The advancement of technology is providing the opportunity for many parents to work from home. From more traditional jobs that allow telecommuting to full-fledged home businesses, an increasing number of parents are finding it possible to earn money without needing to go into an office to do so.
While working from home sounds good in theory, there are some problems associated with the arrangement. Most of these issues are related to the fact that when you work from home, your work is with you all the time. Whether you telecommute twice a week or work full-time from your home, it’s important to separate work from family.
Create a defined workspace
Your first step is to define a workspace. For example, while I do occasionally sit on the couch and work on my laptop, most of what I do takes place at a desktop computer. My office space is in one portion of a room downstairs in our home. I am near a window and facing a wall, which allows me to enjoy natural light while creating a space that is quite clearly an office.
If you can’t commandeer an entire room or a nook for your home office, you can create a sense that you have a separate area by facing away from the general activity in the room. A desk or table can help, as can a screen. For a long time, I set up plants to one side of me to delineate a work area. The important thing is to mark an area that is clearly for work so that others know that you are conducting business when you are in that situation.
Designate work hours
Another way to separate work from family is to designate work hours. In a telecommuting situation, this might be a little more cut-and-dry because you might have specific work hours assigned to you. Let your family know when you expect to work and they will be less likely to distract you during these times.
Sometimes, though, it’s impractical to set specific work hours when you have young children. Before my son started school, I worked while he napped. Additionally, I sent him to daycare/preschool twice a week in order to ensure time for work. You can also hire a nanny or a sitter to come help out for a couple of hours each day to ensure that you get your work done.
A strategy that worked well when my son was between the ages of three and six was to set a timer. I’d play a game with him or spend half an hour with him, and then we’d make a big deal of setting the timer for an hour or two. It was playtime again when the timer rang. He enjoyed setting the timer, and he knew when I was available. And, since I had just spent concentrated quality time with him, he was prepared to play on his own for a while.
Know when to quit
Part of a successful work-from-home arrangement involves knowing when to quit. Yes, it’s important to make sure that your family doesn’t intrude upon your work time. However, it’s also important to make sure that your work doesn’t cut into family time. Make an effort to put the work away for certain activities.
My quitting time comes when my son is home from school. I might finish up a few things later on, but it’s important to set work aside so I can make time for my son. Another important time for me to set work aside is in the evening with my husband. Relationships can fall apart when you are always working—the laptop tends to get in the way.
It can be hard to set the work aside, but it’s necessary. Prioritize your tasks so that you handle the most important items early in the day. That way, you have more flexibility to put some work off until another day so that you have time with your family. Maintaining that work-family balance is one of the most important aspects of working from home.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.