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How to make working from home work for you

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By Cassy Small

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To the uninitiated, working from home can seem like a dream job; afternoon naps, daytime TV and the freedom to stay in your PJs.

Sounds almost too good to be true.  The reality for many is that working from home is a blurry balancing act they never get quite right.   Throw a couple of kids into the mix and you’ve got a whole new set of challenges.

Combine the rise of the mumpreneur with the fact that more businesses are accommodating staff requests to work from home, and you can see why home based positions are now one of the fastest growing sectors of employment.

Whether you’re looking for a family friendly employment alternative or just trying to squeeze a little more life into your work life balance, working from home can work if you put the right planning into place.

It’s a real job Many struggle to adapt to the lack of structure that working from home provides.  It takes discipline so start with the basics by getting ready for work each morning as if you were going into the office.  Schedule a lunch break for yourself along with regular start and finish times.  It sounds simple, but just this small shift in mindset can work wonders.

Allocate yourself a designated working area If you’re lucky to have an office that you can close the door to, perfect.  Many (including me) work from a kitchen table or similar.  Good organisation is essential in this scenario.  Ensure everything has its place and can be neatly stored away to protect you from overwhelm.

Limit Distractions In an office environment you’re being interrupted every 20 minutes with phone calls, trips to the photocopier or birthday cakes.  Now you’re faced with deafening silence and no one to stop you from flaking on the couch to watch Ellen.  Further, we spend most of our day on the computer with distraction only a mouse click away. That makes it important to have systems in place to stay focused.

www.rescuetime.com is a great place to start as it tracks your online activity in order to make you more accountable for your time.  It’ll probably come as shock to find out how many hours you actually spend on Facebook or catching up on celebrity gossip.

Once you know how you spend your day, you can plan it accordingly.  Schedule windows of time to return phone calls, check emails and even visit facebook!  By focusing on one task at a time you will actually increase your productivity.

Avoid Isolation Every workplace has an office pest who pipes up every few minutes for a mindless chinwag.  Now you’re at home you find yourself desperate for any kind of conversation – about the weather, Masterchef, anything!
Working from home can be isolating, particularly if you’re a solo operator and with only the kids or the cat for company.  There’s a variety of groups out there for work from home parents to meet and network, many you can even bring your kids too.

Ask for Help A day or two of child-care a week could be just the breathing space you need to get things done.  Outside of formal child-care, consider doing a toddler-swap with another Mum a couple of mornings a week. Ask friends, family and your partner for help if you need it.  People who work from home, particularly mothers, often feel burdened with the responsibility to also keep up the domestic duties during the day.  Have realistic expectations for what can be done.

Remember why you’re doing this Most of us have chosen to work from home to be able to spend more time with our children.  Quality time doesn’t mean Toy Story on rotation so you can do some work.  It may appear counter-productive, but sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop what you’re doing and give your children some undivided attention.  Something like a trip to the park together will give you a quality chance to reconnect as well as being a much needed break for you.

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How do you make working from home work for you?

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Cassy Small - to view all of Cassy's blog post click here

Cassy Small is a mother of two and co-owner of PR and Events agency, Big Fish Planning. After a career in the media industry, Cassy was called to Mumpreneurism following the birth of her second baby, and hasn’t looked back. Passionate about women maintaining the career ambition cultivated before babies, Cassy educates and entertains making life just a little easier for working mums.

Website: http://www.justasmallblog.blogspot.com.au

  • Tash

    Great tips Cassy. As someone who works from home I make sure I get dressed each day as if I am going to the office and I start as soon as I drop the kids at the bus stop. It can feel very isolating at times and I do look forward to the days when I go to the office and feel part of a larger team. The thing I struggle the most with is that because I work from home there is an assumption that I am available to my husband and friends any time of day. I’m actually working, and meant to be putting in at least 7 hours, but because I’m at home there is this perception that I can still drop everything and run errands or do all the afterschool activities that my husband manages to do when I’m travelling for work (he is also self-employed but as a tradesman). While there is a great convenience and flexibility to working from home, it also means I don’t “down tools” at 5pm and am always accessible, so if I’ve had to take off time in the day for the kids it means I’m back on my PC at 8pm for a few more hours to catch up. I wouldn’t swap my situation for anything though and I’m lucky to be in this position where I can be home and be here more for the family than if I was in an office all day, but sometimes I do miss the camaraderie that goes with working with others.

    • Cassy Small

      I know what you mean Tash! My husband sometimes gives me a roll of the eyes when he gets home to see the dishes are still in the sink and I don’t have his pipe and slippers ready! I agree, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it certainly isn’t quite as easy as what I thought it would be back when I was in an office environment!

    • Same here! I can totally relate to this. When you are working from home it’s not given the same ‘time respect’ as an office job, by others. People assume you’re accessible and I find like you I’m forever moving my schedule around due to interruptions. I also am guilty of doing this to myself also! It’s a change getting use to being accountable to yourself only.

  • Structure, routine, structure! I get overwhelmed with information easily so I must maintain a to do list and adhere to routine as closely as possible.

    • Cassy Small

      I love a good list too Becc!! And LOVE the feeling of striking things off it with a big highlighter!

    • Oh yes, guilty of this too.

  • Cynthia

    I really enjoy these blog posts however, I noticed where this blog began as a kind of way to think about work/life for a range of women even though its openly parentcentric, it’s just becoming more and more focused on adults with children and excluding others – I am starting to feel a little excluded.

    How about some articles focusing on or including a greater variety of women? I am sure we can creatively apply some of these to ourselves but it would be nice to be considered as an adult struggling with time as well. We have different time constraints no less important than any other womans constraints. I just hate feeling like I don’t belong to the sisterhood because I don’t have children.

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for your comment. We are trying to work out what content readers are after so your feeback is appreciated. You’re right there is a lot of content around baby/mothers – I would hate to think that this is alienating non-mothers. I’ll take this on board with the content schedule moving forward. Thanks again!

  • Sonia Goopta

    Basically working from home lessens the work productivity to certain extent for most of the people working out there literally. But I am a kind of person who looks out for every possible ways to work from home. The level of productivity goes more when ever I work from home as I do use the tool from Replicon that keeps track of hours I spent on a particular set of work and maximize the productivity literally. Based on that I strategize the next level of work approach and manage the things to go alright.

  • Audra Harrison

    Thanks for sharing this information! Online contracting is also very popular nowadays. One way of making sure that you are keeping track of your time and productivity online is through web-based time tracking tools. A lot of online contractors are using this tool to ensure efficient task handling. Check out websites like https://www.clockspot.com/ to know more about how it works.

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