In this age of technology, telecommuting and working from almost anywhere is a real possibility with some awesome benefits. I’m a regional manager for a large insurance company, and while we have an office in my area, it’s about 90 minutes away from my house. This doesn’t lend itself to be an easy commute every day, so I usually only go into the office once or twice a week. The rest of the time I am working out of my house. And, in the process, I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way. Here are some tips to master working from home:
Have a clearly defined space with rules and boundaries. I have had various forms of office space throughout my career. It started as a chair at the dining room table and eventually morphed into its own room with a desk and everything! I am lucky now to have a door that separates my work area from the rest of the house, and my family respects that if the door is closed, mommy is busy. I can leave my computer there and not have to worry about anyone spilling chocolate milk on my spreadsheets.
One of my biggest struggles has been blending work time and home time. Many people (my husband included) think that because I am working from home, it means I can do stuff around the house such as laundry, dishes or minding the kids. I have had to correct that assumption many times. Just because I am physically home, doesn’t mean I am not working. It’s the same as if I was in an office somewhere from 8 – 5 every day. My time savings is the commute and breaks. Because I don’t have to drive somewhere, I can “leave for work” a little later which allows me to help get the kids ready for school. If I take a lunch, I can use it to do some chores, sure, but if I was at an office I would be using that time for myself and so that is what I typically dedicate my breaks to.
Define working hours. I start my day around 7:30 a.m. and end it at 4 p.m. During those hours, I’ve asked my family to pretend that I’m not there. On the flip side, I don’t work during family time. When you take work home with you, it can be tempting to jump on and check emails in the evenings or after bed time, but usually once I finish for the day, I am done. Sometimes, if I get taken away from work for an hour or two during the day for a personal thing, I will work that evening to make up for some of the tasks I didn’t get done, but it’s rare. I find that routine is best for me and everyone else.
Be professional. My husband is in the Army National Guard, and when he is not deployed, he is a stay-at-home dad. Our 6-year-old goes to school, but our 2-year-old is home with him, and let me tell you, she is loud! Luckily, my door muffles most sound, and my husband keeps her relatively quiet when he knows I am on the phone ̶ which is a lot. If I must be on a call with my kids around, I try to give them activities that I know will keep them occupied. Most importantly, I keep my phone on mute and I only take it off when I speak.
Be comfortable. I struggled with headaches for years only to find out it was a direct result of how I was positioned while working on my computer. It caused muscle spasms which led to dreadful headaches. Be kind to your body and make sure you are working ergonomically!
Moral of the story is: working from home can come with some challenges, but if you prepare and set boundaries, it can really complement the military family lifestyle. You will master it in no time!