For the past 12 or so years, I have worked primarily from home. Two-thirds of my career as a lawyer have been spent working out of an office littered with stray Barbie accessories and Legos and with the demands of my other job, wife and mom, on the other side of the door.
In some ways, it definitely has made things easier for me as a working mom. I skipped commuting and traffic. I loved being able to nurse my babies rather than pump. And it’s nice being able to “see” your kids during the day even if you are not the one taking care of them.
In other ways, it’s been the pits. Work days never seem to end because you’re always “in the office.” People sometimes (or a lot of the time) don’t understand that “working from home” doesn’t mean “not working.” I constantly feel pulled to take care of items on my to-do list that aren’t work related. I often wonder what my poor husband would do if a stack of dirty dishes, an overflowing laundry basket, and crying child with a dirty diaper followed him to his office.
Are you thinking about working from home? Learn from my mistakes. Here are the top five mistakes I have made working from home.
Mistake No. 1: Mixing “working from home” with “being a stay at home mom.”
If you’re working from home, you need child care. If someone is paying you, they deserve your full attention. I remember a client once who read me the riot act because he could hear one of my kids in the background. While I found it a little hard to believe he could hear anything with his yapping dogs in the background, he was right. He was paying for my time and deserved my full attention.
Mistake No. 2: Having erratic work hours.
With four kids, there’s always a reason to change my work schedule. Last week, my preschooler had an assembly at school, my fourth grader had a doctor’s appointment, and I scheduled a tour of a high school I’m considering from my seventh grader. It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly moving around your work hours so you can meet your family’s needs.
Don’t do it.
Your boss and your clients need to know when you are available and when you are not. A regular schedule makes it easier for you to focus and get your work done.
Mistake No. 3: Blurring boundaries between your work and home.
Things I never did during an average work day when I worked full-time in a real office? Moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer, catching up on the latest episode of Call the Midwife, and berating the lawn guy for mistaking the pumpkin plants in our garden for weeds. I did all of those things last week when I was supposed to be working. Don’t break up your work day with constant and unnecessary interruptions.
Mistake No. 4: Retreating into your shell
Full disclosure, I’m an introvert. I don’t always enjoy being around other people. I don’t enjoy small talk or crowds. And keeping in touch with people “just to stay in touch?” Not so much. Just because we knew each other in the sixth grade doesn’t mean I want to know you now.
It’s very easy for me to just give in to my introvert tendencies. But this can (and has) led to missed opportunities. You want to grow your business? You have to get out there. Schedule regular lunch dates. Go to networking events. And call people on the phone once in awhile instead of communicating via text or email.
Mistake No. 5: There’s no quitting time
Do you remember the opening of The Flintstones when the prehistoric bird would shriek signaling the end of the work day at the stone quarry, Fred would slide down his dinosaur screaming “Yabba dabba doo!” and race into his foot powered car?
I wish I had one of those birds in my house.
It’s so tempting to check e-mails while I’m helping my girls with their homework, to take a “quick” call while I’m sitting in the car pool line, or to finish up what I was working on after the kids are in bed (and deprive myself of any downtime).
This one has always been really hard for me. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should always be working. Absent a true emergency, pick a time when your work day ends and stick to it.
I’ve talked about my biggest work from home mistakes. What are your best tips for making working from home a success? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.
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Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.