The home office. Five tips on how to divide work and home life without going crazy!

Lisa Clark is the principal photographer for Brisbane based Lisa Clark, Photographer. With a boutique studio and specialising in weddings, Lisa seeks to capture every emotion, whether for an engagement shoot, wedding or portrait session, creating memories to smile over forever. Lisa’s images will tell your story, and are presented beautifully in stunning Australian Made albums for a lifetime of keeping, your heirloom. With a contemporary approach, Lisa strives for the perfect combination of timeless elegance and fresh style. Check out Lisa’s website by clicking here.

Lisa asked a question that anyone who has ever worked from home has struggled with at some point – how do you juggle both work and home commitments?

As we have been running our business from a home office for nearly three years, we are well versed in the pitfalls and issues surrounding this ever growing demographic of business owners.

At first, and to those who have never tried to do it, working from home seems like the perfect scenario. Imagine being able to put on a load of washing and do some work while it whirrs away. Imagine not having to fight the weekend crowds and be able to do the shopping during the week. Imagine the flexibility of being able to take children to after school activities – you can always just catch up on work in the evenings, right? And what about not having to commute? On average, it used to take us 45 minutes to get to the office in the morning, and sometimes even longer in the evening. Working from home meant we gained an extra eight hours per week to either convert into leisure time or more productive work hours. And if the kids are sick? Great! No need to skip a whole day from work, simply lay the child on the couch with Disney movies on a loop and carry on as normal.

In reality, you put the washing on, and then get distracted by emails and phone calls and only realise you forgot to hang it out when the kids need uniforms the next day. And working some evenings to make up for kids soccer, dance and piano lessons, not to mention the two hours it took you to do the weekly shop – who has the energy by 9pm to head back into the office after all that? And the downside of not having the commute is ‘processing’ time. It’s much harder to leave work behind at 5pm when all you’ve done is walk out of one room and into another. That 45 minutes in the car was actually quite handy for thinking through the day and letting your mind wander to other things – by the time you got home, you were ready to hear all about school from the kids and focus on family.

Now that I’ve convinced you all that working from home is terrible, I’ll tell you it isn’t 🙂

There absolutely are pitfalls when working from home but all it takes is some discipline, time management and flexibility in thinking to achieve a happy balance that won’t send you insane.

So, here’s my five top tips for working from home:

1. Set the tasks for each day. And by that I mean plan the whole week ie washing on certain days, the weekly shop on a certain day each week, vacuuming on another. If you have clients coming to see you, like Lisa does, have set days for appointments, and stick to it.

2. Write a list of the work tasks for the day – and cross them off as you do them. Some days, it can feel like you just run around from one thing to the next. This simple tool will give you a sense of achievement. And if you don’t get them all done, you know exactly what to put at the top of the list for the next day.

3. Have defined start and finish times. Your work day might finish when you pick the kids up from school. Don’t go back into the office once you are home with them. And that might be the time you can get that washing folded, or pop to the supermarket on the way home from school. Be strict with yourself. It might be hard in the beginning but in the long run, the absence of turmoil in your brain will be worth it.

4. Have a uniform. If you have shirts with your logo on them, wear those when in the office, and get changed when you’ve finished for the day. If you don’t have any shirts with your logo, decide on your ‘work’ clothes and reserve them for your work hours only. It’s amazing how much this can make a difference!

5. Where is your office? Is it separate from your house, in a converted garage or shed? If so, you have a great advantage! Actually leaving the house, even if to only walk three steps to the office door is a great way to separate work and home. If you’re like us and your home office is simply a room inside your house, try to always keep the door closed outside of ‘office hours’. Shutting the door at the end of the day helps you mentally shut off from work. And likewise, opening it again at 9am mentally makes the definition between work and home.

And there is a sixth tip – BE FLEXIBLE! One of the reasons we all start work from home is for the flexibility it brings, so enjoy that! Kids will get sick, clients will be late or need to reschedule – there will always be a blurring of the lines, and we need to reconcile ourselves with that and go with the flow. But having some tools in our kit for how to stay on track not only lessens the likelihood of things coming unstuck, it provides a way back when they do.

 

Susannah has been the co-owner of Local News Publications together with her husband, Graham, since 2006 but has been involved with the company since it’s inception in 1993. She holds the position of Editor and is known for being a spelling/grammar/punctuation tyrant. Susannah writes the monthly column Personally Speaking which appears in all four publications, and which grew into her own blog over two years ago (www.susannahfriis.com). Susannah also enjoys being part of the volunteer writing team for overseas aid organisation Destiny Rescue.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended as professional advice. The views expressed in this article are solely the views of the author.

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