People work from home to pursue better work-life balance. Yet any parent who has ever had to work remotely will agree that constant distractions from family matters are the biggest hurdle to getting anything done.
Challenging as it is and overwhelming as it can be sometimes, being a good parent and doing your job while maintaining your sanity is possible. The following strategies should certainly help.
A dedicated space is paramount to making things work. Once you find one, guard it jealously.
Whether it is a spare room (preferably with a lockable door) or even a desk in your bedroom, designate your office so that your brain will always switch to “work mode” whenever you are in there. Keeping it free of clutter, particularly your kids’ knick-knacks, also helps you focus on the tasks at hand rather than any pending household projects and also reinforces that the space is off-limits to your children.
If you have got small kids in your house, get creative with establishing boundaries. For example, you can hang a red ornament (swipe one from last year’s Christmas tree) from your door to signal if you shouldn’t be disturbed unless it is really, really important.
Flexibility aside, remote work requires a solid structure in place, and so do your kids.
Have routines for starting the day and getting off work, as well as for lunch and a couple of short breaks. Consistency is key, and can provide order to your life in and outside the office. Once you set up a steady rhythm, your kids will pick up on it and it will contribute towards creating a space for more meaningful interactions – and more productive hours.
Parenting should be a team effort, so it helps to keep your partner updated on your work schedule. If you have got a lot of deliverables to work on for the coming week, let them know so you can both manage your expectations for when you can and cannot help with matters at home.
Conversely, coordinate with them about their work schedules too, so that neither of you will scramble or bicker over who has to take your youngest to the dentist on a certain day.
Work and parenting can be unpredictable, but there are some things you can prepare for.
Kids’ bedtimes and nap times are one example. If your kids clock out around 7 or 8 PM, you can block out the following hour to get some intensive work done without interruptions. Naps are trickier, but they at least allow you to catch up on work so you can play with your child once they are up.
Furthermore, if you have got a Skype call coming up and you are also on baby duty sans babysitter, have a bottle ready beforehand. This way, you can easily distract or appease the child mid-meeting if he/she wakes up from a nap or gets cranky.
Speaking of babysitters, they can be a godsend for remote workers. Some hire them to look after their kids during their work hours so that they can get stuff done without worrying about whether the children have already had lunch or are playing outside without supervision.
Of course, do vet your babysitter and check in on how they are doing with the kids at some point throughout the day too.
You should also set ground rules early on. How much TV are the children allowed to watch? Are there any vitamins they need to take regularly and how should these be administered? Are your kids allergic to certain types of food? Discuss these with the sitter early on to avoid common misunderstandings or childcare mishaps.
This just means being present in the moment, whether you are designing a website layout for a customer, listening to your spouse talk about their day, or playing with your child. Difficult as it can be, leave work behind when you shut the door on your home office and vice versa.
Try not to bring your phone along to the dinner table too, lest the endless notifications distract you from quality time with your family.
From both work and home, that is. A half-hour to clear your head when everything gets too much can go a long way.
If you have got a sitter, go for a walk around the block or have a drink at the coffee shop. Otherwise, listen to a relaxing podcast or to your favorite playlist while your toddler takes a nap and right before you dive into yet another task.
The bottomline is to allot enough time for proper self-care.
Accept that there will be days when your home life will be interrupted. You will get less things don, and there will be instances when you could do better as a parent.
Do not beat yourself up too much when these things happen. Recognize that you are doing everything you can and revise your strategies as often as you need to.