Have you suddenly entered the brave new world of work-from-home? Have recent news events necessitated new work arrangements?
Even if you were fortunate enough to already be a remote worker, is working from home working like you thought it would?
Working from home can work. It can work if you have young children. It can work if you have teens. It can work if you don’t have a dedicated office. It can even work if your spouse or partner is also working from home.
How do I know? I’ve been working from home for more than 25 years. During that time, I’ve raised four children (two of whom were born after I began working from home), worked for myself, worked as part of a remote team, worked at the kitchen table, worked from a desk in my bedroom, and worked from a dedicated home office.
So, having made work-from-home work for me in a variety of circumstances here is what I have learned about how you can make work-from-home work for you.
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Define Your Workspace
Whether you’re working from the kitchen table or a dedicated home office, define your workspace. Set aside a designated space if you can. If it needs to be portable, get a box or bin, and place all of your work supplies into it. Having everything you need in one place will help you get started more quickly each day, and will reduce stress. If you can work from a room where you can close the door and be alone, so much the better.
When you sit down to work, wherever it is, clear your space of non-work items. This might include the breakfast dishes, your children’s schoolwork or creative projects, laundry, the TV remote, or whatever. Defining your workspace and clearing away non-work items will help you focus and be more productive.
Use a Headset
If you will be using online chat or your phone, investing in a headset will make a tremendous difference. A good headset, with a built-in microphone, can eliminate the background noise. This makes it easier for both you and whomever your speaking with to hear. It also helps to keep at least one side of your conversation private. As an added bonus, if they’re noise cancelling, you may be able to tune out extraneous kid noise, if you have children at home with you.
These are extraordinary times. Perhaps under normal circumstances, your children would spend at least part of your workday at school, or at daycare. Some remote jobs even require it. But there are times, like during a pandemic, that schools and daycare centers are closed, and you’ll need to do double duty during your work hours, both parenting and being an employee.
One of the keys to making double duty work is to set boundaries, both with your family, and with your employer. We hope most employers would exercise an extra degree of compassion in these circumstances, and good communication is the key. Let your employer know in advance what kind of accommodation you may need so they can hopefully avoid scheduling critical meetings or projects during your down time.
And with your children, they will also need to understand that it’s dad’s or mom’s work time. Giving them set times that you can take breaks to answer questions, help them with things, or just spend time with them, will help them understand when you need to focus on work. Your older children may need to take turns helping with younger ones. Reward them where you can, with extra privileges, or free time when you’re done working for the day.
Finally, be flexible. Rigid expectations and rigid work hours, especially when life has turned somewhat topsy-turvy, only adds to the stress and makes working from home more challenging. Recognize that you may not be as productive as you are at the office (or maybe you’re more productive), that you are sometimes going to be interrupted inconveniently, even when your boundaries are clearly set. And recognize that making work-from-home work requires some adjustments on everyone’s part, from you, to your family, to your employer.
Once you make those adjustments, you may just find that work-from-home works well for you, and you’d like to be a permanent remote worker. Or not.
Have you found yourself suddenly working from home? Are you having some challenges getting things up and running? Or has the transition been a smooth one? I’d love to hear your experiences with working from home. Please share them in the comments section, or on my Facebook page.