Six strategies to help you work from home (and stay sane!)

Do you find working from home a challenge? Read six strategies to help you and your family make it work (and stay sane) from Lucy Vignola.

One of the toughest things about running your own business from home is being able to get your work done uninterrupted.

I’ve been working from home for the past year now, and what I find most challenging is not getting involved with what’s going on in the house around me.

My husband and I moved to rural France about a year ago, and we decided it was best for me to work instead of him, as my business is online and can be run from anywhere in the world. We split our week pretty much 50/50 to take care of our two girls, one of whom is in school and one is little and still at home.

I originally had my office in an outbuilding, which made it a bit easier to shut myself away, but it’s got no heating, so I’ve been in the spare room in the house over the winter. Hence the need to put in place some clear boundaries to make working from in the house work for us all.

Six strategies to help you work from home (and stay sane)

While there’s no magic formula, we’ve found some really useful strategies to help us so I can get my work done in peace, and we can all stay sane as a family. Here are six of them.

1) Block out time

I’ve created a rota (a throwback to my waitressing days!) so it’s clearly defined what my work hours are each day.

I treat these hours exactly the way I would treat going out to a job – I get ready for work, and at the allocated time I disappear off, and I don’t finish until my ‘working day’ ends.

The rota is up on the fridge, and we’ve found this has helped with knowing where we are each day – it just takes a quick look to remind ourselves who’s doing school pickup that day, or who’s day it is to cook dinner.

2) Make your boundaries clear and stick to them

Clear boundaries are not only good for your family but also good for your own self-discipline. So set your work hours and make it clear that, when the door is closed, you are to be left alone.

Learn to say no, and stick to it. Trust me, when that little hand comes knocking and you let them in ‘just this once’ to sit on your lap and colour in ‘if you just promise to be quiet so mummy can finish this bit of work’, the little crafties will know your weak spot and exploit it forever more.

Be committed to your work time and make sure they know what that means. Do you want your family to get used to being able to interrupt you? What does this say about how much you respect yourself in the role of earning? Are you owning it? If your boundaries are clear, everyone knows where they stand, and your work time gets respected.

3) Communicate

If you’re going back to work you’re going to need support – even more so if you’ll be working from home.

Whether you’re a single parent with someone helping you, or it’s you and a partner working out the roles, it’s vital you have a conversation to set out each other’s expectations.

If your partner is going to be stepping into the roles that you’ve fulfilled up until now, talking about what’s needed to keep the household going will really help to avoid conflict down the line.

Resentment can build, especially if you don’t think your other half is pulling his weight. Defining what ‘support’ means to you – be it laundry, cooking the meals, or keeping the kids occupied – can really help, because it means you’re being clear about your expectations.

There’s nothing more annoying than someone not doing something you needed them to do. But if they didn’t know it was needed in the first place then is it really their fault? Talk to eachother, set it all out, agree on a plan and work together.

4) Learn to let go

If you want a stress-free life you’re going to need to relinquish control over the way the household is run. Even more so with the parenting.

If you’re working from home, it’s really hard to not get involved with what’s going on downstairs, especially if one or other child is crying for some reason. The babies (usually) always want Mmummy, but daddy is also really capable of making things better or cutting their toast just the way they like it.

If you’ve been used to fulfilling the household roles, it’s going to be tough for you to let go and let that work get done by your partner. But unless you want to be killing yourself with exhaustion because you’re trying to do everything, you’re going to need to relinquish and just let them get on with it their way.

So what if the dinner isn’t exactly what you’d cook? So what if the laundry isn’t hung the way you like, so it dries without the creases?

The important thing is that you’re getting your work done. The household will function just fine, and your stress levels will stay low, which, in all seriousness, is what you want to be aiming for. Living in a high-anxiety environment is not fun for anyone.

My husband is way better at shopping than me – he sticks to the list. He cleans the house more carefully too; it’s immaculate once he’s finished with the hoover. The cooking is still something I find hard to let go of, but even that I’ve had to hand it over at least twice a week.

I only have 23 hours a week to do a full-time job, and if three or four of those hours are being shaved off each week because I’m coming in a bit earlier to cook dinner, that’s a huge amount of work time I’m sacrificing. Besides, his omelette and chips is way better than mine.

5) Get in the zone

When I sit down to my desk, the first thing I do is put my headphones on and plug in to Spotify. They do some brilliant ‘music for concentration’ playlists’.

It’s as simple as that – all outside noise is drowned out, and I can focus completely on the work I need to get done. If music isn’t your thing, they also do some excellent nature sounds or white noise playlists.

(Focus Blocks are another brilliant way to get into your work and be productive if you’re struggling concentrate.)

6) Be flexible

This strategy is probably the most important of all. Part of the privilege for working for yourself is that you get to do things on your terms, so next time something unavoidable happens to take you away from your work, remember the good side!

Sometimes stuff just happens, and the very fact that you’re at home means you’re going to be expected to deal with it. And sometimes that thing is going to be more important than finishing that article or making that phone call.

Adopt the ’go with the flow’ attitude. And while the boundaries are important, if there are days when it’s just not happening, don’t beat yourself up about it. This is the beauty of working from home – you really are your own boss, and the rules are yours to break if you need to.

Nothing’s ever perfect, what’s important is that you’re all happy and stress-free, and if this means taking the day off every now and again because it’s just working out that way, then give yourself permission to do just that.

Find a strategy that works for you

Working from home brings huge challenges – and huge rewards. So find a way to make it work that works for you and your family.

Today my husband and I have a strong sense of being a great team, and I think we’ve all become much closer as a family.

We’re doing things differently, and it’s been a rocky road to navigate, but I think we’re all much happier for it. I hope you manage to find your own balance too.

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