Hello there, fellow Virtual Career Girls! In the midst of this absolutely insane COVID-19 we are dealing with, even if you have a desk job, the chances of becoming a work from home mom are pretty high. The schools are out, daycares are closed, it’s like summertime on steroids, and you are starting to feel like there is no way out. How can you work from home when you have screaming kids, and everyone is “bored”? And now they’re thinking why can’t we just go out to eat or to the trampoline park or any other thing that used to be a part of your regular routine – and this is becoming the only normal part of your day. This post is for you, mom. These 5 simple steps will help you accept the challenge of working from home – spoiler alert: you may never want to go back to the office ever again!
When you work from home, no matter if the world is under quarantine or not – everyone who is not able to telecommute to work is going to treat this time off like it is summer vacation, assuming everyone else is vacationing with them. It is important to let your friends and family members know that although you are home, you are still working – and they need to respect your time the same way as if you were back in your regular office setting. On the other side of things, now that you are working from home, you may want to work 24/7 – so you also have to set the boundary to have a start and end time for yourself. There will always be emails to answer and tasks to complete, but you need to separate your home life and work from home life as much as possible. You will thank yourself for this, I promise!
I am going to let you in on a little secret here – you need your own office. Just kidding! You do, however, need a personal space that you have just your own work stuff in. Something that separates the relaxing at home after a long day of work you do – from the one who has to work from home. It can be easy to get the two confused, and that is why it is crucial to set aside this space first thing. No kids allowed to mess with mom’s workspace. I have two spaces:
Workspace #1: It is just a part of the kitchen counter. My desktop is there along with all of my office supplies. My daughter knows its mommies workspace, and she has to eat her snacks on the other side of the counter.
Workspace #2: Lap Desk. I have my lap desk, which only contains my laptop, mouse, and pen. My notebook of the things I am working on and notes from my phone calls travels with me from work station to work station so I can keep everything in the same place.
Even if your workplace does not require you to do so, it is so important to have a task management software to keep up with your day to day tasks. It not only helps you keep track of your tasks, but is also a great way to keep track of your time. When you are a work from home mom, it’s easy to get distracted and pulled into different directions – that is when a good project management tool comes in handy. There are a lot of free platforms out there like Asana, Trello, or Clickup, and my personal favorite Teamwork. These are game-changers if only to keep yourself organized. But, I bet you could convince your boss to let you create a company page that will allow you to invite your coworkers to keep everyone on the same page and keeping things in order. Finding a great Task Management Software is every Virtual Assistant’s dream come true!
While you are no longer in the office, you can’t just walk next door or scream across the hallway to ask your coworker a question. How do you get the answers you need quickly without sending a formal email and hoping that your coworkers are checking it? Slack is your answer! It is a free tool that allows businesses to keep track of conversations regarding clients and projects in a safe space allowing collaboration in an “AOL Instant Messenger” sort of way. Giving you instant access to your other team members. Need to video chat to share your screen and don’t want to facetime? Zoom is the best free meeting tool out there. Their screen share options allow you to share it with everyone on the chat, and the screen takeover tool allows your team members to actually be a part of the action without actually being there. The best part about slack and zoom – they not only integrate with each other, but they integrate with your email platform as well.
Hello, work from home mom! I bet you have 3 different calendar systems to be able to keep up with the hustle and bustle of your busy family. How can you keep up with all of these and work from home without any conflicts? Meet your new friend Calendly. Calendly integrates with all of your different calendar platforms, email accounts, etc. To show when you are available for meetings and collaboration times. You set the schedule and can show your team members your availability with the click of a button. It takes the guesswork out and makes scheduling time with coworkers a breeze! It does cost about $8 a month, but it is totally worth it!
Bonus: Accountability/Collaboration Partner
Everyone who works from home needs an accountability/collaboration partner. This can be anyone – a coworker, spouse, family member, or even a friend. My accountability partner happens to be my sister, who, in a way, is also my coworker. We either talk in zoom, slack, or even on the phone – most of the time, we are on the phone working in silence and then chime in either when one of us has a question or wants input on something that we are working on. You have to remind yourself that you are working from home, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have things to do. Yes, you can go to work in your pajamas, but by having an accountability partner, they will make sure you get out of bed, even if it is just to grab your laptop.
Okay, so I told you what you need to be successful to work at home, but how do you become a successful work at home mom?
Home Office for All
If you are the primary caregiver, like me – you can’t keep yourself shut inside your office all day. You have to do what works for you and work throughout the day. What I find works for me is having my workspace, and Teagan has hers. It’s the other side of the counter which has her coloring books, colored pencils, and a notebook that looks just like mommy’s so she can also work. We also usually have a heavy rotation of Frozen, Barney, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on repeat because it usually grabs her attention and she joins in for the concert and dance party. She likes to “work” more than me, and we get to spend the time together throughout the day. For meetings, I break out the “outdoor” pack and play, stuff it with her favorite toys, and make sure one of our heavy rotations is on, and she is happy and step into the other room. – Whatever works for YOU.
Naptime is Work Time
That wonderful person that said when your child naps you need to nap too clearly was not a work from home mom. Naptime is when I am most productive and get the most of my work done. I am a project manager/ VA, so my work scheduled is bound to be a little different than yours, but this is typically how my day goes:
5 a.m. – 9 a.m. – 4 hours (baby still sleeping from the night before)
Between this time, I am still working, it just varies on what meetings are scheduled/tasks due & the temperament of my 2-year-old.
1 p.m. – 3 p.m. – 2 hours (nap time)
I do also work at this time – again, it just depends on the day, and the tasks are due. If it can be done in the evening or requires my assistance right away, I take care of my tasks on a case by case basis.
8 p.m. – 10 p.m – 2 hours to catch up on stuff missed throughout the day.
I wake up between 5-6 answer any emails that need to be responded to and get the layout of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished that day. I then check on all outstanding tasks from other team members and go from there.
I find it easier to accomplish these things while everyone is sleeping, not just my kid. I get interrupted by team members consistently throughout the day, so it’s crucial to start with organization first thing – so it’s easy to get back on track with all of the distractions and interruptions. She wakes up at 9, and then we get our breakfast and get ready to “go to work”. I have my time blocked like this because although I don’t always have to work between the typical 9-5 hour workday, it’s still important to have some sort of structure.
Invest Time With Your Kids
Remember when I talked about boundaries earlier? Working from home, especially now that the schools are closed, this is probably going to be the most important thing I can tell you. Invest the time necessary to spend with your kids. Yes, you are around each other 24/7 right now, but that does not mean you should be working the entire time. Take it from this workaholic. I could work until the end of time, but I need to spend the quality time I have with my daughter, especially while she is young.
Make sure to make work time work time and have quality time separated – even if it is just watching a movie phone free in the evenings, or family dinners followed by dessert. For me, I make sure (weather permitting) to take my daughter for a walk every day. It might be in the stroller, on her bike, or anything like that. She enjoys it, and I appreciate the quality time with her. I also enjoy spending time outside and away from my computer. We read books and still find a way to eat together for every meal. It’s all about time management. Get ahold of it now before it gets away from you!
Having a boredom box is my last tip, but it is quite possibly the best. I consider myself to be pretty crafty, and after having to work from home with my 8-year-old niece and 10-year-old nephew, a boredom box has become an absolute must.
What is a boredom box? If you haven’t heard the words “UGH, IM BORED”1,700 times while trying to accomplish your tasks from home, this may not be for you (YET!). The boredom box can be literally anything you want it to be. Mine happens to be a box of random art supplies, and I have names of different crafts “tasks” to be completed. An example being: create a robot.
It requires creative thinking and time, and it allows me to get my stuff done while they are using their brains as well. Gather your art supplies and get those kiddos to work. If your kids have not been tasked with doing online school yet, you can keep their minds sharp by downloading worksheets by their grade level here. Education.com, Greatschools.org, and K-5 Learning.
Times may be tough right now new found Virtual Career Mom or work from home mom, but so are you! It may seem a little rough at first, but you just need to find what works best for you. Some sort of schedule to keep you and your family on track instead of shooting from the hip daily is surely an excellent place to start. Every day will not go as planned, but that is no different than your time in the office. We’re here to help you adjust to your new working quarters any way we can. Have any questions or want to chat with our crew that works from home too, check out our Facebook group!