When I worked in an office, I remember feeling insanely jealous of people who told me they were working from home. Idyllic pictures of snuggling in bed with a laptop, popping out to cafes, that sort of thing. I longed for the flexibility of going to appointments without having to take half a day of annual leave. I daydreamed about ridding myself of the long commute and spending more time doing the things I loved.
Towards the end of my first pregnancy, my boss offered me to start working from home a few days a week. The dream was a reality. I rolled out of bed 20 minutes before I needed to start work. I went to the open air swimming pool during my lunch break, and was home as soon as I closed my laptop.
Fast forward eight months and I was made redundant from my job as a marketing manager. I had been planning to try and go back part time, or to be working from home a few days, so I could have more time with Lottie. But it seemed that wasn’t to be.
I was lucky enough to land a part time working from home role with a friend in the industry I had worked in. She was happy for me to work hours that suited me, and as long as the work got done, she didn’t mind when it happened. Living. The. Dream.
But, like all things we lust after, the reality isn’t always as perfect as the dream. Don’t get me wrong, I’d far rather be working from home than working in an office. And I’m so grateful to be able to work around my girls and have them at home with me. But I’ve learned from the last two and a half years, how to make working from home work for me and I wanted to share my tips with you.
Get out of the house at least once a day
I’d imagine if you don’t have kids, working from home could be a pretty lonely affair. There are no tea rounds. You have to make your own. There is no office gossip. And you’d spend much of your time alone.
With children, it’s difficult to get lonely per se, but you do find yourself craving adult conversation at times. One of my favourite times of the week is the school run, and the groups I take the girls to. It can be my only actual conversation during the hours my husband is at work. I must add an apology to my mum friends here for the verbal diarrhoea they sometimes have to endure.
So make sure you get out of the house every day. Even if you are just nipping to the post office, or heading out for a walk around the block, it’s really important to get out and about.
Have a dedicated work space
I work under the stairs. It’s not the most glamorous, but I have my desk and decent chair and when I am there, I work. If I take my laptop to the sofa or dining room table, I get so easily distracted. But when I’m under the stairs, I’m in work mode.
Plan, plan, plan
Every day, I plan what I want to get done. I work while the girls nap at the moment and then finish off anything that is left over after they’ve gone to bed. I find that if I don’t have a plan, I can easily wander off onto something else, and not get what I need to do, done. Work out roughly how long each task will take and try to stick to it. Without the strategy and planning meetings you tend to have as part of a team, it’s easy to get lose focus.
Factor in breaks
Everyone needs tea, we all need lunch, and most of all, we all need breaks to keep working well. If you’re juggling parenting, a household and other responsibilities, time is short so you need to cram in as much work as you can when you can. But working solidly for hours on end makes you far less productive and is likely to lead you to be stressed and knackered.
Have a switching off time
When you work from home, you never ‘leave the office’, so it’s easy for work to take over all of your free time. Make sure you switch the PC off and have a day off at least once a week if you possibly can. It’s important to have some time with family, friends and doing what you love. All work and no play, and all that…
Find your network
Whether it’s friends in the same boat, a Facebook group, or some kind of business networking group, try to find some others in the same situation. You can chat, bounce ideas off each other, and ask for advice, as you would with colleagues.