If you’re a mum and you work from home, you’ll probably find it’s a huge juggle! It’s sometimes seen as the answer to ‘work-life balance’ but between toddlers demanding a bathroom break while you’re on a conference call, and late nights staying up to complete projects on time, there’s some planning required to make it work.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a role that’s enabled me to work from home two days a week, and an employer that’s trusted me to do so. It’s something that makes me very happy. I can continue my career but also manage family life a little more easily by being more flexible, cutting commuting time and having the ability to time shift work around the kids. Yes, it can be hard and you sometimes feel torn between two worlds, but I’ve found some strategies that have helped make it work for me.
1. Start work early to get on top of emails
My little ones are fresh first thing in the morning and have good attention spans, so I can really focus and complete a solid block of work while they’re busy with an activity
2. Be prepared to work at night
And perhaps even a Sunday night. You can’t have everything!
3. Try additional care in the home on your work-from-home days
I was able to manage one day of work with one child at home, but it was still quite a juggle. I would work on Sunday, starting at 4pm, and into the night. My husband was in charge of dinner and the rest. That way, anything urgent or a priority was already done before Monday. Now that I have two kids, one being an active little boy, this time around I have family help me on my work-from-home days. This means I can pick my girl up from school and be around, but still have support so I can focus during the day or if I need to go into the office unexpectedly.
4. Plan the type of work you’ll do from home
I get the most out of the work-from-home days by scheduling work I really need to think through, write briefs for etc. because it enables me to really focus and be very productive. While doing this is dependent on the age of your child and your type of work, an alternative could be using the time at home to catch up on emails and admin.
5. On the days you’re at home, be available for your boss, team and employees during office hours
This gives everyone the time and access required so work can proceed smoothly at home and in the office.
6. Have a dedicated work space
This provides you a place where you can concentrate but also separates work and family life.
7. Plan for important calls, remote meetings & conference calls
It’s very age-dependent but my little one was two and a half when I started working from home one day a week, so I would either schedule important calls during nap time or set her up with an activity, snack, drink or favourite DVD so I wouldn’t be interrupted. It worked most of the time, although of course I once had to deal with the misfortune of my little one calling out that she needed help in the bathroom during a conference call, but most could see the funny side and light relief it provided during a serious discussion!
Yes, it can be stressful to work from home but it can be just as stressful caring for kids and going into work But from my personal perspective, working from home has far outweighed the negatives. It meant extra time with my kids, the opportunity to return to fulltime work sooner than I would have felt comfortable doing otherwise, and enabled me to continue to progress in my career. It’s how I’ve made it work for me.