You’re a new mom, and that stellar job you worked at before and during your pregnancy has offered you the chance to work from home as a telecommuting employee. Or, maybe you’re considering applying to that remote position you saw posted on a job board recently because it will give you a chance to stay at home with your little one(s). Maybe you’ve been telecommuting all along and now you’re expecting. Whatever the circumstance, it’s important to consider the lifestyle changes that are necessary (but not impossible) in order to successfully blend your work and home environments.
• For starters, make sure that you can dedicate a space within your home that is just for work. A place to keep your computer, papers, books, notes, and other tools is crucial to your productivity. You don’t need to have a four-bedroom house to achieve this; a dedicated space with a desk, power, and adequate lighting will do. However, if you can’t isolate your workspace, at least be able to isolate your little one during times when you need to complete work uninterrupted. An office space with a door is ideal, but have a set space for your little one to play that is far enough away to create separation, but easily accessible in case something on the baby monitor triggers you.
• Since we’re on the subject, you’ll need to be able to separate yourself from your little one for short periods. Our children demand our attention, and they love doing what we’re doing, but it’s nice for children to be able to entertain themselves with blocks, small toys, and a movie as well. In addition, nap times will become your most productive windows, but if your little one isn’t sleeping, you’ll be managing their needs uninterrupted for the entire day, while also juggling your work responsibilities. Be sure to institute regimens that get your child used to being independent from you for some time. It may be hard at first, but babycenter.com offers some tips for getting over these developmental hurdles.
• Have a set time that you’re “open for business,” and honor these hours. If you set your work hours as being from 8am to 4:30pm, treat these hours as you would if you were working at a regular office. You can and should take breaks, but resist the urge to take a three-hour stroll and visit to the park with your child during these hours. If friends or family want to come visit, let them know that you’re on the clock for work, and therefore the visit must be limited. If you slack off during normal business hours, be prepared to make those up late at night or in the early morning. By the same token, if you work diligently during your set office hours, when ending time comes up, stop working. It’s very easy to over work when we work from home, because accessing our work is so convenient. This will only drive you nuts, as you’ll never feel that you have any free time. You’ll spoil your home environment this way – remember, the place where you work is also the same place where you wake up, relax, and entertain.
• Maximize your productivity by keeping daily AND weekly to-do lists. So many days I wake up and have tons of ideas for things I’d like to get done, and then my daughter wakes up and grabs my attention away from my game plan. The next thing I know, it’s 10pm and I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to. Daily to-do lists keep you on track daily, and weekly to-do lists let you know what’s coming down the pipe. Many times, we have to shuffle things around. The weekly to-do gives us a glimpse of what flexibility we have for shuffling. If you really want to up your planning/organization game, order yourself a personalized planner (I can’t live without mine).
• Lastly, make sure you have a backup connectivity plan in case your primary means fall through. Your cable company’s high speed Internet is great, but even they experience outages from time to time. If you live in an area where inclement weather is common, you know all too well that losing power, Internet connectivity, and cable service can happen. It’s a good idea to have the ability to create a hot spot on your cell phone, or have a nearby friend or relative with a kid-friendly home whose amenities you can temporarily take advantage of.
Work-at-home-momming is a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. As with everything else in parenting, it requires a lifestyle change. However, the flexibility that comes from working from home yields great personal and familial benefits.