For those who call their home their office, and particularly those who are raising children, establishing a healthy balance between work and life is not an option, it’s a necessity. The ability to work effectively from home requires the separation of personal and professional, work and home. When the home and office are the same physical location, separating the two can be challenging, especially when one is starting their remote career. However, learning how to establish mental and physical barriers between the office and the house are not only keys to happiness, but professional success. As most of us know, personal and professional success are often linked, so one can consider a healthy work-life balance as the act of checking off two life goals with one set of guidelines.
Prepare Yourself to Feel Guilty, and Get Over It
This goes for the parents and pet owners out there. The transition from a traditional, away-from-home office to a remote position working in the home can seem like a breeze at first.
You mean I don’t have to commute to work, deal with coworkers, or answer to a boss? What’s the catch?
For many, the ‘catch’ lies in the temptation that a home constantly offers. For parents, the temptation to spend valuable hours within the work day – especially afternoons – catching up with the kids is a daily struggle. Your motherly or fatherly instincts will often kick in as the front door opens and the kids arrive home from school or afternoon activities.
Am I being a bad mother/father by staying engaged in my work task instead of immediately springing up to give them a hug and find out how their day went?
While you shouldn’t feel guilty – you are at work, after all – it’s nearly impossible for remote workers to separate their status as mother or father from their role as a remote employee. Avoiding the guilt that can arise from being near your children while not interacting with them lies in moderation. Establish boundaries with yourself and your kids, letting them know that the fact you are at home comes secondary to the reality that you are at your office. You wouldn’t pop out of the company headquarters, drive home, and chat them up for half an hour just because they arrived home from school, would you?
With that said, embrace the perks of working from home. When you get the chance, creep out of the office, sneak up on them, give them a big hug and maybe even a big wet one. But don’t linger too long, there’s work to be done.
Guilt and Freedom Go Hand in Hand
Don’t get me wrong, having the freedom to walk right outside your office to your kids, pet, or that novel you’ve not been able to put down can be a major distraction that requires some serious self-discipline to avoid. However, the beauty of working from home is that, if you are able to manage your time, you can take a break or two from your office to indulge in the finer things that make life worth living.
Don’t spend time procrastinating when the kids aren’t home or the pet is spending time at a friend or neighbour’s house because when they get back you will feel the strong desire to blow off your professional obligations. Simply put, you can’t blow off those obligations. Use the fun, relaxing, and passion-inducing things in your life, whether they are children, a pet, or a hobby, as a motivation to work as hard as you possibly can when those distractions aren’t present.
Then, when your kitty gets back from the groomer or the kiddies hop off the school bus and onto your lap, you can take thirty minutes to hang around, chat, and simply enjoy their presence without feeling like a slacker. You won’t have to shun them in favour of that work you didn’t spend your solo time completing. And, in turn, you will once again understand what it means to feel the satisfaction of attaining work-life balance.
Separate Family Time from Work Time
For those who find that they have to work on weekends, this can be an especially complicated task. As a single person, the sacrifice of your personal time is detrimental, to be certain. But when kids are brought into the equation, the reality of spending your weekends cooped up in the home office can be extremely depressing while also leading to self-deprecation.
For this reason, establish – and make your kids privy to – a routine that maximizes the weekends between work and family time. If your child has a sporting event on a Saturday morning, for example, make your employer know that you will be working in the afternoon and perhaps even later in order to meet a deadline. Contrarily, if you have a family movie night planned, give your client as much notice as possible so that they know you will be working bright and early, and that they may need to be ready to respond to early morning emails or telephone calls, if possible.
Life happens, and the time that we spend with our families are the times that we are going to remember and savour most. Remote workers who learn to delegate their time consistently and wisely between family time and work time will, pending other critical factors, be happy and successful remote workers.
Find that Middle Ground
The keys to balancing work and life can be boiled down fairly simply: planning, communication, efficiency, and separation. Plan your time around both work and family activities. Communicate with both employers and family members so that they understand when you have to work when you can take the time off to be with family, and why both are the case. And, whether you are doing your work or lapping up those invaluable moments with your family, remain completely in the moment and be efficient. Before you know it, you will have this whole work-life balance thing figured out.