Working from home can seem like a dream when you’re commuting to the office every day. No morning traffic to worry about, no rush to get out of the house without breakfast, more time spent with your family, it all sounds like an ideal situation but it comes with its own challenges. One of the hardest things when you are a freelancer or telecommute is how to establish boundaries for yourself, your employer and your family. Here are some helpful ideas to get you on the right track.
Create an Office Environment
Whether you are a freelancer or telecommuter it’s essential to have a space that allows you to differentiate your home time from your work time. If you have the luxury of an extra room, keep it clear of things that may distract you. Avoid turning it into a storage closet or playroom for the kids, anything that will remind you of chores or other responsibilities should be moved out so that you can focus on the tasks at hand.
Most people, myself included, don’t have an extra room to create an office space but that doesn’t mean you should be turning your bedroom into your workspace. The kitchen table is a perfectly fine place to work, just try to keep it clear of other distractions. Invest in a filing cabinet that you can keep all of your documents in so you don’t have to worry about them getting stained or wrinkled on the table. This is another way to establish between work time and home time. During your working hours papers are out and the table is yours, once family time starts file it away until the next morning. Small acts like this create a muscle memory that help categorize the different parts of your day. Speaking of…
Establish a Morning Routine
When you have kids, you don’t really get a choice about whether or not you get up, make breakfast and get your day started at a certain time but there are still small ways that you can neglect your own needs.
This might seem like I joke but my biggest hurdle when working from home is putting on pants. Let’s back up, actually. My biggest hurdle is changing out of pajamas. When you’re not responsible for drop-off and you don’t have a video conference planned, putting together an entirely new outfit, especially when what you’re already wearing is so comfortable, can seem like a waste of time and ultimately just adds to your mountain of laundry. But creating a morning routine (including putting on stupid pants) helps remind your brain that it’s time to switch modes, and motivates the body away from fatigue.
Creating your own commute is also a great way to transfer into work mode. If your kids are in school this might happen while you’re dropping them off or running a morning errand. But if your kids are at home, try making a specific time for a walk around the neighborhood and treat it as your own commute. The fresh air will stimulate your body and mind, plus it gives you a few extra minutes with the kids before it’s time to get to work.
Be Honest About Your Needs
This is a pretty big one, and can be difficult whether you work from home or not. Setting up clear expectations with your boss, colleagues or clients is vitally important to your professional success and your well-being. When evaluating deadlines or meetings always cross reference any parental obligations you have and consider it a proper conflict, not something you need to work around.
Keep track of the hours you spend on each assignment or project (more on that below) and create realistic timelines to help you determine how long you will likely need in the future. Keep in mind that most projects are better done correctly than quickly and as long as you are upfront, honest and reasonable about what you need taking a little more time to factor in your other obligations is a perfectly professional way to conduct yourself.
Take a Break & Get to Know Your Community
Employers are lawfully required to provide a certain amount of time away from the office during the work day and just because you have a home office doesn’t make this any different. Take your fifteen minute breaks to go for a walk, or call a friend to have a quick chat and try taking your lunch break outside of your house. Look into what is offered locally in your community during the day. Maybe you have a favorite coffee shop where people meet, a nanny share where the parents get together, you can even start a meetup with other freelancers and telecommuters. Interacting with other people, face to face, during the week is important in feeling connected and engaged.
It’s important to step away to rejuvenate so you don’t feel like you’re cooped up all day; refreshing the mind and body is essential to your productivity as well as your mood. You’re not just a parent and a professional, you’re a person too and being mindful of that takes a little extra work but you deserve it.
Know Your Apps
In terms of managing your time and boundaries, technology is your best friend. Below are a few products that will keep you on the right track, most of which are free or feature in app purchases to move to a larger package.
Managing Your Time
- Harvest App
Contract & Document Filings