You had no idea what you were up against when you set up shop in your home office. Your intentions were noble; a work arrangement that would afford you the flexibility to plan your work around your life. This work arrangement was meant to give you control of your work day so you were available and present for your family.
Working from home was a no-brainer on paper but your reality is so far removed from the idealistic picture.
Instead of having flexibility to plan your work around your life, you find yourself tethered to your laptop and smart phone. You have clients calling at all hours, day and night; figuring that since you work from home you must be available 24/7.
The isolation was not something you bargained for. Who knew those idle chatter around the hallway and water cooler had their place in keeping you sane?
You feel stuck and wonder if working from home was the right decision for you. The answer to that question is “it depends”.
When we asked 260 women working from home why they chose this work environment, freedom came tops by a wide margin; all caps with exclamation marks. But the price of freedom is never free.
Working successfully as remote employee, a freelancer or a small business owner requires structure. Precisely what you were running away from when you left the office setting.
Working from home was meant to afford you the freedom to work when you wanted to instead of being subject to someone else’s agenda (think corporations).
The unwelcome reality of working remotely is that you actually need more structure than is required in the corporate setting in order to excel. You really have to commit to that structure on a long term basis to keep producing. The folks selling us the 4-hour work week dream are themselves working 60-80 hours a week.
Having a structure around your work from home arrangement does not mean working longer hours. Far from it.
It just means committing to a regular routine and not flying by the seat of your pants or working “when you feel like it”.
The freedom of working remotely is the ability to structure your work day around your circumstances and your optimal performance times. It’s a morning person’s world; most jobs are from 8 or 9AM to 5PM. Schools starts around 7:45AM in most local. This can be a challenge if you are not a morning person.
Working from home allows you to say start your work day later than most or break your work day into 2 halves; before the kids get back from school and after the kids are tucked in for the night.
So you have established a structure for your work from home arrangement, you work is not yet done however.
The next step after putting a structure in place would be to ruthlessly enforce that structure.
All kinds of time thieves would come out of the wood works (as often as you allow them) to decimate your work day. You have the freedom to deny them that right.
Here are a few examples on enforcing your work day structure when working from home:
- Have designated time for tackling your email inbox or getting on social media. Hint; not during your optimal performance times.
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time every week day.
- Be firm about your work day boundaries with family and friends who assume you are available on demand.
- Set clear expectations with clients early on regarding your availability and how soon you can return their calls or emails.
- Have designated days for doing household tasks like laundry or grocery shopping. If you don’t these chores have a way of showing up on your to-do list on a daily basis.
The take home here is that your choice to work from home does not eliminate the need for structure of your work day. You actually need structure to thrive in this work arrangement. What you have that those working outside of the home do not have, is the freedom to structure that work day in a way that suits your circumstance.
Exercise that freedom!
Dr. Bola is a family physician with a fondness for women’s health and women lifestyle issues. She is the co-founder of Healthgist.com; the hub for honest health talk for the busy women.