Working from home is no walk in the park. It takes serious organization and discipline, especially if you have kids, pets, or dirty dishes!
Take Christine Perkett of Marshfield, Ma. She's been telecommuting since starting her virtual PR and social media firm nearly fifteen years ago. Yet when she had her first son in 2002, working from home became an entirely different ball game.
Although she hired a nanny, Perkett found it very difficult to concentrate when the baby cried or the nanny brought the baby into the nursery, which was right next to her office. And because work was always accessible, it was difficult to step away. "I felt like the world was going to end if I wasn't here every second," Perkett explains.
Finding the ultimate balance between work and family also proved challenging and something that Perkett admits to some extent, still is. She's had to set boundaries with her kids, but has also learned to be more flexible herself. "If they need me, I need to understand and learn that I can take the five minutes to answer their question," Perkett says.
If you work from home, or you're considering it, there are effective strategies that will make you more productive, less stressed, and more successful as both mom and working woman. Here are 10.
1. Get Help
It's nearly impossible to get anything done without childcare, even if you work a few hours a week. Be sure to hire a reliable, experienced, paid caregiver that you can count on. Based on budget and schedule needs, determine if you need a part-time nanny, daycare center or live-in au pair.
2. Carve out a Dedicated Office Space
Make sure your office is clean (no toys allowed!), has a desk, a comfortable office chair, file cabinets, organizers, and whatever else you need to make it a functional, stress-free environment. Making space in your home is crucial to your productivity and your ability to focus.
3. Set Office Hours
It can be very easy to get distracted by the kids, but if you keep a regular schedule even if your boss isn't keeping tabs is the best way to get work done. "Even though you're at home, you have to find a way to pretend that you are going to a space where kids are not there," according to Robi Ludwig, Psy.D, a contributor for Care.com
4. Prioritize Work and Home Tasks Separately
With the never ending flow of dishes and laundry, plus everything else you need to get done in your personal life, it's hard not to be distracted when you're working. "Just because you can do it right now, doesn't mean you should do it right now," according to Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com.
Instead, Rizzo suggests making two lists of things that have to get done: one for home and one for work. List the tasks in order of importance and start to tackle what has to get done immediately. If you think of personal to-do's while you're working, just add it to the list and set aside time later to get it done.
5. Email, Call, and Skype
"Get in the mindset of over communicating, all the time," according to Allison O'Kelly, the founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a 100 percent virtual national flexible staffing firm. Constant communication is essential because it shows your boss and your clients that you're on top of your game. Respond to emails promptly and send your boss regular updates on the projects you're working on. If you have to run out for a few hours, be sure to tell your team that as well.
6. Get Out of the House
Even though you work remotely, scheduling in-office or virtual meetings are important to your success. "You are still a viable member of the team, so show your face," O'Kelly says. If you're an entrepreneur or freelancer, attend networking events, seminars, or workshops. And be sure to take short breaks to walk the dog or grab a cup of coffee.
7. Set Boundaries
You might have a more a flexible schedule, but that doesn't mean your family should expect you to drop everything to attend to their needs, which is why it's really important to set boundaries with them from the get-go. Make sure your family understands that they must respect your office hours so when the office door is shut, mommy is off-limits. "Encourage them to think of your job, though it takes place at home, just like they think of their office job -- mandatory and with a set schedule and routine," O'Kelly says.
And when you are with your children, set boundaries for yourself too by putting the smartphone away, Dr. Ludwig reminds.
8. Ask for Flex-time
As long as you get your work done, ask your boss if it would be ok not to "clock in." "All employees -- not just virtual staff -- should be given tasks to accomplish by a deadline or purpose, not just eight-hour days to fill," according to O'Kelly. "This allows for a democratic way for everyone to be measured based on productivity, and location inherently becomes less of an issue." I
9. Be Flexible and Realistic
Since work is always there, sometimes it might seem that you just can't break away. And there's bound to be a looming deadline or an overwhelming project nagging at you, which is why it's important to be realistic about what you can do in any given day, according to Rizzo. "Writing down attainable goals is very important because you don't want to have a to-do list that's a mile long and then you end up feeling like a failure at the end of the day because you couldn't get it done," she says. And always pencil in more time than you think you'll need. "You want to set yourself up for success."
10. Don't Feel Guilty
"There's always going to be a little bit of guilt because when you're a parent, there's a feeling that you should always be attending to your child's needs even if you do have a job," Dr. Ludwig says. So remind yourself the reasons you're working and how it is benefitting your family. "Your child will survive if you're attending to something other than him for a couple of hours throughout the day."
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, food and women's issues and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.