I always thought working from home would be awesome. How nice it would be to work from the comfort of my home and still be there to get the kids off the bus. No commute, no office politics, just comfy clothes and a laptop.
After the birth of my last child, I left my job to become a stay at home mom. A short time and a few curve balls later, I went back into the workforce and found a job that I could do from home. This meant I could still be with my kids and earn income. My job was nearly thirty hours a week, 100% remote work, with no restrictions on the time of day I worked. Seems fabulous, right? No doubt there are many great things about working from home. Your family situation and season of life has a big impact on how fitting this type of work will be for you. If your circumstances are not conducive, you’ll feel like the grass that seemed so much greener was just fertilized with BS.
Before you bust out the athleisure wardrobe and trade in your cubicle for a desk in the corner of your bedroom, consider these five things about working from home:
- Who will be home when you are working? Unless you have a basement or other dedicated office space that is separate from your living space, this will be a very important question to factor into your decision. I have 3 children ranging in age from 10 to 1. When I first began working at home, my husband explained that “when Mommy is working, you need to pretend she’s not home, just like she was at the office”. Yeah, folks, that just does not work. I work on a laptop, but mainly in my bedroom or on the porch. In either place, I can still hear what’s going on. I can hear the crying over what’s for dinner, or arguing siblings. If someone gets hurt or mad, there is no hesitation for them to find me. Even if things are going smoothly, you will still require the ability to tune out the distraction of the family routine going on around you. Consider the practicality that you will be able to work during the time you are expected or plan to do so. Really think about what a day is like in your house, and when you would be able to have the time and space the work.
- Do not over commit yourself. As I mentioned, I have 3 kids. It’s summertime right now, so all three are home with me. During school, I have about a 6 hour window of time in between drop off and pick up/bus. I need to work 30 hours per week. If I had absolutely nothing else to do, I could work 6 hours a day, 5 days a week and have a weekend off with my family. But that obviously is not the case. I have a toddler to tend to, and a home to run. It’s always looming over me that I need to hurry up and get dinner cooked or the kids in bed, so I can get my hours in. Always. Looming. I end up working 7 days a week and it’s pretty miserable. If working from home is a new venture for you, take it slow. Start with a few hours a week and see where it fits in your schedule. If you take on too much you may find that you are overloaded and will eventually experience burnout.
- Be patient with your family. They really don’t know what it is like to work and live in the same place, unless of course, they do it too. If you plan on staggering your work in between your spouse’s schedule, this will have a significant impact on him or her. Most of the time, I am able to work right after my husband gets home from work, and late at night after everyone is in bed. I usually have to work on Saturday and Sunday just to pick up the missing hours. Guess who is tending the kids while I’m working? He works all day, then has Daddy duty during dinner and bath time. I’ve worked all day taking care of the children and house, and then I have to work in the evening. This kind of schedule leaves little time for relaxing or quality time. Before you make the leap, determine how much and when you will work, and then ask have a discussion with your spouse or other family members to determine if it will have a negative impact on the family routine.
- Delegate housework or hire domestic help if you can afford it. Depending on your workload, you may find it hard to keep up with your house. For me, this was the thing that bothered me the most. Maybe I am just terrible at being a stay at home mom, but I cannot seem to find the time or energy to get everything done. Since we depend on my income, I tend to put my work before the laundry or whatever else needs to be done. A messy home is very frustrating, and it’s hard to relax when you look around and see all these things that need to be done. I began to get angry because I felt like the assumption was since I am home all the time, I can take care of all the housework. Try to delegate some (or most) of that housework to children who are old enough to help. They will complain (mine did) but they can do far more than we give them credit for. Another option is to hire domestic help, if you are able to afford it. It will lighten your load and free up your time for getting your work done.
- Make sure you love what you do. Working from home takes discipline. There will be days you just don’t feel up to working. You need more willpower to forge through those days than an office employee. You probably wouldn’t call your boss and say “I just don’t feel like coming in today”. When you work from home, you may not be held accountable by a boss, but skipping a day usually just means deferring the work to the next day. To help keep you on track, look for jobs that you enjoy. Something you are good at doing, or that you are passionate about. If you feel that your work is helping or contributing to something, you will find it easier to remain focused and on task. On the other hand, if you are unhappy with what you are doing, it will be harder to focus and it will likely reflect in your work. You may even find that you give up all together if the work is not satisfying. When you enjoy what you are doing, you become good at it, and that usually leads to recognition from your client or boss. We all need a pat on the back from time to time, but those are harder to come by when you are not present in the office. Choose a job that you will be happy doing, with or without gratification.