Make Working at Home Work for You

Working and living in the same space offers many advantages, along with a few challenges. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent considering taking the plunge into working from home or a working parent interested in starting a home-based career, the following five tips may help ease your transition.

1. Make a plan. Do some research before plunging into a new career. Whether you want to sell hand-crafted scarves on Etsy, become a virtual assistant or start an online travel agency, you’ll probably find a book or website designed to help you reach your goal. Commit to a business plan in writing and run it by your accountant to make sure you comply with all applicable tax regulations. For certain types of home businesses (i.e. food-related), you may also need an attorney’s assistance to secure a licence or permit.

2. Find your best time for work and commit to it. How many hours of work would you like to complete each week? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do your personal circumstances allow for at least an occasional baby-sitter or must you plan all work around your children’s schedules? If you have a spouse or partner, what does their work schedule typically  look like?

The key is finding blocks of time to dedicate to uninterrupted work. If you work best in the morning or have a day job, make plans to rise an hour or two earlier than the rest of the household and head straight to your laptop. Those with children in preschool or grade school may be able to get tons of work done during school hours. If your kids are very small, don’t rule out the possibility of scheduling a bit of child care via a family member, local day care centre or in-home helper. Even  a few hours of time alone each week can go a long way in helping you launch your new career.

3. Multi-task while you work. Juggling parenting and household responsibilities alongside work can be overwhelming at times, even for families with two actively involved grown-ups. Thanks to modern appliances, though, it’s sometimes possible to do two things at once! I personally find that when I’m working at home, I’m much more relaxed and focused during my writing time if I run the dishwasher or washing machine while I work. If you want to really go the extra mile, you could even start dinner in the slow cooker and enjoy the smell of pork roast while you read, write or make phone calls. When you finish your work, you will also have made progress on one or more household tasks!

4. Set goals and monitor your progress. When you have only yourself to report to, it can be easy to let distractions supersede your work. While it’s not a big deal to take a ‘day off’ here and there - after all, that’s one of the benefits of this arrangement - a series of unproductive days may leave you frustrated. Start each week by formulating a ‘to-do’ list. Keep track of your time or output using a website such as mytomatoes.com or writtenkitten.net. If you need to bring in a certain amount of income to continue working at home, set financial goals and be sure your weekly ‘to-dos’ are designed to help you reach them.

5. Change your space. If your business is computer-based, the world is your office. Pack up your laptop and head to a nearby bookstore, library or restaurant. On particularly nice days, you can even work outside. The change of scenery may energize you and inspire you to greater output, and if not, the peer pressure of having others watch you ‘work’ probably will.

While working outside a traditional office setting requires a great deal of focus and prioritization, there’s nothing quite like doing your job from the comfort of your own home - or your favorite coffee shop!

I hope these tips will help take you to the next step toward reaching your career goals, whatever they may be.

Michelle is an attorney, freelance writer and proud mother of one. She also serves as Assistant Director for a literacy non-profit in her community. Michelle writes about family, travel and seasonal events for parenting publications.

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