Even if you worked from home before the pandemic, juggling career and family responsibilities entail clearing some additional hurdles. Now, you don’t have the luxury of knowing your littles are safe at school or daycare when you get down to the grind. You start to become frazzled, even downright impatient, as you scramble to balance the increased workload.
If you’re new to the work-from-home world as a mom, you are in for a bit of shock at first — but you will adapt. Whether you are a seasoned telecommuter or a newbie to the virtual work life, the following five practices will help you get the most out of each day — without losing your mind.
1. Design the Ideal Physical Location
To “work it,” you need a place to do your job. Depending on your budget, you might not have your ideal home office setup yet. However, you can get creative, even if you share a studio apartment with your littles.
You will need a work desk and a way to separate your space in a way that indicates, “When I’m here, I’m at the office.” One idea is to use a room divider screen to create a “room” that’s all yours — but where you can still keep an ear open. If you do accountancy or writing where you need quiet to concentrate, a pair of noise-canceling headphones can become a lifesaver if you share a small space.
You also want to make sure your work area is comfortable and ergonomic. If you have chronic pain, install upgrades that make the workday less taxing on your body. Variable-height desks often help those with backaches, as you can transition from sitting to standing when one position becomes uncomfortable. A blue light screen helps cut the wavelength that can cause eyestrain and headaches and even affect your sleep cycles.
2. Redesign Your Budget
If you are new to telecommuting, you might discover that you have extra money that you can use for office improvements or save for added peace of mind. Sit down with your bank spreadsheets — many divide expenses into categories — and identify cutbacks. You will save considerable money on fuel and vehicle maintenance, and that $5 a day latte habit is history.
You might save money on childcare, although you may need part-time professional help to balance your responsibilities. If you work in professional services like accounting or consulting, you may wonder if you can claim your nanny as a business expense. Since this arrangement is considered a household service per IRS, you can’t include it with your Schedule C — but you might be able to take advantage of the additional child tax credit.
Still, the savings help. Most people find that they save between $2,000 and $7,000 per year by working from home. Plus, fewer expenses are only the beginning. You now have more time, too — which you can use to start a side hustle or merely hang out with your family.
3. Make a Weekly and Daily Schedule
When you first begin telecommuting, it can feel like waking up in a foreign country where you know no one and don’t speak the language. Previously, you relied on routines like punching in and pouring your first cuppa to ease into your workday. Now, it seems the rules no longer apply. Do you still bother with your alarm clock?
If you want to be productive — yes. A weekly and daily schedule will supercharge what you can accomplish. It also provides a soothing sense of calm because you know precisely what you have to do each day. On Sunday evening, sit down and create an agenda for the coming week, including a to-do list for Monday. At the end of each day, adjust your priorities for the next one. Work with your family’s schedule — if you know you will need uninterrupted time for a presentation, pencil it in during naptime.
4. Minimize Distractions — Really!
“Mom!” It’s amazing how that word can seem like nails on a chalkboard when you’re trying to get work done. If your kids are at home with you while you telecommute, you can end up feeling like a lousy parent and a slacking employee both. However, these tips can help you minimize distractions as much as possible:
· Make a do-not-disturb sign: If your kids are too young to read, invent a signal that tells them, “mommy’s busy right now.” It could be as simple and yet creative as donning a hat that you dub your “thinking cap.”
· Schedule wisely: If you have a crucial client conference call, can you schedule it when your partner takes a break so that they can keep the kids from interrupting? Can you get your little started with a homeschool assignment before tackling one of your work tasks?
· Post a daily agenda on your fridge: This chart should show your work and break times as well as slots where your children should accomplish tasks like doing their math worksheet or cleaning up their rooms.
· Get some background music: Let’s face it, even if you’re a champ at blocking out annoying sounds, you can only hear “Baby Shark” so many times before you’re ready to do some deep-sea fishing. A pair of headphones and relaxing meditation music on YouTube can drown the din.
5. Recruit Help When You Need It
Finally, you didn’t make your precious babies solo. Unless your co-parent is out of the picture for neglect or safety reasons, work out an arrangement that helps you balance work and family. You might need to modify your prior custody or visitation agreement. If you’re happily partnered, coordinate your schedules so that you each take turns minding the littles.
Become an Efficient and Productive WFH Mom — Yes, You Can
It takes a bit of effort to juggle your WFH responsibilities with child-rearing. However, once you master the art, you’ll thrive on having more time at home with your kids.