Working from home offers parents newfound flexibility that can bring numerous benefits as well as newfound challenges when trying to create boundaries in your home. For most, the perks outweigh the negative aspects of juggling remote work some of the time or all of the time. In fact, on a macro level, companies with large percentages of remote workers have more women in leadership positions than office-based companies.
According to remote.co, four times as many women are leaders at hybrid companies (those offering both remote and in-person options.) Millennial moms are finding that flexible work allows them to get back to work more quickly while still being able to breastfeed, pump, and coordinate child care from the comfort of a home office, changing the way that companies view maternity leave and female leaders.
So, how does it work when home life is at home alongside work life? Here are some tips to guide you if you are just starting out the #WFH (work from home) lifestyle, if you are a new parent, or if you are new to both remote work and parenting. Balancing home life and work is always a challenge and requires self control, sticking to a schedule, and enforcing the rules that you set for yourself.
As a parent, you already know that your time isn't always your own when you're juggling the needs of your family. That feeling will likely double (or triple) when you're balancing your responsibilities at work and at home -- especially if you're working from home.
No matter what your role or your family dynamic, it's important to audit your time before you start working from home to identify any challenges that could arise as a result of you not being in the office. For example, you should evaluate how different time zones could impact daily or weekly meetings, or if new employees working in the office will need additional in-person support to get them up-and-running in their roles.
So, if you're a parent and planning to make a transition to work from home, take some time to review your job responsibilities with your manager and your team to discuss what you can reasonably take on working from home. Some people might be able to carry out the same responsibilities working from home, but if time and location constraints or family responsibilities will limit your ability to attend evening events, address those challenges with your team so they can be addressed proactively. You can delegate tasks to your direct reports and take on other responsibilities that you can carry out from home, or you can adjust your daily schedule to accommodate the needs of both your work and your family, which brings us to our next suggestion.
Make sure you're communicating (or over-communicating) your schedule and its constraints to the people you work most closely with. Whether you're caring for family members during the workday or you have strict pickup and drop-off times to work around, it's unlikely -- and unnecessary -- that your schedule will align with a "traditional" 9-5 workday when you're a parent working from home.
For some folks, this can mean starting the workday very early to get a few dedicated hours of work in before family members wake up. For others, this can mean taking care of after-school time, dinner, and bedtime, and then getting down to work later in the evening.
It's up to you to figure out the working from home schedule that works best for you and your family -- but you're also responsible for communicating that to your team so they understand expectations for communicating and collaborating with you every day.
For example, if you plan on sending Slacks and emails after 5 p.m., make it clear to your team if you expect them to get back to you ASAP, or if they can read and reply to your messages in the morning when they're back online. If you're reserving the hours between 3 and 5 p.m. for childcare, let your team know that so they don't book you for meetings. Make sure to use your calendar and other communication tools to update your working status to prevent miscommunications when possible, and if you're ever working on time-sensitive projects, designate a contingency plan so team members can get in touch with someone else with questions or issues if you're unavailable.
Even in a small space, it's important to allocate a specific area of your home strictly for work. Whether it's a room, a desk, or your dining room table, designate a space that's quiet, isolated, and free of clutter or chaos so you can set yourself up to be productive and focused when working.
Next, communicate the importance of preserving and maintaining this space for your work to your family members so they know to respect your workspace to allow you to get the job done. If you have family members doing their homework or paying bills in your space, or if they try to use your work computer for their own purposes, it might be distracting or impact your productivity when you're working there. Make it clear to your family members that your workspace needs to be respected and reserved for you, and that when you're in that space, you shouldn't be distracted except in case of emergency.
Set up your workspace with the tools you need to be as productive as you would be in an office. Ask your employer to provide you with a second monitor, a mouse and a keyboard, a whiteboard, or other tools you've used in the office to streamline your workflow in your home office.
This doesn't just mean to hire professional childcare. If you're a busy working parent, you're likely spending most of your workday focused on work -- and the rest of your waking hours dedicated to your family. Between work, childcare, and chores, this can start to add up, and if you're working from home, you're more likely to be distracted by the dishes or laundry piling up down the hallway from your workspace.
If you have the means, consider hiring help to take something off your plate. This could include daycare or babysitting to care for your children, doggy daycare or dog walker to take care of the family pet, or help with household chores like dishes, cleaning, or laundry, or paying for services like grocery delivery or meal prep kits to take even one thing off your to-do list.
Any productivity expert will tell you about the value of figuring out your optimal hours of productivity, and building your schedule around that. And the importance of a daily schedule couldn't be truer for a parent who's working from home -- for themselves, their family, and their team.
Sticking to the same schedule every day will help you, your team, and your family get into a groove to improve productivity and minimize chaos. You can use your family responsibilities and personal time, such as making meals, coordinating drop-offs, or exercising, to delineate the beginning and end of your workday, and you can build in time during your workday to tackle one or two personal chores so you can break up your day without getting bogged down in errands.
Whatever schedule that works best for you and your family, stick to it whenever possible. This will help you better delineate working time and personal time so you're completely focused on whatever you're doing, whether that's getting work done or caring for your family.
To that end, be clear about when you're working and when you're not so you're able to fully unplug and recharge during your free time. Nobody likes to feel like they always have one more thing they could be doing, and it's easier to feel guilt or stress about your workload if you're getting your work done where you spend the majority of your time.
Time away from the home office will help you enjoy your work and enjoy your personal time without feeling burnt out. By making plans for the end of your workday -- whether that's exercising, meeting up with a friend, or picking up your kids, you can fully disengage from work, shut down your laptop, and spend time the way you want to.
It can sometimes feel isolating to work from home, and if you're unable to fully stop working to enjoy your family and friends, your personal and professional lives will begin to suffer. By following these tips, you'll be able to be productive working from home while still being there for your family.
Next, read more tips for staying productive while working from home.