Working from Home: Balancing Work and Home-life
My last blog shared ways technology has helped the LTM team build and maintain a personal connection with each of us working remotely. The feedback on the blog was quite interesting as I have learned more and more people in my personal life are diving into the “work from home” lifestyle and offered their experiences.
So as a seasoned work-from-homer, I thought it would be fitting to tackle yet another, and probably the most important, aspect of working from home – how to balance work-life and home-life when the two are so very intertwined.
Here’s the unfortunate reality. It is freaking hard.
When LTM first went virtual, almost a decade ago, the transition was fun and exciting. Did I miss my co-workers? Absolutely. But I found the idea of being home and having the flexibility to adjust my work-life to fit my lifestyle to be a great perk. I had this idea that I would have the coolest home office and that I would make dinner every night so Tony and I could eat before 6 p.m. and enjoy our evenings together by the fire. But that wasn’t realistic. My work-life was just as crazy as it was when LTM had an office and I was on the struggle bus to find where my work-life ended and my home-life started.
Fast forward 10 years. Our family has grown and our business has grown. I now find myself trying to balance home-life as a family of 4 and work-life with a half-dozen clients, as well as providing support to my team members.
Call me a slow learner or maybe just stubborn, but it has taken me a long to time to “figure out” the working from home thing. Although my husband and kids may disagree with my ability to achieve balance, here are my suggested tips to ensure work-life and home-life don’t become one and the same:
Understand who are you. Are you introverted or an entertainer? Do you procrastinate or are you super dialed into your to-do list and love checking things off? You could be any one of 16 personality types with traits that can significantly impact your long-term work from home success.
I’m outgoing and love to be around people but I also love the quiet. As a result, I can go stir crazy if I don’t see people outside of my family for a few days. That is why getting to the gym is important, not just for my physical well-being but my mental well-being too. For my co-workers, some love to hit up a coffee shop to get work done or go to the library. Others who live closer together will plan a meet-up to even just work side-by-side. Either way, it is vastly critical that we all find ways to ensure our mental health because working from home can be isolating.
You don’t have to do all the things, all the time. When you start working from home you have this thought that you will get so much done. Your house will look perfect. The laundry will all be washed and folded. There won’t be any dishes in the sink. Your kids’ rooms will be clutter free. Remember that reality thing I was talking about earlier …
I am a firm believer that you try to do all the things but you won’t be doing any of them well. My work is demanding. My home-life is demanding. When I try to combine those two into a single day, nothing gets done well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have re-washed the same load of laundry (over the course of 3 days, mind you).
Establish boundaries with yourself and with your loved ones that while yes you work from home, you are still working. Home-life tasks can be done at night time or on the weekends. Would l love to be able to do those things while I work? Yes. But the majority of the time, it just won’t work out that way, and I am now OK with that.
Stick to a routine. Work is always there. It is in my office just below our master bedroom. I can see it when I am making dinner, but I am not required to be at my desk all the time. The benefit of working from home is found in the ability to create your own workday.
As I mentioned in my last post, I start my days earlier than most. This affords me the opportunity to get my day planned before emails start rolling in; to drink my coffee hot before our kids get up; to take the hour or so in the mornings and late afternoon to drop off and pick up the kids from school. When I break that routine, my day doesn’t run smoothly. I am not as productive at work and then my day overflows into family time.
Some days I want to sleep in just a little more but I also know the trade-off I am making by not sticking with my routine.
Create a devoted workspace. Admittedly, I stink at this one. My once amazing office is now overrun with My Little Ponies and LEGOS. It has made my office cluttered and a little distracting. But at the same time, I love when my kids quietly play in here first thing in the morning or at night if I am working a little later than usual. So, for today, I will simply throw their toys back in their bins and slowly work on regaining my space.
Once I do make that move to a true home office just for myself, I will fill it with all things that I love, as these are the things that keep me productive: Pictures of my family, drawings that my kids have done, my wall splashed with funny and sarcastic sayings, blankets galore and a comfy reading chair.
It is possible to find and maintain that balance between work-life and home-life. I am sure there are people who have done a far better job at it than I have and I welcome their suggestions for success. But for now, I will relish my perfectly imperfect house, my team members who are finding their own work from home balance and my family who understands that sometimes work and home are one and the same and love me either way.