Here are some useful tips for working from home and actually being able to get things done.
WORDS SUE-ANN BAUMGÄRTEL
It is not surprising that more and more mothers in Singapore are choosing to work from home. Whether they are able to organise a home office set up with their (very understanding!) boss or choose to work freelance, work-at-home-mothers (WAHM) choose to combine being there for their children, whilst augmenting the family income at the same time. Being a WAHM is becoming increasingly popular since we are more digitally connected than ever before. Here are a few tips to help you work efficiently while keeping your home what it should be – a home.
Provide each working day with structure by creating a timetable. Just like school, divide your dedicated working hours into different sections, in order to handle different tasks efficiently. For example, plan to handle your correspondences and calls during the time when your hands are free from children. Working from home requires discipline, as there are only so many hours per day, during which you can realistically produce quality work. Make sure you also plan in proper breaks.
Much depends on your personality – some people need structure and scheduled timings in order to perform to the best of their ability, whilst others thrive better in a more spontaneous setup. The best thing about being a WAHM is that you can choose what works best for you. So, find out that is and do it!
Even though you will physically be at home, there will be times when your work demands your undivided attention. Reliable and flexible childcare should not be underestimated. A newborn might be demanding for hours on end, but knowing that they have a responsible carer on site when you have a meeting to attend via Skype allows you concentrate on your work without worrying about the next nappy change. If financial constraints don’t allow you regular babysitting, ask grandparents and neighbours for help, or organise a babysitting co-op with other WAHMs, during which one babysitter is paid to look after two or three kids for a few hours.
Let Sleeping Babies Lie…
Capitalise on nap times. If you are an early riser, why not wake up earlier in order to work in peace undisturbed? Likewise, if you are a night owl, dedicate one or two hours to work once the children are asleep.
Work is Work!
Set boundaries within the home. If possible, try to create a separate office for yourself. Keep your desk organised for yourself and teach older children to understand that this is mummy’s work area, and should be respected as such. If you are taking an important call, try hanging a fun “do not disturb” sign on the door. Investing in a set of noise-cancelling headphones with a mute button can facilitate important calls when working from home. A timer signalling the end of your working day and the start of family time teaches kids to wait and appreciate time together.
Household chores will always pile up, whether you are working from an office downtown or in your guest bedroom/office. If you don’t have domestic help, don’t let household chores creep into your working hours. Likewise, avoid planning non-work appointments during your working day.
Lastly, even though the idea of working in pyjamas and a messy bun might seem great, don’t fall into the habit of being slovenly just because no one will see you. You might not need to wear a suit and heels, but being physically clean and refreshed will add to your sense of work.
In an ideal world, WAHMs can have the best of both worlds. They have a job, financial independence and recognition of varying degrees, and time with the children. However, the reality of a working day can make a WAHM feel stretched to her limit. With children falling ill, school kids needing extra help with homework, to kids just being kids, it is not easy keeping children occupied whilst working. A toddler’s never ending energy and curiosity and will make you long for the ease of nightly feeds and diaper changes! Here are some little ideas to keep young children busy…for a while!
· Keep a play mat and a box of toys handy near your desk for babies.
· Create your toddler’s very own home office. Dedicate a small corner of your office to your toddler, with proper grown up details. An organiser filled with colour pencils, papers, blocks of Post-It stickers and a paycheck (two stories at bedtime) at the end of a hard day´s work, can make your child feel important, too.
· Keep a “boredom bowl” for older kids. Fill it with small play ideas written on pieces of paper – “build a tower of Lego as tall as you”, for example – and encourage your kids to take a lucky dip when they are bored.
· Organise a play date.
· Involve your older kids in your work. Getting them to help sort out papers will not only give you time together but also teach them the responsibility of working life.
Make your breaks work for you by doing what you really want. Take the dog out for a walk, do some yoga, or have a quick run around the neighbourhood – you can be flexible in how you organise your free time. If you love ironing, great! If you want to bake a cake for your kids to come home to, then do so.
By staying well connected, WAHMs can technically work from anywhere. Make use of free or inexpensive communications technology. Check in with your boss and team throughout the day, and organise regular lunch meetings with colleagues. A phone call can be conducted while taking the baby out for a nap in her stroller. Simple tasks can be completed while the kids are playing happily in the playground, and emails can be answered while you are waiting for your daughters to finish their piano lessons.
Being a mum and working from home requires you to balance schedules and spontaneity.
Both jobs thrive on structure and flexibility.
But being in the comfort of your own home can dull your sense of purpose.
By simplifying your daily routine, and cutting out the non-essentials,
like mindless surfing and procrastinating,
you will allow time to deal with the essentials productively.
Be realistic about what needs to be done each day, by limiting yourself to three important tasks per day, for example. Be realistic about what kind of home life you want to provide for your children, too. And most importantly, be realistic and honest about what you want for yourself as a person.