Kat is a wife, mom of two growing boys (& 3 fur babies), and a small business owner travelling in a 34-foot travel trailer with her family.
Effectively Balancing Work and Home Maybe Easier Than You Think
Working from home has its advantages, like flexibility, no commute, and PJ days. However, it also has its disadvantages, like virtually nonexistent boundaries. Effectively (and easily) balancing work and home takes a little forethought and planning, but it can be done. Setting up a small space without distractions, developing a schedule that works with your kids (and not against them), sticking with non-work hours whenever possible and showing yourself grace is all it takes. This simple, yet powerful process is what we will cover in this article.
The first thing anyone working from home needs to do is set up a workspace that provides the space they need to be effective. For most, this should be a place away from others with a door that can be closed when needed. However, for some, this is a luxury. With that in mind, here are a few ways to set up a workspace that minimizes distractions whenever possible.
- Create a dedicated space that does not have to be "recreated" at the start of every day. This can be a corner in a spare bedroom, dining room or living room. Whenever possible, use a room that isn't typically occupied during the day and isn't your bedroom. This helps cut down on distractions and does not invade the space where you rest.
- Leave the TV off. Even if you "like background noise", having a TV on can be a major distraction. Try playing music instead if you really need "background noise".
- Use a comfortable chair. If you have ever sat in an uncomfortable chair for an extended period of time, you understand how distracting that can be. Just get a comfortable one and you can thank me later.
- Invest in a standing desk (or do what I do by using a bookshelf with a wooden box to bring my laptop to the correct level). If you have knee problems, this may not be a good option, but if you're somewhat healthy, trust me on this. Being able to stand while working can help you physically, but it also can help you focus. The small act of standing engages muscles and improves circulation, which can help with cognitive performance.
- Make your space inviting, but not cluttered. Whether you like modern design or country, make your workspace inviting to you so you actually want to spend time there. But don't go overboard on "stuff". We all know that when multiple things call for our attention, none of them usually receive it (or at least not enough to count). Experience shows that having a lot of clutter visual in a space can break focus. Why? Just like when multiple things call for our attention, multiple visual stimuli compete for our attention and when they do, we find it hard to focus on only one of them. So do yourself a favor and lose the clutter where you work.
Schedules that Work
One of the hardest parts of working at home with kids is figuring out a schedule that works. Especially when you also have to homeschool or make time for other obligations in the day. Now that many (or most) of us are trying to do just that, how can we ensure our work and our kids don't get the "short end of the stick" in the deal? Here are some ways that you can create a schedule that works for everyone, including you.
Determine when you and your kids are most focused. Hopefully, these times do not line up, but if they do, I have some tips for that as well. If you and your kids are focused at different parts of the day, use that in your favor. For example, I am most focused first thing in the morning (around 5 am to 8 am). My kids need to get their "wiggles out" when they first get up. I do not even attempt to have them read or try their hand at math before 8 am. I will just end up becoming frustrated and they will too. So I work on my big tasks between 5 am and 8 am and then we do school from 8 am to noon before I head back to my office to complete my work.
Now, I usually take breaks from "teacher mode" when they do self-guided activities like silent reading, worksheets, etc. This is how those with similar focus times can still get things done without adding stress to themselves or their kids. Utilize videos and self-guided activities to give yourself some time to focus on your work.
Smaller Chunks Work
Break up the school work for your kids (i.e. 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening). Why you may ask? Simply put, if you don't try to push a full 4 hours at a time, the kids have a chance to step away and refresh. Just like when you are working on a report or problem and cannot seem to find the issue. If you walk away for a moment, you gain clarity when you return (typically). This works wonders for my boys as well.
Work With Schedules, Not Against Them
This is my biggest tip. Always work with your schedule and your kid's schedule instead of trying to make it fit into some "normal" routine. For example, I am an early riser and as I stated earlier, I am most focused when I first wake up. If I wanted to be "normal", I would say, I shouldn't start work until 8 am or so. But that doesn't work for me. My boys are focused when most elementary schools start, so their schedule works pretty close to their normal start time, but I don't stretch it out until 2 or 3 just to be "normal".
Also, if your kids are more focused after lunch, maybe your school time is more like 1 pm to 5 pm or maybe you have a doctor's appointment or a music lesson a 1 pm so your day is more like 9 am to 11 am and then 2 pm to 4 pm. Whatever works for your family is what you do.
There have been some days where our school as been 8 am to 11 am and then 7 pm to 8 pm because of my workload or 3 pm to 6 pm and 7 pm to 8 pm because my husband gets home at 3 pm and he is handling it because I'm under a deadline with a website design project. What I am getting at is just do what fits in your schedule and forget the "normal" expectations.
Set Business and Non-Business Hours
I use to have issues with feeling like I never had time with my family because I "worked all of the time". I would get upset with clients because they would call/text me at all hours and expect me to answer. This was mainly my fault. I didn't set business and non-business hours because I didn't want to "upset them". Well, I was upset and was not giving my clients 100% because of it.
Then I set my hours and like magic, I was excited to work with my clients again, I found myself more productive and my business was growing. Sounds strange right? It makes sense though. Let me explain.
When I set my "office hours" (in this case, Monday through Friday 9 am to 2 pm), my clients stopped contacting me at 7 am (when I was "in the zone" on projects) or at 6 pm (when I was having dinner with my family). They stopped expecting emails on weekends and gave me space. This allowed me to focus on my work and family without the constant interruptions or feeling like I was "under the gun" to get back to them.
Now, let me point out, I did not only work during these hours and there are points during this timeframe that I am not working (like when I am homeschooling my sons). I just make sure that I am available to respond to texts and emails that come at some point during the day. I also schedule coaching calls or new client discovery calls around my schedule (typically from 1 pm to 2 pm).
The main thing is, you need to set boundaries with your clients to ensure you don't find yourself burnt out.
This is also big for my family. My boys know that during certain hours, I am working and they need to wait or have their dad help them. This allows me to focus and get what I need to get done completed timely. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, it works well for us.
This also helps me be more available for them because 5 pm is my hard cut off until the boys go to bed. So mommy is present for the evening. Some days I can stop earlier than others and some days I do go a little past, but my general rule is 5 pm is the end of the business day.
Setting Your Hours
Think about a few things when setting your hours.
- What are the least amount of work hours you require to be successful or fulfill your requirements? Some of us need a full 8 hours, while some of us only need 5 hours or so. Just know your requirements and be okay with them.
- What obligations do you have each day? If you are homeschooling, you probably are required to school 4 hours each day. If not, you may need to make sure you are done work by 3 pm when the kids are home (or whatever time that is).
- Do you have any help during the day with kids? Whether you have a spouse that works nights and can help out some during the day or you have a parent living with you that helps out, know who you can count on to pitch in when needed.
- What are your most productive times (yours and the kids if homeschooling)? This was covered earlier.
- When do I want to focus on family/personal time? For many, this is the evenings, but maybe for you, you and your family love lazy mornings or long breaks in the middle of the day. Whatever time that is, make sure you protect that.
Show Yourself Some Grace
Remember, you are not perfect and neither are your kids. Life is messy, imperfect, and a lot of fun. If you have an off day or need a break, give yourself some room to breathe. Here are some things you can do with your family to show yourself some grace on those "hard days".
- Go for a walk and look for birds, bugs, or anything else you can "learn about".
- Listen to an audiobook on a long car ride or just setting around the backyard.
- Have dance breaks (during school or work) to get your "wiggles out".
- Bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to practice your reading, math, and eating skills.
- If you are a crafter business, "employ" your kids and partner to help out. Make a limited addition trinket to sell (or not).
- Just breathe, laugh, and start back up tomorrow.
© 2020 Kat Simpson
Mohan Yadav from New Delhi on April 09, 2020:
Yes This is very helpful article
StephenCooksey from Phoenix on April 08, 2020:
During this COVID-19 pandemic, most people are working from home to stay safe from Coronavirus.
And, this article is the best source to know how to balance work & family while working from home.
Thanks, Kat, for sharing this article with us.
charel28 on April 04, 2020:
This is a very helpful tip and I'm a proud Work from Home Mom...
Prateek Jain from Madhya Pradesh, India on April 03, 2020:
Very informative and useful article. Nowadays people are working from home and due to which the are enjoying some benefits as well as difficulty too. You have explained this concepts very well. Also, what are the measure to be taken in order to complete your work from home irrespective of many distractions are easily explained this this article. I strongly recommend everyone to give it a read once.