I’m a work-from-home mom, full time and then some. I’ve been working remotely as a contractor for multiple companies for the last five years (I work in marketing, as a writer and blog manager.)
It all started back when we moved home to San Diego and I took a position running a blog for IBM. I suddenly had to be present and available online 40 hours a week; I had one kiddo at the time, and he wasn’t in school. This post is a broad overview of the lessons that I learned several years and one additional child down the road.
This could also be timely advice as COVID-19, or the Coronavirus prompts more employers to provide telecommuting options for their employees. Working from home is an abrupt change for a mom that requires adjustment. It’s not easy without a little discipline! I hope the five pieces of advice below are helpful as you transition your life to accommodate a work-from-home job.
5 Must-Have Tips for Working From Home
You Still Need Childcare
I would love to tell you otherwise, but if you’re committing to a full-time work-from-home job, having children around will seriously stifle your ability to commit. Working from home requires much of the same stuff expected in an office. You’ll need to join video chats and phone calls. There will be fire drills and last-minute requests. However stressful your work was in an office, get prepped for the same levels at home.
Arrange for a mommy’s helper, grandma, or even a deal with a couple of friends to assist with work responsibilities. I’ve heard of women utilizing a shared nanny or babysitter to cut down on costs. If your spouse can be at home, consider investing part-time in a coworking space. You’re still technically working from home, but you’re doing it in a quieter space. You’ll be more productive AND calmer.
Create An Office Space
You think you can just work from the sofa, but that quickly loses its appeal. You need to be next to an outlet. A pen and notebook will come in handy. A phone or computer stand will assist with conference calls. Perhaps a printer is a smart investment. And what about taking care of your back and your neck? That saggy old couch won’t cut it for long.
Find an office with a door. It can be your bedroom (but NOT your bed,) the spare room, even a large closet. Bring in a plant friend and a cozy bed for your dog. Set up good lighting and a comfy desk chair. Buy an ergonomic wrist rest and mousepad for your laptop. Get COMFORTABLE — you’ll be spending a lot of time here!
Build a Schedule, and Stick to It
What’s great about working from home is also one of its most frustrating aspects. You’re at your desk, realizing dinner hasn’t been prepped and there is clothing in the washing machine. You have half a Netflix episode of Fleabag to finish and it would be great to unload the dishwasher. If you don’t budget your time correctly, all of these tasks will distract you. Work will suffer because you’re being pulled in 1,000 different directions.
Instead, put some alarms on your phone. Start with lunch and a trip to the gym. Next, set time for errands and housekeeping. There you go! Now everything you haven’t blocked out is work time. If you need to get even more detailed, separate work to-do’s into segments as well.
Purchase Noise-Cancelling Headphones
I learned this one the hard way. Remember this delightful viral moment? It was hilarious because it was so completely relatable. In addition to putting a lock on the office door, purchase noise-canceling headphones so that you’re not distracted by the kids in the next room or downstairs. As a nursing mom, I could not focus AT ALL on my work when my baby was fussing with her Dad. She was fine and happy. I, however, was a hot mess.
Finally, understand that things will change. Your kids will go on break or holiday. Your daycare will close or they’ll start a new school. Summers, Christmas, camps, illnesses, Grandma on holiday . . . there will always be something. Give yourself some grace and learn to roll with the punches as best you can.
I hope that was helpful! Following the five steps above will get you way ahead of the curve for your new work from home position. Yes, some days, it will be boring and isolating. I recommend scheduling at least one working lunch per month (or a meal with a girlfriend or mentor) to break up the monotony. And no, I won’t judge you if Netflix keeps you company every once in a while — we’ve all been there.