Homeworking jobs are among the most popular for those seeking greater work life balance. For parents they can be a way to be nearer nursery/ childminders/ schools in case of emergencies.
They can also cut the stress – and cost – of commuting – the constant stomach-churning fear when the train departures board says ‘delayed’ or there’s an accident on the route home and the after-school club is closing in 10 minutes or the nursery is poised to impose a fine. In the holidays – with holiday clubs usually limited to one age group and many finishing around 3pm – homeworking can come into its own.
But it’s not for everyone. There’s the isolation and the lack of face-to-face contact and visibility. How can you know if it’s for you and make it work for you? workingmums.co.uk is a virtual company, built on homeworking. Here are our tips:
Are you the kind of person who gets their energy from constant interaction with people and loves to bounce ideas off others in those rapid fire, impromptu face-to-face exchanges you might get in an office? Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed, let alone open a spreadsheet? Only you know how you work best and can weigh up whether the pros of working from home are enough to balance the cons.
Once you’ve decided if homeworking is for you, you need to ensure you have the right set-up to work from home. It’s highly recommended to have a separate work space – if possible, a separate room or shed with a door you can close at the end of the day. Work life balance is an important thing and a door is a good physical barrier against the blurring of the line between work and life that many homeworkers experience.
If you don’t have a room, make sure you have a place where you can keep any papers, etc, away from the hands of small children or you may find your strategy notes covered in crayon or, worse, glitter.
At the very least this is likely to include a functioning phone and computer and possibly a printer/scanner/photocopier. A good internet connection is vital as is a back-up solution – a handy cafe or library with wifi or a work-from-home neighbour with a different internet provider. Also, bear in mind that there is generally little in the way of technical support for homeworkers. You will either have to rely on Youtube tutorials or do a computer course and have a back-up computer/phone [possibly your child’s. Make sure you know the password or know somebody who does].
Ensure everyone in the family is very clear that you are working from home and does not expect you to be on hand for all manner of visits, calls, etc. Learn to recognise the daily pattern of cold callers.
Create a routine to get you kick-started in the morning. This could involve going for a walk round the block so you feel you are “going to work” or simply getting dressed and starting with the most difficult calls on your list.
Take screen breaks, do some exercise and get out. It is easy to be rooted to your desk for hours on end, but exercise helps to give you an energy burst and getting out provides a much needed change of scene to motivate you for the rest of the day.
If you’re worried about lack of social interaction, ensure you have instant messenger, yammer or other social networking platforms so you don’t miss out on those so-called water cooler moments. If you are missing face to face contact you could try to organise meetings through local business networks or with homeworking neighbours or friends. You might find there are more than you think.
Get good childcare. Your employer may specify that you have it. In any event anyone who has tried working with a toddler knows that it is not the optimum conditions, particularly if those toddlers don’t have regular naps.
If you are working from home while other colleagues are in the office, ensure they don’t forget about you, particularly when it comes to promotions. Attend selected social events, meetings, etc, and keep up with people in the office as much as possible. One of the great things about homeworking is that there is very little office politics, unless you fall out with your pets. This can work in your favour when you meet up with colleagues since they don’t see you that often and you are not associated with the political skullduggery that may taint other colleagues.
If you are still undecided about whether the pros outweigh the cons for you, why not try to combine home and office working or investigate co-working spaces or nearby hubs? As Hannah Montana so rightly said, it pays to get the best of both worlds.