Working from home
Published: 27 Jul 2016
Working from home can be a good way of arranging your paid-work hours so you get more time with your child(ren) in the morning or evening, while cutting out the expense, time and faff of commuting.
However, it also has the disadvantage that you are stuck with your own four walls, own sandwiches and own company.
"Being based at home is ideal as I get to hang out with my daughter until 9am and then see her at lunchtime and am here for her when she gets home in the evenings."
Many people find that working from home one day a week or a couple of days a month is a good balance and allows them to cope with things like GP appointments (and being in to receive all that internet shopping).
A common misconception (among people without children at any rate) is that mums who work from home are sitting in a sunny garden teleworking on a laptop while their child plays contentedly on a rug under the apple tree.
People who work from home know this is a farfetched fantasy and generally Mumsnetters warn against attempting to work from home while the children are around: "Trying to work with unsupervised children in the house has bad effects on every aspect of my life – health, marriage, housework and how I treat the children," says one.
Another work-from-home mum says: "If my daughter is pawing at me to get me off the computer, it's a double whammy of guilt. I can't do my work properly and I'm not spending time with her properly."
Working from home at a glance
- No commuting time (especially if you can persuade your partner to do the nursery run)
- You'll see more of your children in the morning/evening
- You never have to waste annual leave waiting for the gas man to turn up between 8am and 7pm
- You can be flexible about when you work and when you take breaks
- You need to be disciplined about not getting on with household chores or being distracted by your children (if they're around)
- You need a proper space to work (ideally a luxury garden office, but a dedicated corner of the dining room will do)
- It is easy to fall into the trap of faffing during the day and then worrying all evening because you are not making up your hours
Mumsnetters' three golden rules of home working
- You need childcare. You will be doing yourself and your employers / clients no good at all if you are working from your laptop at the soft play centre. And let's face it, none of us take our children with us to the office - looking after children is one job, doing a paid job is another.
- You need to be disciplined. You really have to make the most of the childcare you have and shut your eyes to the dust on your skirting boards. You also have to resist the impulse to make a cheese toastie every 30 minutes.
- You need to ignore your dishwasher . Do not stack and unstuck it during working hours. Ditto washing machine.
"I fly around in the mornings before school and get the kitchen tidied, washing on, dishwasher emptied, that kind of thing. If I feel I've 'cleared the decks' I concentrate much better on work while my son is out of the house."
If you choose to have childcare at home, you need to work out ground rules with your nanny/au pair about how accessible you are.
"I love it that my two-year-old pops in on her way in and out to activities, has a two-minute cuddle, but then she goes off happily with the nanny. I also like being there when the older children get in from school, but when she's there the nanny is in charge. This means that what she says goes. If I disagree I'll talk to her about it later when the children aren't around, but never undermine her authority."
"You have to let go, let the nanny be in change, let your children know you're not really 'at home' you're working. However, I didn't do it with a baby, and that might bring with it a whole other set of issues. I'd recommend some dummy-runs - disappear into the workroom for a few hours at the weekend. Don't crack and come out when the child cries."
Some parents manage to work from home in the evenings and weekends, but this relies on having a lot of energy and little downtime. It's possible, but it can take its toll in the long term. Some amount of quality time, couple time and family time is a necessity, not a luxury.
The work bit of working from home
It pains us to say this, but keep off Mumsnet, or at least only allow yourself to crack at lunchtime or as a treat in the evenings. The hardest part about working from home is actually doing the work. And you need a certain temperament. If you have a dusty pile of unread books on your bedside table bearing titles such as How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Living! it's probably not a good idea to hand in your keys to the office. Dithering is not compatible with home-working.
One Mumsnetter takes drastic measures: "I unplug my router. It takes five minutes to reboot so I can't just switch windows and then get distracted for 20 minutes."
It's a good idea to timetable your work - schedule breaks so you feel justified taking them. Breaking your day into chunks of work can also help.
"I use the 20-minute rule and that's really helped me. ‘Tell yourself you'll work only for 20 mins at a time, which is very manageable. Then you can break off, but more often than not after 20 minutes you will be quite well into it."
You can also keep a timesheet, which is often a requirement of the job if you work for someone else.
"If your role makes it possible, consider working from home. I do this and it's ace - I can work flexibly (around childcare drop-offs and pick-ups etc.) If your employer isn't keen, then convince them how good it will be for them - I've never had to take a day off when the children are ill; I can work at 6am in my PJs or at midnight, if necessary. I appreciate this only suits some roles (and certain people)."