5 Ways to Master Being a Work From Home Parent
Being a work from home parent can be a huge challenge, but it certainly has its rewards. When I worked from home, I dodged expensive childcare costs, reaped the benefits of flexible working hours and enjoyed the comfort of being my own boss. Most importantly, I’ve been there for my son when he needed me the most.
The biggest downside to working from home is finding the right balance. Speaking from experience I know how difficult it can be juggling the housework, daytime nap schedules and meeting business deadlines. I take my hat off to you.
Your challenges largely depend on what type of home business you run, the flexibility in your schedule and the age of your children. Keep in mind, as your child grows, routines and activities are bound to change, and you will adapt to new ways of doing things. Here are a few things I’ve learnt, which might make your life a little easier while working from home with kids.
1. Create a self-care routine to optimise a work life balance.
When working from home it can be easy to fall into the habit of jumping straight into work wearing your pajamas, consequently ruining your productivity. By taking care of yourself first, you will be mentally and physically prepared to not only be present for your child, but also smash out your business goals for the day.
- Start your day, as if you were leaving the house to go to work. If you’re lucky to have a partner or someone living with you, utilise their help to allow yourself an hour of self-care before beginning your workday. Wake up early, have a shower, a healthy breakfast and a tea or coffee. To save yourself from bad eating habits throughout the day, pack yourself a lunch for you and your children as if you were going to work.
- Exercise regularly to avoid being caught up in the workload and neglecting your health. Be sure to allocate time each week for exercise. A lot of gyms offer a crèche, a childcare facility within the gym. Alternatively, if you enjoy taking your kids to the park for some down time, multitask and opt for pushing the pram or riding your bike to squeeze in some exercise while bonding with your children. Children become quite restless of an afternoon, which is when I found it easiest to finish up work and take a walk.
- Make time for yourself away from both the children and home business. When you work from home, you’re continuously in a mindset of either work, or family. Let go of the feelings of guilt and make sure you schedule time away from your business and the children. It’s important to have time with your friends, family or partner, but don’t forget to book in some alone time too.
2. Create a Schedule.
You want to be spending your most productive hours of the day completing the big tasks which will produce long-term benefits for your business – and that takes a good calendar and lots of planning.
- Identify your family commitments. On a daily planner, allocate the hours of the day you need for family commitments such as school and day-care drop offs or swimming lessons.
- Pencil in the house chores. It’s very easy to get distracted from your work when your house is a mess, and you can’t think straight. Set aside a time in your schedule to get a few things done around the house. For me, I preferred to complete the housework after my son went to bed, so I could wake up to a clean home and focus on my day ahead. Make it a rule not to do housework during your “office hours” and if you can, try to multitask with your kids at the same time. Baby-wearing is very effective while vacuuming!
- Allocate your office hours. Determine the number of hours you know you need to work each day. Your office hours may be distributed somewhere between sunrise and after sunset, depending on what works for you. Once you have worked your office hours, pending your work requirements, keep your phone out of reach and enjoy the time with your family without the distraction of work.
- Prioritise your “crunch time” hours of the day. These are the hours of the day when you feel you can work most productively with minimal distraction. After your children have lunch, and are quite content with their full tummies, it could be a good time to work with less than usual distractions. Use this time wisely to work on your most important tasks which will benefit your business for the future. For me, this sacred time was always when my son was down for his 2-hour nap and I’d be free to make uninterrupted important phone calls to customers.
- Maintain the routine. Children adapt well when there’s structure and routine. If your child learns their parent is busy each day right after lunch, they may be more inclined to play independently each time.
- Be time savvy, shop online. Give yourself an extra hour of work time, by changing your habits and ordering your grocery shopping online to get delivered.
3. Pretend you are going to the office.
Without a boss breathing down your neck, you may find yourself wasting the most productive hours of your day spiraling into unproductive habits. Stick to your scheduled office hours and maintain focus during those hours.
- Create your work space. If you have the room, find your own working space free from the clutter and distractions of the family home. Set boundaries, so your children won’t play there. By adding motivational décor, you can create an inspiring area that makes you want to be productive and work hard when you’re in it.
- Know your goals. Set yourself achievable tasks. You could implement Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to track your performance and hit your goals.
- Minimise distractions. When you work from home with kids, it’s difficult to avoid interruptions. You can however minimise your surrounding disruptions by switching off the television and avoiding your phone or social media.
4. Consider using childcare and public facilities.
Although childcare is not for everyone, having one or two days a week without interruption could hugely benefit your home business. Some people have families babysit or nanny their children. For others that aren’t so lucky, there are many options of public facilities available.
- Long day care. Long day care centres provide full or part time education up to 12 hours a day for children up to 12 years old.
- Family day care. Family Day Care is based in a home environment with registered carers.
- Kindergarten prepares your child for school, in a play-based learning environment.
- Before and after school care. Most schools offer for a daily fee, a before and after school program. Some places also have vacation care and public free day care for your school aged child.
- School and day care public transportation. If you have a child at school, and one at day care, you might save time and benefit from only one drop off each morning. Some centres offer free bus service from the day care centre to your child’s primary school. Most primary and secondary schools offer a school bus service to and from your home for a small fee. By utilising a bus service, I saved at least 5 hours a week that I could put back into my home business, by not having to walk in to collect my daughter from the busy school.
- Child Care Subsidy. The government offers assistance to help with the cost of childcare, in the form of a Child Care Subsidy (CCS). The rate you receive is dependent on your eligible circumstances and is taken directly off your childcare fees.
5. Contemplate Expansion.
One of Horan & Bird’s Founders and Group Manager, John Horan wrote a book in 2009 about his experience running a home business. The book titled “How to Escape from Quicksand” discusses the challenges John faced running a business from home and how he overcame them. Here are some of the observations he made along the way that may help you looking into the future.
- Be Money Smart. It’s important to be wise when making financial decisions, such as expanding your business. Consider getting advice from a professional to see whether or not it’s financially viable. For a few tips on how you can save money, check our our blog: “Top 5 Deductions when Working from Home”.
- Observe the workload. For every two weeks the business was booked out in advance, John would hire a new person. Being realistic about your workload can help you determine if your company would benefit from an extra set of hands.
- Measure your business performance. By understanding which customers, products and services generated the highest profit, John measured the cost per hour of his time and the products he sold. The data allowed him to forecast the business net profit and calculate the additional profit he could be making from each new employee. Capturing data will help you determine if you can afford to hire additional staff members and observe the potential of your future earnings. If you’re looking for more ways to measure your business, download our free e-book “How to Measure Up Your Business for Ultimate Success”.
- Business Partnership. John realised that even though he had created a successful business, he realised everything fell back on him and he wouldn’t be able to step away from the business when he needed to. He sold half of the business to Scott Bird, who was an employee of his at the time. Consider a business partner carefully. If you make the right choice, you can both benefit from flexible working hours and build a business more successful then you could have imagined.
- Relocate the business to somewhere outside of your home. John talked about the struggles of his wife raising a newborn baby with all the hustle and bustle of a home business. As a result, a new warehouse location was created for the home business to separate the company from home life. It also allowed John the ability to welcome more staff members for his growing empire. This may not be ideal for every home business, however it could be the change you’ve been looking for.
Need more information on how to improve your home business?
Download our free e-book “How to Measure Up Your Business for Ultimate Success”.
Horan, J., & Maguire, G. (2010). How to Escape from Quicksand. Hamilton, New Zealand: Maruki Books Ltd.
Stephanie has recently joined the Horan & Bird Team as Marketing Executive, from a diverse background from Financial Planning to Sales for diamonds, cars and real-estate. Steph’s marketing career started within a local animal rescue group and has since progressed with Horan & Bird, including the addition of her study of a diploma in Digital Media. When she’s not at work, she’s spending time with her husband and two kids while practicing her skills in videography.