I’ve made it. The top of the career ladder: a corner office with great views, desk just how I like it. Coffee on tap. I can choose my working hours, my salary and my dress code. I can cherry-pick projects and see them through from start to finish. I go for working lunches, team building weekends, and go on business trips to exotic locations. The lovely lady in HR always picks up on the first ring and I know the date of the bank manager’s birthday, and send flowers.
I also have a child’s sick, sweaty head in my lap and a dog’s head on my foot, two days’ worth of laundry in a pile on the sofa next to me and something sticky on the space bar. Corner office? Well, I do have windows on two adjacent sides! It’s the truly glamourous life of a work from home mom.
Every one’s strategy for getting the most out of work – whether you work from your living room, your study, meander down to a desk in the shed or go into an office, a classroom or a theatre – will be different, but these are the things that help me to get the most out of my working day.
How do I get the most out of working from home?
1. Get up and get dressed. Make the bed.
The only piece of advice my mother gave me when I arrived home with my new-born twins
was, “make your bed as soon as you get up.” Its a little thing that saved me then, and the
habit certainly makes a difference now. It’s a way of turning up for the future you who may
need just one tidy, welcoming space at the end of the day. Getting dressed, I think, is the
same sort of advice: turn up for your working self. I don’t have a smart ‘working’ wardrobe,
but I get out of my pyjamas and I brush my hair. This little routine has taken the place of a
car journey to work, and I need it.
2. Keep to snack and lunch times.
Keeping simple routines and setting boundaries during the day makes it easier to stick to
them: by chunking up the day, and stopping when I’m going to stop, I find there’s less time
pressure. I know I have an hour and a half in the morning first thing, and I know how many
tasks I can fit into that time. So I do them, and know I’ve got the rest of the morning, and
then the afternoon, for the rest of the things. Then when it comes time to finish work, I’m
used to stopping and changing task, so I do that. If snacks and lunch happen haphazardly
throughout the day, I find ‘work’ seems to leach into ‘home’ time.
3. Be a person for people
Collaboration is necessary in all working life, but seeing fewer people in person to discuss
work things with makes it easy to forget that the reply to your email comes from a living,
breathing human and not a robot. I often get a better result and more enjoyment out of
emailing if I remember to put in some niceties or small talk, and I try always to phone
instead if I can. I didn’t come up with this on my own, I read about it in Solo, by Rebecca
Seal, and it was a lightbulb moment.
4. Be flexible enough to work in little pockets of time.
It’s all good and well making plans but things do change, and suddenly there’s a sick child, or
an errand, or some other small fire that needs put out. And all the precious chunks of time
and goal setting and list making in the world can’t stop that. So a deep breath, a portable lap
top, and cashing in on all those emails of loveliness you sent out yesterday because now you
need to apologise for being late with stuff, while using CBBies as a time keeper.
It’s not every one’s idea of a perfect job, but on a day like today, when one of them is unwell and needs a mommy, it certainly makes life easier to be working from home. My children will grow up knowing the tick-tick of computer keys, seeing the satisfaction of working on something with focus and persistence, and have excellent ribbon and scissor skills. Hopefully, they’ll also learn that all families are different, and all jobs are, too. There is no one-size fits all. What there is, is what you make of it.