Challenges faced by home workers and ways to deal with them
Finding the motivation to get off the sofa!
Today freelance brand strategist Greg Dillon talks about how he finds the motivation to work while surrounded by domestic comfort, and how it’s necessary to find a way to separate work and home life to achieve your deadlines:
Working from home is a curious thing. You are in a happy, comfortable place yet you are working your posterior off to earn a living often sacrificing human contact for a few more hours in front of the laptop.
This should be clear. Your motivation is to work for yourself in order to have a better work / life balance. You are paid more as you are freelance and can therefore pick and choose your projects accordingly, whilst having a healthy degree of spare time to work on other projects, blogs or just chilling out.
I find that I can be a lot more productive during my day even if I sleep until 10am as I don’t have that hour commute either way from home to wherever I’m working. It means that my morning routine can be more relaxed and I can keep going later into the evening until my fiancé gets home from work.
By doing this I manage to pack a lot more in whilst ironically spreading my time out.
The trick is to find the motivation to focus, and this can be hard
You are surrounded by a comfy bed, Chesterfield sofas, cats, views out into your garden and the temptation to eat everything in sight.
How do you combat that and find the motivation to get the work done?
Think forward to Friday afternoon when you get to update your invoice template and send it out to your client knowing that you’ve done a great job and are to be paid within the next few days.
As Jay-Z said - “You can want success all you want, but to get it, you can’t falter. You can’t slip. You can’t sleep. One eye open, for real, and forever.”
All the messing around or playing with the cats is great as a relief mechanism, but only if you knuckle down when it matters and really put the effort in to deliver great results for your clients.
This leads on from my last point.
Yes, you are at home. But no, you will not put the washing on. You will not wash the dishes. You will not pop to Tesco.
You need to treat this environment as if you were making that daily commute – it is your place of work, not your place to spend 8 hours a day doing chores.
It’s a hard one to get used to as you will inevitably get requests to do some of the chores mentioned but you need to be strong when you have a deadline on, say no (both to yourself and your better half) and get your head down.
If you have spare time between projects then do something nice for the person you live with, tidy up, do the washing etc. It is a much nicer surprise when they are not expecting it and you will feel a lot better knowing it is not eating into your project time.
Greg spends his home working days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world. You can find out more about him at his freelance strategy blog Strat-Talking.com.
How do you spend bank holidays?
So in the UK we’re approaching our second bank holiday in three weeks. Bank holidays came about in the nineteenth century when paid holidays were unheard of and most people worked pretty much all the time. Some now think that bank holidays are redundant now that employees get ample paid leave for holidays and other reasons.
And as home workers, how many of us actually observe them at all? I know lots of people appreciate the peace and quiet of bank holidays and like to get on with work knowing they won’t be disturbed by phone calls and queries.
Perhaps not quite so easy if you have children, as so many events take place on bank holidays. Do you treat them as any other weekday, or maybe as a more relaxed day when you can start later and finish early, with a bit of family time thrown in?
A and I often end up working on bank holidays in order to avoid the crowds at popular destinations and the traffic clogging the major roads. We don’t have children and enjoy being able to do things differently to the majority. Why do the same thing at the same time as lots of others when you can take another day off during the week and have a nicer experience?
Although the weather was so nice at the beginning of May that we spent most of the day tidying up the garden and then sitting outside enjoying our efforts. But you can usually count on the weather on bank holidays being stereotypically bad and British as we picnic in the drizzle.
I see the temperature is forecast to pick up at the weekend so maybe we’ll be lucky and get another glorious bank holiday Monday. Where will you be – at your desk or at the beach?
Essential reading for every working mum!
Elinor Wilde is the working mum’s coach and we’re very lucky to have her on the blog today sharing her experience on how to become the working mum you want to be:
So you’re ensconced in your home office, the family are at work/school/nursery, you breathe a contented sigh. However, within minutes of stating work your mind starts drifting to niggles at the back of your head:
“I wish I’d had time to do a proper fancy dress outfit for my son’s Book Day parade instead of giving him some glasses and stick and saying he looked a great Harry Potter.”
“I can’t believe I forgot to buy ham and cheese – I hope no-one sees their jam sandwiches.”
Before long your stomach sinks as you feel like you are about nominate yourself for ‘worst mum of the year’ and it’s apparent you’re not going to get through half the work you’d hoped.
As a working mum it is so easy to regularly find yourself in this negative spiral. When you are so tuned into making sure everyone else’s needs are being met it can be a real struggle to switch your focus to work. This can be especially challenging when you work from home as you don’t have the environmental trigger of leaving home to go to work.
Mastering your focus and tackling your guilt is an essential skill for a work at home mum
Try this 5 step process to tackle guilt:
1. Identify your guilt triggers: Do you feel you spend enough time with your children, do you work too much/not enough, do you compare yourself to others, do you feel guilty at people’s comments, or what you read in magazines. Spend some time making a list.
I feel guilty that/when……..
2. Identify the effect: How do these guilt triggers make you feel and behave? Do you feel frustrated, tired, cross, sad, angry? Do you end up being snappier with everyone in your family, have trouble sleeping, take double the time to get work done?
3. Consider the long-term impact: What is the long-term impact of feeling guilty on you, your family and your work? How is this going to impact on your health and wellbeing? How successful are you going to be if your productivity is consistently being impacted?
Ouch! Now we get to the nitty-gritty. Are you feeling a little uncomfortable at facing the potential consequences of carrying on like this? Don’t worry, discomfort is good and this is your motivation to change. So hang in there.
4. Identify when things go well: There will be times when you are at your desk, time just flies by and you are in the flow and guilty niggles are quashed effortlessly. So what’s happening then? Think about the big picture of what helped this happen.
For me it’s a combination of all sorts of things: Having a good sleep, doing regular (ish) exercise, having dinner planned, being strict about how often to check emails, setting aside time to help my son with his homework, knowing that we are doing something together at the weekend like a big family Sunday roast, or a long walk with the dogs.
I can concentrate on work without guilt when I have……………
If you struggle to complete this sentence then spend the next few days noticing what has happened that made work flow.
5. Make a plan: How can I do more of this? Your list might be quite big so you might find it hard to know where to start. Highlight 2 or 3 things that you think make the biggest difference.
Mine are sleep, exercise and knowing I’ve got some quality time planned with my son. So I concentrate on doing what I can to make sure they happen.
Is being a working mum a far cry from your expectations? How do you juggle all your responsibilities? And what are your ways of coping with the guilt of the working mum?
Too much potential for disaster when eating at networking!
If there’s one place I wholeheartedly believe in the saying ‘don’t mix business and pleasure’ it’s at any networking or business event.
I totally understand the principle of networking over a meal. It saves time in a busy day to refuel at the same time as meeting people, but I find that all too often I eat automatically without enjoying the food and maybe end up eating too much without even noticing till it’s too late. Or I eat almost nothing and leave with a rumbling stomach and low energy.
The worst occasions are those business breakfasts where people choose the full English because it’s included in the ticket price and seems much better value than the tiny packet of cereal and cold toast you get for the ‘continental’ option. But then they only pick at it because it’s cold by the time it’s served, or straight afterwards they have to stand up and talk about their business in front of a roomful of strangers.
I’ve done exactly the same when I’ve been invited to speak – after all, if you’re about to address a group the last thing you want is a palate thick with egg and bacon – while feeling bad about the waste of food.
There’s also the potential for so much embarrassment when you’re meeting and eating with strangers. Juggling with drink and food, not to mention exploding vol au vents and canapés that drip filling down your clothes and onto the carpet.
Recently I heard about the concept of ‘netwalking’ where the group chats over a stroll instead of standing around clutching cups of cooling coffee. What a brilliant name and brilliant idea – and so much less chance of getting stuck with one or two people when everyone’s on the move.
Food and people are both sources of fascination to me and I prefer to concentrate and enjoy each separately, but I’ve never heard anybody else express this opinion. Maybe I’m socially inept. Or just plain greedy. Is it just me?
A parent’s dilemma – working from home with children around
I love the big school breaks. Easter, Christmas, and summer – we always have things planned: trips, activities, and holidays away. However the half terms are a different matter.
I’m a home worker for a big corporation, so I have a certain amount of flexibility in the working week, but a fixed holiday allowance a year, so I need to be at my desk during half terms.
It can be a bit of a challenge to actually get some work done, while not totally abandoning the kids to the tv and the playstation.
Here’s some thoughts on how to get through that half term week when working from home:
- Sometimes working at 100% just isn’t possible with the noisy rogues around. So just do as much as is reasonable. If you really need quiet to do your primary job, maybe as an author or designer, then half term could be the best time to catch up on some paperwork, or invoicing.
- If you have a spouse, or similar, around to babysit then half term might be the time to try a bit of working out of the home. Maybe there’s a co working event, or local Jelly event near you. Or a friend whose quiet kitchen table you can borrow. Even just an hour at a coffee shop could be a surprisingly productive time.
- Make use of half term clubs. Around here there are plenty of activities put on for the harassed parent. My boys have particularly enjoyed football coaching weeks, which have the extra advantage of tiring them out somewhat.
- Child sharing with friends could be a cheaper version of this – if you are lucky a group of friends together will entertain themselves and give you a peaceful moment or two.
For me the best approach for working from home during half term seems to be to plan ahead, be creative with my time, and don’t worry too much. And after all, the kids are not at school – that should make them 98% happy to start with!
Thanks to everyone on Rosie Slosek’s Homeworking UK Linkedin group for their excellent contributions to these thoughts.
Paul is a programmer and database administrator for Hewlett-Packard. He has been a home worker for 3 years, which helps him keep an eye on his wife and four children, and indulge his passion for doing the laundry. Paul is a keen supporter of Jelly meetings, and regular contributor to the #elevensestime group on Twitter.