If you are a telecommuter, with children in your home, there are solutions to avoid unnecessary stress. An environment with an organized work area will increase your productivity and keep your energy at its maximum potential. Practicing some techniques with your family and getting them on a schedule will allow a smoother transition to telecommuting. Financially, working at home can greatly improve an income, as long as a contract or job is dependable and stable.
An Efficient Work Area
A work space that is efficient is an essential key to being able to run a home and work at the same time. A work area that is separate from the main traffic of the home is ideal, but if you are trying to keep an eye on children at the same time you will want to be closer to the flow of traffic. If you have an extra room in your home, make it a kid-friendly office. Have a small table and chairs in your work area, along with bookshelves full of activities for your children to busy themselves with, while you concentrate on working.
One of your biggest investments should be your phone(s). If you are regularly on the phone with clients, sales calls or meetings, it is important to have a separate phone line dedicated to work. This is a tax deduction and usually very cheap if bundled in a package with your home line. Unlimited long distance is always a good feature, to keep dialing fast and professional. The actual phone system you have set up is a critical part of keeping your home office running. Purchase a phone that has many features, such as a flash when you have voice mail. The phone should also include a second handset and the ability to attach a standard headset. Have a stock of at least two headsets for your phone, so if there is a malfunction, you don’t have to make an immediate trip to the store.
Good seating is crucial for keeping aches and pains, caused by sitting all day, to a minimum. This can be achieved by purchasing an ergonomic chair and desk, or using an exercise ball to sit on while working. Posture should always be monitored while working so physical problems don’t hinder work performance.
Although most people who work at home can type faster than they write, a notebook and pen for note taking and jotting down important information should always remain in reach. If a computer is not functioning correctly or someone you are talking to is in a hurry, it is always more efficient to write it down and then copy it to your computer. If this isn’t a likely necessity in your position, there are also notebook applications that allow you to print your notes at the end of each day if needed.
An item that most don’t think about while working in their home, is a dorm fridge. These are small enough to fit by any desk and can be stocked with snacks and juice for you and your children. This eliminates the numerous trips to the kitchen and keeps everything within reach. Stocking the fridge nightly should become a routine shared with preparing dinner. A small basket atop the fridge should include paper plates, silverware and napkins.
A trash receptacle should be placed in your office, which is big enough for the trash that you and your children will produce on a daily basis. Be sure to empty it nightly, so your office environment stays maintained and inviting.
Techniques: Keeping Others Quiet
To remain professional while telecommuting, background noise should not exist during any phone conversation. The tricks to doing this take practice, especially with children but surprisingly with other adults as well. The ideal situation would be to practice these techniques prior to working at home, so everyone has time to get used to being abruptly quiet.
Come up with a key word or phrase that the family agrees will represent being quiet, such as, “phone,” or “silent time.” Practice saying this sporadically throughout the day, and see how long it takes everyone to be quiet. Start off saying the word and see how long everyone can be completely quiet. Increase the amount of time they are expected to be quiet as the days go on. If you have control over your phone calls, such as outbound sales calls, allow a few minutes each hour for your family to ask questions or talk to you at a regular tone.
Have a friend call your business line, at random times over a few weekends, so your family can be surprised and adjust to the interruptions that the phone will cause. Offer praise each time your children do well and explain to them why they need to try harder if you were able to hear them.
Offer a reward system to smaller kids if they have a hard time being quiet. A chart on the wall, with listed rewards will encourage them to improve. You can offer anything you wish and have levels with how many times they have to be totally quiet to get the prize.
If you have a baby or toddler in the home, it is essential for you to schedule your meetings or calls around the child’s nap times, or have a sitter or spouse be available during those times. Little ones being unpredictable should usually be monitored by another adult or in daycare if you have to spend much time on the phone.
Notify visitors to your home with a sign on the door that tells them not to ring the door bell. Give instructions on how someone delivering packages should proceed and when you will be finished working if guests would like to return.
A filing cabinet is the key to organizing a home and office. Use one drawer for your home and another for work. Label your files for home and office with bold letters and graduate the tabs so they are easy to find and read. On top of your filing cabinet you should have three boxes. These should be used as you work during the day, so you don’t have to file until you are finished with the day’s work. Your first box should be for work and labeled, “Work In-Box.” This box should include anything you need to file away in for your job(s). Your second box should be labeled, “Home In-Box.” This should include bills, important paperwork and mail you need to open at a later time. The final box should be labeled, “Out-Box.” You only need one of these as this is where you will put any mail you need to send out for work or home.
Purchase small baskets, desk organizers and cubbies to keep your space organized so everything will have its own place. Keep pens, notepads, staples, stamps, envelopes, paperclips and sticky notes all within reach. If you have a business credit card, be sure to leave it within reach on your desk, and not in your purse or wallet, unless you do most of your purchases out of the home.
In an office with an area for children make sure the shelves are all labeled so they know where each item goes when they are done with them. You can also purchase buckets or baskets that fit on the shelves, and label them as well. This will make clean up easier at the end of the day, and eliminate your kids asking you to help them locate certain items.
Choosing Financial Gain over Extra Help
Usually a whole family needs to pool their time together to aid a telecommuter who is also a parent. If the idea of no daycare was an initial benefit to you, then you should expect the occasional problem, and be able to deal with it quickly. The financial impact of a helper can be brutal on an income, but so can a lost job. If the chores aren’t getting done, work is suffering and all there is to eat is take-out, help is probably needed.
The choice to hire help is a hard one, especially if it is a percentage of a person’s reason to work at home, but in the long run it can eliminate many stresses and will help keep a household running smoothly.
A few ways to minimize the expense of hired help are:
1) Hire a teenager to come after they get out of school. Have them watch the children and prepare dinner, until you are finished working. They are usually cheaper than a daycare service and tend to be able to relate to a younger child on their level.
2) Hire a friend or local parent, who stays at home with their children, to do your shopping and prepare and deliver your meals. All you have to do is prepare a budget and a menu, or at least a list of foods your family typically eats. Update your shopping list each week and send it via email to the person you hired.
3) Use an outside daycare for part of the week or part of a day, and get most of your meetings and items that require your full attention completed while they are away from home.
4) Hire someone to clean your home two or three times a week. This may not help with the children, but it will give you more time to spend with them and less time to spend on something that tends to be less of a priority when you work at home.
Scheduling Around a Work Day
The key to a good work schedule is flexibility. If you have a job or contract that asks for specific hours ask them if your lunch time can be flexible. This will integrate weekly obligations into the workday without losing hours. If you have children in school, take your lunch when they get out of school. This will give them an hour to burn off some energy, and spend a little quality time with you before you get back to work.
Make a schedule for each member of the household and any hired help. The schedules should all be in sync with each other and include any special events or activities for the month at the bottom of the page. Keep the household schedules on a spreadsheet program, so they are able to be altered easily.
Family Time versus Work Time
Some people with certain personalities have a hard time separating themselves from work, when it is always around them. This is especially hard if your work space is in a family area. Keeping promises and following your schedule, will allow you to concentrate on family when it is time. Although you will see your family more, it is good to remember that spending quality time with a family member is important, so work should be put aside at a certain point so that you can be a parent. Having an event every day that separates work from home life, such as an evening shower or preparing dinner will help eliminate thoughts of work.
How Increase the Probability of a Dependable Income
Once someone is completely ready to work from home, there are a few rules they need to follow to increase the likelihood that they will get paid. The preparation that one needs to invest in being a telecommuter is not without an expected financial benefit. Therefore, the company needs to be trustworthy.
A tax form always needs to be filled out. Whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, tax forms should be offered and returned prior to starting work.
It is important for a telecommuter to read and understand every detail in a contract, prior to signing it. Listed in the contract should be a clear statement of pay, the dates of pay and how it is distributed. If the position is commission, the percentage should be listed along with how long it takes to process.
If a company is asking you to pay a fee to telecommute, it is almost always a risk and should be disregarded. There are many jobs that you can do from home, which don’t require a fee to make a legitimate income. Although, company does have the right to ask a telecommuter to provide their own office equipment, especially if they are self employed.
Research a company and ask them for references if you have never heard of the company. Remember that it is just as much your job to interview them and make sure they will fit your situation well, as it is theirs. Make sure to ask every company what you are required to have installed on your computer as well as what office equipment they prefer you to have. It is always beneficial when applying to jobs specifically for telecommuters to include a list of current skills, a list of current software, and any office equipment owned, on your resume.
Telecommuting while there are children in the home can be a struggle, if you don’t have adequate time to prepare your family for the change. Financially, working from home can be beneficial as long as there is a proper work area, and everyone in the family is following their schedules. While some think that the greatest benefit of telecommuting is working in their pajamas, others think that it is worth the extra work, to see their family’s faces more often.