How to Balance Working from Home and Family
More people are looking to work from home than ever before. Why? Because many companies are looking for employees that do. Working from home is becoming a more likely option. But by moving your work to home, you now have entered the land of the family. How can you balance the two?
Increase Number Working from Home
According to the U.S. Census records, there are over 13,000,000 people in the U.S. working from home. That is over 4 million more people than was reported a decade ago. The number is growing by close to half a million every year.
You're probably thinking that most of those are Avon reps. Well, those are self-employed which made up close to half that number. But they don't have to be Avon reps. Many of them are those starting their own online businesses or consulting firms out of their home. There are thousands of home-based jobs that people are migrating toward. Surprisingly, the next biggest sector were government employees working from home. That came from all aspects: local to federal. Next came those from the corporate world.
Working from home is not so unusual anymore. A large number of businesses are utilizing this resource as it saves money. From the census stats, it seems that the governments are getting in on this new wave of employment.
The Pros of Working from Home
Working from home can be great. I could go on singing the praises. If you are considering it, here are the pros you can look forward to. Keep in mind that some of these might not apply to every work at home situation.
- Sleep In - You don't have to get up at four in the morning to beat the rush hour traffic. You can sleep in until seven if you'd like. That is three whole extra hours. Wow! You can sleep later if your work arrangement will let you.
- Make Your Own Hours - When you work for home, you can make your own hours. That might not quite be the case if you are working for a company that wants you online at certain times. If you are self-employed, you can work any hours your particular business allows. One woman works all night and sleeps during the day because she is more productive during that time and her clients enjoy getting what they pay for when they walk into the office in the morning.
- Be Flexible - You can be so flexible when you work from home. Need to run the store? Then go. You don't have to ask your boss or wait until after work when every one else is. You can schedule doctor appointments and not worry about asking off. You can take as many breaks as you want. Move away from the computer to do laundry, dishes, or watch some TV.
- No Work Clothes - How much money do you spend on clothes for work? There are the appropriate shoes, socks, pants, skirt, and top not including any jackets or ties you need. When you work from home, you don't have to have work clothes. You can work in your pajamas. You might have to have some casual business if you actually have an office in your home where people can come or if you have to have video conferences. You don't want your clients to see you in your pink, fuzzy housecoat.
- More Time with Family - When you work from home, you can have more time with the family. You can take off for events at the school or go on field trips at a moment's notice. You can be there to see the kids off to school and when they come home. It's easier to pick them up when they are sick and spend time with them on days they don't have school.
- Your Environment - You can create your work environment. Do you love scented candles? You can have them around you when you work. You couldn't do that at the office. You can have a fish tank, the TV on the background, or anything else that helps to make you more productive while being enjoyable. You won't have near the interruptions as you do in the workplace.
- Saves Money - You save money when you work from home. There is the gas that you spent going to and from work. There is the expense in clothes and lunches.
- Business Expenses - When you work from home, you get a number of business expenses you can use on your taxes. The cost of computers, phones, and supplies can offset all your revenue as does a % of your home expenses if you have an actual office in your home.
- Work from Anywhere - When you work from home, you can really work from anywhere. I've worked from the hospital, in hotels, and at basketball tournaments. You don't have to be tied to a desk or to a location. Your workspace can be on the patio, the kitchen table, a whole different city, or at a local coffee shop. Your workplace is wherever your computer is.
But like so many things in life, working from home is not a bed of roses without the thorns.
The Cons of Working from Home
Just as there are pros for working from home, there are cons. Here are a few:
- Sleeping In - Yes, I know I listed this as a pro, which it is. It can also be a big con. Many people need a schedule whether they like it or not. Their bodies are more productive when they do. Sleeping in every day could instill a sense of laziness in you which is not good for your body or your success in work. Get a good sleep and don't over do it.
- Making Your Own Hours - It's great you can set your own hours, but it can be dangerous if you aren't careful. When you have set hours to work, you know you can get a job done. When you just go with the flow when it comes to the hours you work, you tend to miss deadlines and not get the job done. More work at home failures are do to this.
- Being Flexible - This might not be so good after all. If you are ADD, flexibility could be your downfall. Set up a schedule for your work at home life.
- No Work Clothes - I don't know about you, but if I get out of my pajamas, I feel better and am more productive. I don't have to wear a business suit, but I need to feel like a worker, a comfortable in my jeans and tennis shoes worker.
- More Time with Family - Good yet dangerous. The family will see you at home and expect you to focus on them all the time. The relationship between family and work can explode.
- Your Environment - If the kids are home, you hear them screaming with the television on. You'll get distracted by the dirty dishes or the floor that needs vacuuming. Now the environment is working against you.
- Business Expenses - You save money, yet you find more money to spend on. You have to have high speed internet, a cell phone, supplies that work normally provided, computers, and a shredder. I've just touched the tip of the ice burg. Each work at home industry has its own share of expenses.
- Everyone who Knows You - Expect people to expect a lot from you if you work from home. You'll have the same problem that stay-at-home mother's have. Everyone things you have all this time on your hand because you work from home. They'll show up, call you, and just bug the tar out of you because you don't do much in their eyes.
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The Impact on the Family
The family has to adjust to you being at home. If you are single, this part is only partially mute. There are the family members who don't live with you that will expect you to run to the store for them, come by to help with repairs, or babysit their kids. Those that live in your house will do the same thing. You are there. Therefore, you can give them attention.
Your family has to know when you are unavailable. It will be a learning curve for you and for them. Expect tension. Expect stress. But it will be worth it in the end.
Set boundaries. Don't give in to pressure. This is your work time.
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Tips for Balancing
Working from home has many pros and cons. Included in these pros and cons is the family. Working from home has a whole new dynamic, and it cannot be approached like working at an office. You have to learn how to mesh the two together where they can work in harmony. Here are some tips that have helped me and others.
Every day, your priorities change. They might even change hour by hour. I know mine do. As emails come in or other work gets done, my priorities change. It could also happen because a kid called from school saying he are sick. Now my whole schedule is thrown off. After working from home for several years, I’ve found that I have to make sure before I even start the day, knowing what is most important.
What has to be done or the world will fall apart? That would be getting the kids off to school and meeting any deadlines that are due that day. Okay, so the world won’t fall apart, but my world could become extremely messed up if I don’t do these.
One of the best ways to prioritize is to make lists.
I am a listaholic. I make lists and then I make lists of lists. The list I start off with each day will be revised probably a dozen times. I use many different formats depending on what will work best for me at that moment.
Topical List – This is a list I make to separate the different areas of my life. I have one column marked school since I’m taking classes online. I have another column marked with the name of my business. Another one has writing at the top while another has family. Under each of these, I list what needs to be done. For school, it could be read chapter 5-7 and answer class question. Under my business column, I might put network for 30 minutes and respond to emails. My writing column would include 500 words for book 1 and 3 blog posts. Family column would have pick up paperwork for summer camp and call for physical checkups. See how everything is sorted into their perfect categories? From within them I choose which task is most important and tackle it.
There are times that this list is just a springboard to creating a priority list.
Priority List – The priority list is segmented into three columns. The first column is the ‘do or die’ column. If I don’t get these items done, I’m in big trouble. So I list them out but never put down more than five under any of the columns. The second column is the “I need to do these but there are more important things to get done.” The last column is the tasks that I would really love to get done but they can wait. This helps me to narrow down what I really need to focus on right this very minute.
Segment Your Day
Now, block time in your day for certain things. You have to market your book. Pick a time that is best suited for that and only market during those segments. It might work better for you to market from 8-10 each morning or 6-9 at night. It varies based on you and your life. Set a time to write, read, or do housework. That is really important. I have an issue with getting the laundry done. I’ll be working and totally forget. I have to set a time with an alarm to get my attention to run and get the laundry done so my daughter has a uniform to wear for her basketball game.
The same can be said about dinner. I have to get dinner started before they get home. I have to set an alarm on my phone to remind me. No matter what I’m doing, I have to get that roast in the oven. It also helps me pull away from my computer for a much needed break for my eyes, hands, and back.
Keep a Calendar
It is very important that you keep a calendar of events from work and from home. I would be lost without mine. I have even created my own version that meets my personal needs. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I put it on the calendar so I know to work around it. If the kids have a basketball game, I know to get everything done because there will be no working in the evening.
Use Every Opportunity
Take every opportunity you have to work. I’m not saying make this a priority, but don’t let a moment slide by to get a little bit in so you can spend time with the family. When we have a ball game, I put my work on my Kindle to take with me. Before the game, I catch up on my reading. When the game starts, I put my Kindle up until halftime. I read some more. When the game is over, I have to wait fifteen minutes before my child leaves the locker room. I take that time and read some more. Waiting in the doctor’s office, I have my work so I can get it done. By doing this, I can easily step away when the family needs me and focus on them.
You need to have a work space that is separate from the home though in the home. Trust me, I know that this is not always possible. Many people can convert a spare bedroom into an office. Many of us can’t. I took a corner of my bedroom and made it an office. When the family is home all day and I need just an hour or two, I head to the library or to a local coffee shop. Working from home means you are flexible and can work almost anywhere.
If possible, carve a place that is yours and yours alone for your work.
The Right Tools
You need to have the right tools so you can mix the two segments of your life. Have a laptop instead of a desktop computer. With a laptop you can work while you wait on your kids at dance or soccer practice. Use your smartphone if you have one. You can check emails or read documents. I use my Kindle and tablet so when I have a chance, I can work while not losing out on time with the family. Use the technology that is available. I use Hootsuite to post messages on Facebook and Twitter even when I’m not home. So in a sense, I’m working when I’m not working. There is so much in the way of apps and software that can help you get the job done and not sacrifice home life.
Remember when you start working from home, the two parts of your life are in a dance together. You have to create a situation here in which both sides can move over for the other to move in and vice versa. They have to move in harmony. This won’t happen immediately. It takes time. Each dance partner will fight for control. There will be blowups and breakups until you find the right rhythm.
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