Working from home is often seen as the ideal solution for parents who want to return to the paid workforce without putting their child in full time care. Working from home does afford parents more time with their children and more time in the home, it does however come with its own set of challenges.
Parents who maintain paid work in the home, whether it is running a business, freelancing or working for a company from home, will tell you that organisation and flexibility are the keys to success.
Set your boundaries
There are also some tangible changes you can make to your physical environment which will help you achieve professional success in a home based office setting. Once you have made the decision to work from home, you might need to consider setting some boundaries around your workspace and make sure the lines between work and home are not blurred.
- Create an office or work area separate to the busiest living areas of your home. Explain to your children that this area is a no-go-zone during work hours and make sure your children understand when you are working.
- Investing in some headphones and some music so you're not distracted by the noise and chaos happening outside your office door.
- Operating two phones; one for business and one for personal calls so you aren't distracted during working hours. The same is true when you're NOT working. It's better to have a work phone that you can put away for out of office time.
People who work from home are not required to use childcare, however, many successful working parents find that strategic use of childcare whether it be centre based, with a babysitter or a grandparent significantly increases productivity.
By sourcing care for your child for just a few hours every week you're guaranteeing yourself some solid uninterrupted work time. Consider employing a babysitter on a regular basis to mind the kids while you lock yourself away in your office for a few hours.
This works really well if you have a young baby which requires breast feeding and/or you don't mind the noise of your older children around the house while you work. Use our babysitter search to find a babysitter in your area.
Occasional care works well for people who prefer to send the children out for a few hours and work in a quiet house.
Occasional care centres provide care for under school age children for short periods of time. They allow working parents to leave their kids in an early childhood learning environment where they can also socialise and interact with other children for a few hours at a time.
Councils and community organisations often run occasional care centres and our childcare centre search will help you locate centres offering this service in your neighbourhood.
Supportive family members, friends and/or a partner who works flexible hours could also help you with some casual child care on regular basis.
When you're happy with your work environment and have implemented a few systems to make your ideal work/life balance achievable, there are a few things to remember:
Your working day will need to be as flexible as possible to accommodate your child's changing needs. Set yourself some parameters but make them elastic so you don't get stressed and frustrated when everything changes at the last minute.
To ensure your working hours are as useful as possible try and maintain a prioritised task list which you can use to monitor your work in progress. It is all too easy to turn on the computer to do some work and get side tracked by emails or the Internet. By maintaining a to-do list which is ready and waiting, you are less likely to lose time thinking about what you need to do and other distractions!
Work when you can but make time to relax
While it may seem tempting to rush to the computer every time you get a spare ten minutes this is not always the best way of working. Try and set aside some time each day to sit down with a cup of tea and relax, it will make your next ten minute work session far more productive.
Set achievable goals for yourself
Don't over commit and reward yourself when you achieve success! Remember that working from home effectively means you are doing two jobs at the same time. Make sure your workload is at a sustainable level and set realistic deadlines. Dividing large tasks into smaller more manageable projects may help you stay on top of things and give you a sense of progress on a day-to-day level.
Whenever you have a bad day or feel like you just didn't get anything done take a step back have a cuddle with your little one and remember why you chose to work from home in the first place!
An Important note on The Right to Request Flexible Work Arrangements
Recent changes to the law mean that all employees within the national workplace relations system now have the right to request flexible work options, such as the right to work from home, from their employer.
To be eligible you must have worked for your employer on a full or part time basis for 12 months or longer and long term casuals may also be eligible to apply. Parents of school age children or younger are eligible to apply and all employers must seriously consider a request for flexible work arrangements.
Employers can refuse the request on reasonable business grounds such as it would be too costly for them or there is no capacity to change the arrangements of other employees to meet the request, and the outcome of the request must be responded to in writing within 21 days of the request first being made.
An increasing number of organisations are becoming aware of the benefits of implementing measures which enable employees to balance their work and family commitments. Documented benefits include improved staff retention, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and improved employee satisfaction and loyalty and for organisations these variables mean an improvement at the bottom line in terms of increased profits and decreased costs.
For these reasons it is worth talking to your employer about working from home, chances are there are many other people within your organisation who have been considering it and as the old saying goes it doesn't hurt to ask!