10 Tips for Working From Home

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I’ve been working from home for close to six years now. As the head of the Account Management department at Mom It Forward (which is my full-time job), I also manage How To: Simplify, and dabble here and there over at Jen Tilley Photography. Working from home has been quite the experience.

Before I started working for Mom It Forward, I was all too familiar with commutes and office work. Whether I had to drive an hour to get to work or ride the metro for an hour, once I got into the office, I sipped on my coffee while answering emails, hopping on conference calls, meeting with designers, attending meetings, and chatting with co-workers. I went out to lunch with co-workers or shopped during my lunch break. When the clock struck a reasonable “end of day” hour, I would shut everything down, head home, and enjoy the rest of my night.

And then I was offered the opportunity to work from home thanks to Mom It Forward. From the type of work I was hired to do to the promise of working home, I was all about signing that dotted line. Little did I know how interesting things would get working from home.

Cons of Working From Home

When talking to people about working from home, so many people say, “Oh man. You are so lucky to work from home. That must be so nice.” Why, yes. Yes it is nice.

I also get, “It must be so nice to spend all day with your son while you work at home.” Having a toddler run around asking for my attention while trying to answer emails, schedule conference calls, attack the work to do list, and keep my eyes open on very little sleep … it can be extremely difficult at times (speaking from experience since I somehow managed it for 23 months). So, enter the cons of working from home:

  • You don’t really have a “clock in” and “clock out” time. As long as you have a computer and phone, you can work.
  • You can become quite the homebody since work is at home.
  • Your house is both for your personal space and your work space. You can never escape the office to go home because home is your office.
  • You miss out on office camaraderie.
  • You can turn into a workaholic since it’s so easy to just hop on your computer. A few minutes can easily turn into a few hours.
  • You are the only person around all day. In other words, you can get a little lonely.
  • You might have to look into daycare options for your child(ren) in order to successfully and effectively work from home.

Pros of Working From Home

There might be a few more cons to add to the list but I don’t want to get too negative. Why? Because I’m not a negative person. Plus, I love working from home. I absolutely love it. But, it has taken time for me to create a system that works for my family, for my work, and for me. I’m a workaholic at heart so it can be really hard for me to turn off work.

Before I had my son, I would easily put in 80-90 hour work weeks working from home. I would wake up early, work through the day with very little breaks, and stay up until the late hours of the night/early morning hours … I worked, and worked, and worked. I was only getting about four hours of sleep a night. Yikes.

And then our son entered the picture. I wanted to spend all of my time with him but I also knew that I had a job that needed to get done. So, I started creating systems to help me do both. For the first 23 months of his life, I balanced both being a stay-at-home mom and a work-at-home mom (full-time job + managing this blog). At times, I thought I was going to lose it. I would work early in the morning, work during his naps, work when my husband got home from work, work well into the early morning … and then wake up and perform the balancing act all over again. I was still only getting four hours of sleep a night … but this time around, I had a child in the picture. Major yikes. To say I was exhausted was the understatement of the century.

But, I loved that I was there for all of my son’s early milestones. Being a full-time stay-at-home / work-at-home mom was the best job ever.

When our son started walking, he was everywhere. A few months after he entered into the walking phase, I had a conversation with my husband about school/daycare options for him. It was becoming more and more difficult to balance taking care of him 100% while performing my full-time job at 100%. Plus, we wanted him to spend time around other kids. Although I joined a fantastic neighborhood MOMS Club, I could hardly ever join the play dates, meetings, etc. because they seemed to fall during naptime (prime work time) or other prime work times for me. So, we figured school/daycare would be a great way for him to socialize with other kids and adults, as well as learn, grow, and thrive. We could not be happier with our decision. I know it’s not for everyone but it works for us.

Our son is now attending school for half days which we so appreciate. He goes to school in the morning (I work when he’s at school), I pick him up after lunch and we spend an hour together, and then he’s down for a nap (I work when he’s napping). My husband is usually home from work by the time our son wakes up from his nap so that I can work until around 5:00 p.m. or so. We love to take family walks and play outside before dinner at 6:30 p.m. When our son goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., I spend some time with my husband before he goes to bed. At that time, I either hop on the computer for a little bit to crank out some work and prepare for the next day or sit back and relax before I head to bed.

I’m no longer working 80-90 hour work weeks. I’m also getting 8 hours of sleep. I’m creating work/life balance … and I could not be happier. But, it has taken years to get to this point.

So, enter some of the pros of working from home:

  • You can wear whatever you want … unless you have a video chat. Trust me, I’ve attended many video chats wearing yoga pants and a nice shirt with a cute necklace. Nobody will know you’re wearing comfies. It’s like a mullet of sorts. Business on the top, party on the bottom.
  • The longest commute is walking down to the kitchen to get yourself a big cup of coffee.
  • You can be at home with your family.
  • You can practice self-motivation (it takes an incredible amount of drive, discipline, and motivation to work at home).
  • You can have a bit of flexible (if your business/job allows it).
  • You can work from wherever (if you business/jow allow it).

10 Tips for Working From Home

So, what have I learned after years of working from home?

1.) Get Dressed

Yes, on many days I still rock my yoga pants. But, I shower every day. I do my hair. I put on makeup. I don’t wear pajamas all day. On the days that I drop my son off at school, I wake up, get ready for the day, get my son ready for the day, drop him off at school, and then hop on my computer to work. During my early days of working from home, I would hop on email right away and before I knew it, it was approaching the afternoon and I still wasn’t ready for the day. The hours can slip by. I don’t know about you but I always feel more productive when I’m feeling good inside and out.

2.) Setup a Work Space

I do have an office in my house that I used to sit in. But, I actually really like working at the kitchen table. I turn on my music, sip on my coffee, enjoy breakfast, and crank through hours of work in the morning. I love the natural light that comes in through our kitchen. I never have any paperwork because everything is electronic. So, it’s literally my to do list notebook, my cup of coffee, and my breakfast on the table. At the end of the day, I shut down the computer and put it away on our living room bookshelf. So, there’s no evidence of the kitchen table being my work space. If I have to take a call, then I go into my office and close the door.

3.) Create a Schedule

It’s so important to create a schedule. I can’t tell you how many times during my early days of working from home that I would hop on the computer at 7:00 a.m. and then find myself still at the computer at 1:00 a.m. I’m not joking. Since my son entered the picture, it has been much easier to create a schedule (as outlined above). Set a schedule that works for you.

4.) Give Yourself Breaks

Make sure you eat breakfast and dinner. Water your flowers, vacuum the living room, pour yourself a cup of coffee. Don’t sit at your computer for eight straight hours without any breaks.

5.) Get Fresh Air

We go on family walks every evening. When it’s family walk time, I shut down the computer for the day (unless I hop on after everyone goes to bed). During my hour time with my son between daycare pickup and his naptime, I love to play outside with him. Fresh air can help you be so much more productive.

6.) Try to Create a Work/Life Balance

I’ve been all about this lately and it has made such a huge difference (for the better) in my family life and work life. You can read more about it here.

7.) Keep the Kitchen Stocked with Healthy Snacks

It can be so easy to wander into the kitchen and grab snack after snack after snack. By having healthy snacks in your kitchen, you’ll be less tempted to indulge on other not-so-healthy items.

8.) Use the Cloud

I hate clutter. So, instead of having paperwork pile up on my desk (or kitchen table), I do everything in the cloud. Hello, Google Drive. Plus, if you travel and need to work in a different location, you don’t have to pack up all of your paperwork. Simply access your paperwork electronically.

9.) Write a To Do List

Every morning, I love writing a to do list for that day. The list helps me keep my work straight, makes me feel accomplished as I cross off the items, and helps me manage my time.

10.) Check In With Co-Workers

I love checking in with my team throughout the day to make sure everyone is all set with their work. I usually have my Gchat on just in case anyone needs to reach me. Quick chats via Gchat make all the difference. Plus, those quick chats can help to create the camaraderie.

What are your favorite tips for working from home?

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