While I’m not huge fan of all the initialism that comes with blogging (DH, DS, DD, D to the double E. OK, I totally made that last one up), I happen to fall not-so-neatly under one of those categories: WAHM or Work at Home Mom.
Before the Mom part came into play, I’d operated from a home office for years. For the past 10 years I’ve worked (mostly in my PJs) from home. A PR firm that I worked for was testing out the virtual model while they hunted for office space, and we all loved it so much we stayed virtual. When I started my own agency six years ago, it just made sense to stay that way.
THE GOOD: The overhead’s low, the hours are flexible and frankly, if you’re disciplined enough, you can be a lot more productive.
THE BAD: The flip side to being really productive is becoming a total workaholic. When you have a home office, it’s extremely difficult to punch your time card at 5 p.m. and “leave it at the office.”
THE UGLY: Working in your PJs and being walking distance to a fully-stocked kitchen at any given moment doesn’t necessarily do wonders for your girlish figure.
Enter my latest challenge: sharing my “office” with children. Gone are the days when I could stroll around my house on a conference call or work from the couch while I watched the news. Now that I share my workspace with a husband, a not-so-quiet toddler and a teething baby, I have to be super creative in order to get my quiet time in and the work delivered.
TIPS: Here are a few tricks and tips that go beyond the obvious (and, frankly, painful to hear at this point) “work when they’re napping.” No matter how consistent I try to be about napping, the person who can get both of my kids to fall asleep and stay asleep at the same time wins a drink, on me. I’ll just be over here mixing us both one while you try and get my kids to nap in tandem.
DESIGNATE A HOME BASE. And own it. You’ll be spending lots of time here. Make sure that space has a proper desk. Don’t kid yourself that you’ll get just as much done on a love seat or kitchen table. If you’re like me and juggling kids and work in the same breath, you often have to work whether you can set your laptop . . . but you always need a home base where you can lock yourself in and checkout from the outside world so you can get down to business.
TECHNOLOGY IS YOUR FRIEND. My office is upstairs, my kids are typically downstairs and I’m often running back and forth between the two. These things help when you need to work from multiple places:
- If you’re a Mac (holla!): Time Capsule. And/or whatever iCloud thing is happening (it’s been on my to-do to wrap my head around that). Either way, you need a place to virtually back-up email and critical docs, where you can access them from wherever you are in the
- If you’re collaborating with people in other offices, Google Docs. We work with a lot of databases, guests lists, etc. and having a live, real-time, editable doc that multiple people can access at once has saved us many times.
- GotoMyPC.com is a great resource if you’re in another room, another city or state and need to access your office computer.
SET BOUNDARIES. It’s way, WAY, too easy to work around the clock when your office is 10 feet from your bedroom. Don’t do it. To avoid burnout, set how many hours you’re work/what project(s) you need to complete, deadlines you need to meet– whatever your parameters are– then log off and shut your office door. It’ll all still be there when you wake up.
GET OUT. Take a walk, take a lunch…just get out. Get out of the
house office, talk to to grown ups, recharge your batteries (and your creativity). In traditional offices you get lunch breaks, water cooler talk, coffee pit stops, etc. In a home office you often get four walls with a slice of stir crazy. Getting a change of scenery is important. It’s easy to pull up to a spot with Wi-Fi and work from there.
The other benefit to having a home office is just having your OWN space. When the kids get cranky, you can always insist that there’s work to be done. Hand them off, head to your office and lock yourself in with a good
glass of wine book!