There are lots of reasons you might want to start working from your home, after you’ve become a parent. The commute is eating up too much of your day; you want to move to be closer to extended family but you want to take your job with you; or you simply crave the additional flexibility that working from home can provide.
If now is the time for you to give it a go, here are some ways to make the transition go more smoothly.
How to ask your boss
Maybe you’ve got the sort of boss who is periodically like, “Hey, anyone feel like working remotely instead of coming in here all the time?” But more likely, if you want to transition from working in the office to full-time from home, you’re going to have to ask.
Prepare yourself for the conversation by considering and addressing any impediments you may have to successfully working from home. If all you need is a computer and an internet connection, it’ll be easier to make the case than if your job requires a lot of equipment. (If you do need additional equipment, who will provide it?) Also consider whether there are regular meetings you normally attend in the office and if you can adequately “attend” those by phone or video chat.
It’ll be easier to make your case if working remotely is already a part of your company’s culture. There may be other full-time remote employees or you may already work from home on a case-by-case basis as needed. If, on the other hand, your boss is hesitant to fully commit, consider offering to try a short trial run to prove you can be as productive at home as you are in the office.
It also doesn’t hurt to arm yourself with the knowledge that remote workers are actually more productive and work more days out of the month, on average, than office workers.
Set up a dedicated work space
If your boss said “yes,” now you have to actually transition. And that doesn’t mean simply opening up your laptop at the kitchen table tomorrow morning. I have worked from home, in some capacity, for the past six years—first as a freelance writer and now as a full-time writer and editor. I have worked from the dining room table and from my couch, but the game-changer for me was when I transitioned a rarely used guest bedroom into an office (with a sofa sleeper, so I can still accommodate the occasional guest).
You may not have the option of taking over a full room, but make it a priority to create some kind of dedicated workspace that’s just for you and is free of plastic toys and baby gear. This is where your computer will live, your weekly planner can stay open with important reminders and Post-it Notes can dominate the surfaces.
I have found that when I sit down to work in my dedicated space, it helps my brain shift from “at home/parenting” mode to “at work” mode. When I sit at my dining room table, I’m tempted to put away my son’s artwork from the day before or wipe down those kitchen counters that I can suddenly see are dirty. But when I sit down in my work space, I’m only focused on work.
Having the separate work space has also helped me to not get as stir crazy in my home. I like my home, but I’m in it a lot. The walls can start to close in on you after a while, so spending your working time in a different spot in the home can add a little perceived variety to your surroundings.
Protect your work time
When you work from home, it is so tempting to prep dinner a bit, empty the dishwasher after you eat lunch or get a jump on tonight’s laundry.
Every once in a while, I think to myself, “I’ll just throw a load of laundry in real quick, it’ll take only take a minute.” And then I get back to work and promptly forget about it until around 8 p.m. when I realise, “Oh crap, a bunch of wet towels have been sitting in my basement for many hours.”
But most importantly, a parent who wants to transition to remote work for the additional flexibility might make the mistake of thinking they can save on childcare. It’s fine for the occasional snow day or when your kids are home sick, but you will find those days are more of a struggle than the days you are alone, particularly if your children are young.
My son is nine years old and is able to entertain himself all day—but he still wants a snack or a meal now and then, he might need help finding a toy, and he’s likely to pop into my office periodically to discuss the plot twist in a show he’s watching or make sure I know what kind of damage a Blastoise Pokémon can do. Even if they’re old enough to not take up much of your time, they do still have a way of breaking your concentration. And when he was really little? Forget it, I only got work done during nap time or after my husband got home from work.
Line up regular in-home or out-of-home child care. With infants, it might be especially convenient to have a nanny come to your home, particularly if you’re a breastfeeding mother. In that case, though, make sure you have clear boundaries about when or under what circumstances you can be disturbed. And if possible, set your workspace up away from where the nanny and baby will be most often so that you’re not tempted to jump up every time you hear a cry.