The Delicate Balance of Working from Home
The number of businesses providing remote work opportunities has been growing every year as the job arena has changed. This added flexibility can be beneficial to those trying to juggle priorities including, work, school, and family life. In particular, military spouses often find the ability to work from home an amazing opportunity to preserve and grow their careers despite frequent and unpredictable relocations. Whether you’re a work-from-home pro or just starting out, these tips may be useful in helping you find the perfect work-life balance.
Establish Clear Boundaries with Family, Friends, and Housework
There is a misconception that because you are home, you are available to help with homework, start a load of laundry, or help a neighbor. I personally have to remind my son and husband frequently that when I’m working, I’m not really home. You should treat your work hours no differently than if you were physically in the office. Take advantage of normal breaks to check-in with your family, but be careful not to start doing laundry, washing dishes, and preparing dinner, or you’ll end up finding yourself working past midnight to meet deadlines.
Let your family know that when you are working from home you will need your time and space. You may need to put a sign on the door to indicate “office hours” or lock the door to keep people from just dropping by. They will learn to manage on their own—at least until you’re done with work.
Don’t Let Your Home Office Take Over Your Home
There will always be work to do, so don’t let that become an excuse to be married to your computer. Of course, there are occasional exceptions, but try to set work hours and parameters so that you don’t find yourself working all the time. Make sure you are being mindful of the hours you are spending working, and remember the fewer distractions you have, the more productive you will be. Being busy does not equate to productivity, so make sure that when you are working, you are focused.
This is something I really struggled with when I transitioned to working from home. I created some separation between by office space and the rest of my house. Having a door to close at the end of the day, to keep work separate from my home, was incredibly helpful to me. Try to establish a quiet, work-appropriate space somewhere in your home. If you have an office—great! If not, create a space to work so that you can walk away from your desk at the end of the workday without constantly looking back.
Don’t Allow Yourself to be Bummed by Solitary
Humans are generally social creatures and a lack of interaction and communication can be challenging to your mood and motivation. It may feel unusual to work in an isolated environment, which can be challenging if you are new to working from home. Thanks to technology, you can connect with your coworkers in a more interactive way. If you use technology effectively, it can feel just like you never left the office. For example, if your company doesn’t have an instant messaging system or video teleconference, you may suggest they incorporate this type of technology to keep remote workers “connected” to the team. If you are still missing being an office environment you may consider working at a local library or coffee shop a couple days a week or renting office space in an office share.
Be an Effective Communicator
Use effective communication to stay engaged. Since your coworkers cannot see you, they do not know what you’re doing, whether you saw their last email, or if your current project is still going as planned. A disadvantage of telecommuting is that unlike a traditional office, you don’t get a chance to bump into your coworkers during lunch and coffee breaks. The more you communicate, the more successful everyone will be. It is critical to communicate if you are falling behind on a task, but also as important to communicate your victories.
A good rule of thumb is to respond to messages within 24-48 hours. If you are working more flexible hours, remember, they are also trying to manage their time effectively, so it’s best to keep others informed as much as possible.
Remote workers are the future. If you think working from home would be a good fit for you, explore the option with your boss and use some of our tips as part of your plan of action for staying engaged and effective. I enjoy working from home and feel fortunate to work with a team that supports this concept. Good luck in your pursuit of the balanced life.
LaTeeya Bailey is a graduate student pursuing a Master's Degree in Regulatory Affairs, an active duty Air Force spouse, and mother to a 10-year-old son.