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Tips on Juggling Family and Working From Home

DATE: 21/09/20

AUTHOR: Fiona Kennedy

When Working From Home Gets Complicated

Many of us have had a taste of working from home in recent months. For some, it might have been the first time we’ve had the chance to do so. And for many, it may be the dream scenario: to work to your own schedule, have more flexibility and all in the comfort of your own home. These are certainly plus points. But they do come hand in hand with some challenges along the way. One of the biggest of these being the demands of juggling a family along with your work. For many people, 2020 has been the year of doing just that, parenting full-time and working full-time. No easy feat.

Making It Work For You

If starting your own business has always been a dream, these past months may have given you a better insight into what it will mean to manage both a new business baby and your own babies.  And if what you’ve learnt has encouraged you even more, there are a few ways that you can help keep everything on track.

Set up a schedule

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping a consistent routine when you’re working from home. Treating Monday to Friday as work days and planning the family needs and your work needs into this timetable is key. From scheduling breaks to pre-empting the school and activity needs of your kids, if you know loosely what to expect, you can plan work more efficiently. Yes, things will change but starting with a good idea of the day ahead is helpful. If your children take naps, maximise your work time during those periods. Or during the evenings when they’re in bed. You’ll be surprised at how productive you can be in a couple of hours!

Make use of your mornings

Mornings can be a frantic time if you’re getting kids out to school and getting yourself to work but if you’re working from home, you can put the time to better use. Take the hours you’d normally be commuting and schedule in some work focus then. Getting a jump on your to-do list early is a great way to get your day off to a good start. Procrastinating on a bigger project in the morning means you’ll have it hanging over yourself all day and when you’re juggling your time with family too that can be overwhelming.

Find a space for yourself

It’s important to find a space in your home that you set aside as your work territory.  You may be lucky enough to have a room that you can allocate as an office, but if not, any space can work. From the kitchen table to an ironing board (no really!), finding a space you use as your own working area is crucial. Your family will soon learn not to disturb you there and you can feel that you have a physical space to go to when you’re in ‘work mode’.

Share the planning with your partner

If you’re living with a spouse or partner make sure you spend some time figuring things out together. Set aside time on a Friday or a Sunday to look at the next week. You can take into account the commitments you have, the needs of the children and the family and what you can both do to help out. It may mean you have childcare at times you didn’t expect it, or cover for important Zoom meetings or in-person appointments. Having that sense of control over your schedule is a huge help. It’s not set in stone, but it’s helpful to have an eye on what to expect so that you can build your work expectations around that.

Communicate with your colleagues

Communication is key. If you have staff or colleagues, be open and honest with them about your working set up. It’s very common now to be working from home and many, many people are juggling the demands of young families with those of work. Explaining to colleagues means that if something does change last minute, they’ll be up to speed on why. It will also clear the way for them to make similar decisions in how they work if that’s something they’re interested in.

Switch off from distractions

This one is hugely important. You might think that working in an office environment is the most distracting place of all. From colleagues stopping by your desk for a chat, to constant meetings, phones ringing, and emails coming in, it’s all go. But a home environment can be even more distracting in that you are your own biggest enemy. Working from home means you’re reliant on technology for connection and communication but that can easily move from ‘essential’ to ‘procrastination’ without you even noticing. Try putting your devices on Airplane Mode if you’re working on a big project, or taking social media apps off your tool bars and handhelds. You’ll be amazed at how much more focused and productive you can be without the temptation of checking and answering every update.

Be realistic about your expectations

Don’t expect to be putting in an 8 hour work day with no interruptions. Or for that matter, to spending huge amounts of time with everyone in your family each and every day. Something has to give and you have to be realistic about what you can reasonably achieve. Set yourself small work goals that you can comfortably meet around your family demands. And if you’re reaching  those consistently, take on a little more, find more time around the family and see how things go. Don’t expect to knock it out of the park every day either. Know that there will be days you just don’t manage to get through your to-do list and be okay with that. Instead of feeling beaten, focus on what you have achieved and how proud you should be of yourself.

Make use of technology

Working from home can be slightly isolating especially if you’re used to an office environment or moving between different work spaces. It takes some getting used to and using technology is a great way to stay connected and increase your productivity at the same time. From Zoom meetings to sharing screens, ongoing Slack chats to Dropboxing files, there are many ways that you can emulate in person team work virtually. Many apps and services are hugely beneficial and cost efficient for small businesses who don’t necessarily have the budget to take on a big team but need to work in a collaborative and effective way. Take some time to figure out what you need, what will help you stay connected and inspired, and try the tech out.

Establish boundaries

One of the benefits of choosing to work from home is the ability to set your own boundaries. It’s not only a benefit but also a necessity. You have to be firm about ‘work time’ and ‘family time’ or else very quickly the two will run into each other and you can become disillusioned with both. Establish for example that after 5pm, you don’t answer work calls or emails and that time is dedicated to the family. Or you could allocate weekends as family only time. Making these separations can be hugely beneficially mentally and physically. Let your clients know when your ‘off’ times are. It might be tricky to begin with but over time they’ll get used to your schedule and you’ll be glad you did it.

Distinguish between home chores and work chores

You might think that being at home is a great way to stay on top of the home chores as well as your work ‘to do’ list but be careful here. It’s very easy to get pulled into things. On both sides. And allowing creep is always a bad idea. Whether you’re working on a deadline and you distract yourself by getting up to put a wash on or make a snack? Or perhaps you’re playing with the kids and think you should just check that email that pinged? Be strict. If you have 9am – 10am set aside for work, that is what it needs to be. Taking the bins out needs to wait. If Saturday afternoon is family games time, set your phone to one side, emails can wait until Monday. If you can get into the habit of separating ‘work’ from ‘home’ when it comes to demands on your time, you’ll be able to more productive in both.



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