Seven business tips for mothers working from home

Are you trying to run your business from home while raising a family? Here are seven tips to help you.

Working from home isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that – thanks to the pandemic – has become the norm in the past year for most of us. But one group of entrepreneurs and employees are more familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of home working, and that is mothers.

For years women have either been forced to find ways to earn money while working from home, as they cannot find work that fits around their family and childcare. Or they choose it for a more desirable work-life balance.

And as any woman (or man) who has tried to juggle their career or business with the demands of children knows, working from home isn’t as easy as it may seem to outsiders. This has become even more obvious to the millions of people who have been struggling to keep up with work and home school over the past few months!

So how can you best juggle work and your family when working at home? Here are seven tips to help you.

1) Maintain a regular work schedule

When you work in an office, especially if you have an employer, you usually work to fixed hours. This gives you the structure of a routine: you know what time you need to get up, leave the house and start work. You also have set times for lunch and when you need to leave work at the end of the day.

But when you work at home, especially if you work for yourself, it’s easy for these lines to become blurred. You can slip into the habits of working when you want, and getting up when you feel like it. It’s also tempting to mix housework with your working day, and move between tasks.

The problem with this is it’s not conducive to flow – swapping between tasks doesn’t allow you to work at your best. And a lack of routine means you don’t easily switch into work mode at set times with particular and familiar ‘anchors’. This means that your work can become sporadic and less productive.

At the other end of the scale, a lack of structure can mean you overwork. With no routine in place, it’s easy to carry on working long after you would have done were you to leave an office for the day. It’s also tempting to mix work and family by checking your emails while you’re cooking or watching TV at night. This doesn’t give you brain the break it needs, and can leave you feeling that you’re always ‘on’.

So even though you may have no manager or commute when you work at home, act as if you do. Have a set start time, and a defined place to work. Dress for working and maintain your schedule strictly. Don’t be tempted to ‘just’ do the ironing mid-morning either. Have times in your day for housework and time for work and respect both.

Also have a set time for lunch and for the end of your day, and switch off your laptop and phone alerts then. Treat yourself with respect, as if you were your employee – and don’t make yourself your slave!

2) Ask for what you need

If you’re working from home for an employer, make sure that you have all the equipment you need to do your job properly. This includes hardware like fax services that will allow you to send files and documents digitally.

Don’t be too shy to speak up, and struggle to complete your work as efficiently as if you were in an office. That will either just lead to you working longer hours and getting stressed, or your manager thinking that you can’t cope with the work from home.

3) Ask for help

By the same token, whether you work for someone else or for yourself, don’t struggle on alone in silence. If you find something hard, or you need something to succeed in your job ask for help with it.

There’s no glory in suffering in silence. And simply hoping a problem will go away is pretty much the worst way of dealing with it. So whether you need practical help with a particular task or emotional help, speak up.

If you are employed, speak to your manager. If they’re not sympathetic then contact your HR department. Support to do your job and thrive at work should be available to you. After all, it’s in your company’s interest for you to be happy and productive.

If you work for yourself then research resources available to you. If you need practical help, check out what software may solve your problem, or online training resources. If you are struggling emotionally then speak to family and friends, proactively seek out help, or join an online community of freelancers or entrepreneurs. Often sharing your struggles with people who understand will give you support and practical advice that can make a world of difference. If nothing else, you won’t feel alone!

4) Embrace online training

One benefit of the world going online is that the online training world has exploded in the past year. Today you can do learn much anything online of you wish.

So if there are skills that will help you work smarter, or take on more sophisticated work then investigate your training options. If you have an employer, see if they’ll pay for the training for you.

Or if lockdown has highlighted how much you hate what you do, or you really can’t face going back to your desk-bound job then use this opportunity to retrain. Look for online classes that will help you retrain and move into a career or job that is a better fit for you.

5) Avoid distractions

We’ve already covered the importance of ignoring distractions at home, like housework. But this can be easier said than done when you’re procrastinating and looking for an excuse to avoid a task, and the morning’s dirty dishes are staring you in the face.

To prevent this you either need to get REALLY good at ignoring mess and half-done chores, or ensure that your work space is distraction free. If the kitchen table places you in the line of sight of tempting tasks, or is a thoroughfare for teenagers looking for mid-morning snacks then don’t work there. Instead find a location that is quieter and won’t easily distract you.

6) Agree rules with your family

Talking of teenagers, it’s important to set working ground rules with your family. If you have set working hours, make these clear to everyone in your home and let them know when it’s okay to disturb you and when it isn’t. It’s all the better if you can work in a room or space you can close off to create a physical barrier, but even if you can’t you need to be clear about what you need from them. Creating respectful boundaries is essential for everyone in your home.

If you have very young children and no current childcare, then agree a fair rota with your partner (if you have one) for when each of you can work freely, and when you’re looking after your child. If you’re parenting solo, then create guilt-free work time by taking your child out for a walk and play in the morning, and do activities with them, then letting them play by themselves or watch TV in the afternoon (or even nap, if they’re young enough) while you catch up on work.

7) Share chores equally

As you’ve noticed, household chores feature quite heavily in this article! Let’s be clear here: everyone in your home contribute to creating the chores, so everyone should be responsible for getting them done. It should not be a burden than falls on your shoulders alone.

So call everyone for a family chat and let them know you’re going to create a timetable for keeping your home clean and tidy (if you don’t already have one). Start by asking them what tasks they like and what they hate, then draw up a fair timetable. Everyone can participate – even young children can help with easy tasks like finding pairs of socks when putting away clean washing.

With everyone pitching in, keeping your home clean and tidy will be much easier, you’ll feel less resentful and you’ll have more time to work in peace!