and be clear about the difference between work and home time. Although you may feel you need to respond to things straight away, you really don’t. Remember that time before mobile phones? Businesses still managed to run didn’t they?
So far I seem to have painted a rather doom and gloom picture of working from home, so I want to end on a positive note. Working from home is fantastic, if it’s right for you. You do need to be self-motivated, clear about your boundaries, and stay on top of your time-management, but you do get to stay in your pyjamas if you want to.
And who doesn’t love a bit of daytime TV and a Hobnob now and again?
Do you work from home? What are your coping strategies?