Just because I work from home…

There is an interesting thing that happens when you work from home. People think you are not working, or more like they know you work but you are not really at work. There are the obvious things that I think are awesome about working from home:

  • I can do a conference call in my underpants and no one knows.
  • I do not have to pack a lunch, which is up there in my top 759 things that I hate doing.
  • There is no commute time to work, unless you count walking up the stairs from my bedroom to my home office.
  • During my breaks I can nap and naps are in my top 25 things that I love.
  • I can still work when I am sick… even ugly sick.

The flip side to this awesomeness are problems such as:

  • Sometimes I miss chunks of my work day because the house needs to be cleaned and I cannot work in messy spaces.
  • People pop in randomly or call whenever because they know I am ‘always just home’.
  • My spouse will ask me to do favours and domestic tasks ‘since I am at home’.
  • I never get away from my workplace.
  • My child thinks I ‘always work’ because she experiences me as ‘only in my office’ (which is completely impossible since I drive her to and from school, clean the house, grocery shop, do fun outings, play with her (ok, well we read together), and cook etc. I have to leave my office to do those things!

It is amazing what happens sometimes during my work day. Recently I was leading a webinar for over 100 women, which I do at least once or twice per week. My neighbour, an avid gardener, picked some amazing tomatoes and kale from his garden for me and my girls. I do everything with the doors and windows of my house wide open, assuming we are not in the middle of Toronto’s terrible minus 30 winters. My neighbour, seeing into my office from my back porch, starts talking to me at my back door. I waved and did an exaggerated tap on my head set, indicating I was teaching. Ignoring my frantic gestures, he proceeded to tell me about the state of the tomatoes after the raccoons got to them. I was floored. I really do love my neighbour AND I was at work, yet because he could see me in my house, it was chat time.

Yes, like all my rants, I have a solution that helps you get more done and creates boundaries when working from home.

Get Everyone on Board

I find that the more I communicate, the more success I have around getting my needs met. I know some things seem like common sense to you, however, for the people around you they may not seem as obvious. Just remember, people are not mind readers! Set everyone up for success by clearly communicating what you want and focus less on the things that you do not want. I would suggest talking to your friends, partner (if you have one), neighbours (if you have that kind of relationship), and anyone else in your family or community that needs to get on board. How would such a conversation go?

I am so excited about what I am building with my business right now! I have a goal of _______ and for me to reach that goal I would love your support. The best ways to support me with this would be to help me protect my work hours of 9am – 3pm. During this time I will not be taking any personal calls or visitors. I am also committed to working only on my business in that time slot and won’t be available to run errands, go for lunch, work on housework, etc. Thank you so much for being such a great cheerleader for me!

Obviously the script/speech would be modified depending on the person and what actions you are looking for. If you are not doing a household task during your work time and you are talking to a roommate or partner, I would suggest adding an alternate time that you will be able to do that task or have a discussion about contracting that task out. More to come on this!

Contracting Out

This is not necessarily where I am going to tell you to get a housecleaner, however, this would be the appropriate place to have that talk. I know that I hate mess! Like, HATE it. I cannot work when I look out of my office door and see dishes on the kitchen counter, or a mountain of shoes at the back door, or a pile of mail, school permission forms and birthday invitations that have been gathered up and dumped on my office desk. I need to work in an organized space. I also really love hitting my goals. Which one do I like more? Goals and targets! It does mean that my wife and I have to schedule cleaning times in other places in the week because I cannot compromise my value of order. Any job that you can afford to hire someone else to do, do it! If you can hire someone for $15/hr to do certain  jobs which frees you up to make a $1000, then it makes sense to do that. 

There are also really great services that will save you time. Some examples would be online banking and automated bill payments, click and deliver grocery services, dog walkers, local baby sitters, and Groupon regularly has housekeeping services on special.

Being on AND off!

This is one that is a bit harder, at least I struggle with it… When you are working, you are working and when you are with your family or having you time, you are doing that! People have so many ways of getting in touch with you these days: text, calling, email, Facebook chat, Whatsapp, etc. This means it is easy to get sucked into notification overload and your whole day gets lost as you respond to everyone in real time. Just because your phone and computer tells you someone wants or needs you, does not mean that you need to be available to them. If you are having dinner or watching a movie or creative writing or doing a craft with your little one(s) that is what you are doing. Those alerts can wait, unless it is an emergency for a client. NOTE: Do not hear the ’emergency’ loophole as me giving you permission to allow work to bleed into all of your activities. An emergency is something like your client is in labour and you are a birth worker, or your time sensitive product has not arrived by the needed time/day, or one of your staff is sick and will not make their shift.

Not sure if your alert counts as a business emergency? Here is the test: Will the outcome be different/negative if you finish your personal activity and deal with it in an hour or 3? If you answered no, then keep doin’ what you are doin’! If it is yes, then pause what you are doing, put out the fire, then get back to your original task. 

Protecting your personal AND business time is crucial. Turning off your alerts while you are taking time away from the business will allow you to take a breather from work and recharge with your family, friends and solo time. I know that I am saying, “Oh, just do x…..” and it is way harder than that. I promise you that your stress level will decrease, you will be more present and you will enjoy your time and your work time more. Added bonus – your people will like it more too! It is irritating when people are doing something with you like chatting, playing cards, or having dinner and you are on your phone. It leaves them with the experience that they are not as important as what you are doing.

Anyone that works from home will recognize that there are really amazing things, again restating my love of doing conference calls in my underpants and there are some more challenging things for work from home moms. Taking the time to set up your systems and having those important conversations to get everyone on board will smooth out most of the bumps!

What are your biggest challenges as a work-from-home parent? Please share below and let me know how you did with implementing the tips. Keep kickin’ ass, mamas!

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