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Working from home has been a brand new reality for a lot of parents in recent months. It’s been more of a struggle for some more than others, with some of my friends really struggling to strike a balance and avoid burnout.
Having been a work from home mum (WAHM) on and off for over a decade, I’ve got some tried-and-tested tips for you mamas struggling with working remotely with your (annoying yet lovable) little ones at home with you.
Read on to find out the main things I do to make working at home that little bit more bearable!
Top tips for working from home with children
1. Set up routines, but be flexible with your time
If you’re able to set your own hours, try adjusting your work to your everyday routine. Kids older than 3 months old are able to follow routines and are usually comforted by them, so set up a bit of a structure to keep your day so you can work around it!
Being realistic about managing your time is vital to avoid frustration. Having your kids around you is bound to lead to distraction and interruptions, and the sooner you accept that as part of the deal, the sooner you can come up with solutions to manage it.
It may take time for everyone to get used to it, but if you are clear about your expectations surrounding your routines, kids of all ages can be surprisingly accepting of it! Just communicate everything ahead of time and acknowledge that there will be some hiccups along the way as you learn to adjust to your new normal.
2. Track your time
This is important to me anyway as a freelancer, because I charge by the hour. However, I really believe that it’s good practice to time every single task regardless of your work arrangement. It’s the best way to monitor your actual work hours and make sure you’re not wasting more minutes on a task than you need to.
When you’re working from home with children, the little bit of work time you’ve got now is more precious than ever, so get efficient with it! You can start by tracking your time and setting time limits for each task using apps like Toggl are great. Alternatively, you can just jot down your start and end times for each task on your to-do list.
Another reason it’s good to track your time is because you’ll be better able to set realistic work hours. Even though you’re at home all day, this doesn’t mean you should be working all day. There needs to be a balance between work hours and leisure time, even if it’s taking place in the same location.
3. Make your boundaries clear
I’ve been really fortunate to have incredible clients who respect my work hours and don’t contact me all hours of the night. Unfortunately, I know more than a few friends with employers that micromanage every task and expect their employees to be available 24/7. It’s cruel and counterproductive for everyone involved!
Whenever possible, outline your work availability early on. I’ve found that if all parties are clear on everyone’s circumstances, it’ll be easier to work around the schedules and complexities involved.
Make sure it’s a reasonable compromise, though. Just because you work better at night when the kids are asleep, doesn’t mean that your clients should only be able to contact you after their own work hours! Finding some overlap to your and their availability is the key here.
You need to be firm, straightforward, and protective of your time. You cannot be expected to be available for work at all hours of the day just because you’re working at home, just like you wouldn’t be expected to live in your office full-time!
3. Don’t work from bed (except for meetings!)
Working from bed can be tempting, particularly in the middle of the night or when you have just woken up. I’ve 100% been guilty of this myself. Unfortunately, like most people, I am not really productive when I work from bed.
Instead, set up a workstation that is conducive to your work productivity while also allowing your kids to have access to you. If you’re lucky enough to have someone there to watch the kids, then by all means, lock yourself away in your home office for work hours!
I use a laptop for work, so I generally move between the dining table (where my older kids do their remote schooling) and my study desk (which is situated in my youngest child’s playroom). I’ve found that as long as I’ve got my standard setup – that’s my laptop, phone, my Saint Belford Curation Planner, and Fressko flask full of fruit infused water – I can be productive.
Except if I’m in bed, apparently.
However, I do make an exception for meetings, as my bedroom is the only quiet area in my house when the kids are home. C’est la vie.
4. Write everything down
Whether or not you have a planner (as mentioned before, my fabulous one is by Saint Belford), you need to start writing down your to-do lists for the day. I list down work stuff, home stuff, and self-care stuff in my planner every day.
Everything is written down so I know exactly what I need to accomplish any given day. I tend to work regular office hours – 9am-5pm – but I’m not exactly sitting down and working the entire time! So having a list to go back to when I feel like I need a break, is a good way of finding a bit of balance as a work from home mum.
Sometimes that means I’ll take 5 minutes to pop the wet laundry in the dryer, or 10 minutes for a quick yoga workout. Being able to do this stuff is one of the best parts about working from home! No more scrambling to get everything done in the space of two hours between work and bedtime.
5. Put yourself first
Not work, not the kids.
I’m about to flood you with cliches here, but I beg you to please remember the oxygen mask rule. You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attending to those under your care – in this case, your family and your work.
Working from home with kids away at school or daycare is hard enough, but when the kids are home full-time? Man, you are burning the candle at both ends. And parental burnout is real!
So take moments in the day just for yourself. Whether it’s enjoying a warm cup of coffee, repeating a positive affirmation while practicing deep breathing, or any kind of self-care activity, do what makes you happy and keeps you focused on YOU!
6. Don’t forget to stay nourished
When you’re working in the office, lunch and tea breaks are often scheduled for you as part of your day. The thing is, when you’re home, the hours tend to blur together. Before you know it, you’ve completely forgotten about lunch, and you’re too hangry to make healthy decisions about your food!
Mums aren’t the only ones who struggle with this. I know my older kids could easily forget about lunchtime if I don’t remind them. So I’ve set an alarm for lunch, and I also make sure we have healthy snacks on standby for between meals. It’s usually just fruits or muesli bars, but the key thing is having them on-hand so you’re not wasting time on preparing food.
Hydration is super important too. I love a good chug of water, but sometimes it’s fun to add some subtle flavour to it too. Either way, having my Fressko water flask around is a great reminder for me so I can take frequent sips and stay hydrated all day.
It can be fun to be a working at home mum!
I’ve been a WAHM at many points over the years, and each stint brought with it some unique challenges. But one thing remains constant – how blessed I feel to have a chance to be home with my children while still earning my keep and investing time into my career and personal achievements.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the COVID-19 era, it’s that companies now have no excuse to not develop work from home opportunities for employees who need them. We obviously have the infrastructure for this type of work arrangement, and it’s been proven to work across so many industries!
This is such an exciting development. It will make employment so much more accessible to mums and other groups of people that have been shut out of traditional employment for so long. Working from home has worked really well for me, and I suspect more mothers are going to realise that it will work great for them too!
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