Many military spouses have decided to seek employment that will allow them to work from home. In fact more people, in general, are looking for this option. It reduces the costs of wardrobe, gas, and childcare and can offer great flexibility. It can also be a challenging proposition. I have been working from home full-time for just under a year now and can honestly say that some days I really wish I was the one walking out the door to the office instead of working from home. It can be hard to find a good balance when every aspect of your life seems to be under one roof. Here are a few things I have learned. I am, however, still learning how to navigate working from home… so if you have tips and tricks of your own, I welcome your comments. There is always room for improvement!
5) Enjoy the Perks
I know that some will give the advice to get up every morning and get dressed just like you are going to an office before starting your workday. I do not do that. My work attire consists of yoga pants, a tee-shirt and occasionally, if I am expecting the UPS guy, a bra. When I wake up, I grab my diet coke and get to work. That 45 minutes I would spend getting “ready” can be used working so that my work day ends earlier and I have more time with my family. I also enjoy taking a 5 minute break to go kiss on the baby in the middle of the day. Best, by far, perk of working from home.
Enjoy the perks of wearing whatever you want (sweats or a suit), blasting your favorite playlist, eating lunch while you work so you can be finished quicker… as long as you are productive, find what works for you.
4) Get Childcare
Wait, I thought you just said you save money on childcare? We do. I don’t have full-time care for my baby because I don’t work all 40 hours during a 9-5 schedule when my husband is at the office. I do work on the weekends and at night, but I also work during naptimes, etc. But I would absolutely not be able to do my job without part-time care. Especially if you are working a job that will require you to be on the phone. It is very rare that I will ever take a phone call when I am the only person in the house with the baby… even during naptime. Even the most perfect baby can be unpredictable. It is a common courtesy to those you are working with not to have a child crying in the background. If I have a last minute conference call or my Nanny calls in sick… I let my colleagues know that I will muted for that call.
3) Find Some Space
This was a challenge for me, and I do not always use it. When the baby is having quiet play time, I do sit in the living room with my laptop. But I try to spend as much time as possible in my “office”. And by “office”, I mean a corner in our bedroom. And by corner, I mean half of a corner. We live in a small house on post that does not afford the luxury of a separate office. So I made do with what I have. Find a place where you can shut the door from the major activities of your household, make your space functional, organized and pleasing to look at. And then spend time there. This also helps your family to recognize when you are actually working. Sometimes it is hard to tell when you are propped up in the recliner typing away.
2) Get Out of the House
When you work at home, it is important to get out of the house whenever possible. You may have a full gym in your basement, but it might be worth joining a gym across town just so you have to leave your house and go see other people who don’t live with you. Take a lunch break on Friday and have a meal with your friends. If you stay inside the house all of the time it can start to make you anxious and irritable. Even if it means you just take your child to the park down the block when you are finished with your work day. Get out!
This is a HARD one for me. Smart phones have made being a work-at-home-parent so much easier. You can text a question instead of having to spend 5 minutes on the phone, you can answer emails from anywhere, and I have several apps on my phone that are a lifesaver. But, it also means it can be hard to “turn-off” work when you should not be working. Every person is different. Some people unplug 100% after 5 every day. Others use technology to get work completed while waiting for 2 hours at the doctor’s office or make phone calls while driving around town doing errands. Find the balance that works for you. If completing work tasks during small pockets of time makes you more productive, then go for it. But for some, they need to separate when they are at work from everything else. At the very least, when you are spending time with family and friends try to unplug. (Like I said… this is HARD and I am guilty of not always succeeding) You deserve a break from work, and the people in your life deserve your full attention.
What are some of the things you have found helpful as you try to navigate life as a work-at-home-parent?