“Ree, can you meet me at Starbucks and bring the blue cooler?”
“Mom, I forgot my iPad. Can you bring it to my school?”
“Mrs. Grant, this is the school nurse. Your son, Alex, isn’t feeling well. You can pick him up from the front office.”
“Elder Ree, do you have a few minutes to talk? I need prayer.”
“Mom, I need lunch money. Can you put some money on my lunch account?”
I work from home, and this is my life. In addition to working at least 40 hours each week for my employer, I’m bombarded with requests every day from my husband, children, church members, and others. While the interruptions are frustrating, I’m appreciative to the Lord for blessing me with a job in which I work from home. Trying to make the people in my life understand that “I’m at work” has been tiresome to say the least.
There’s no such thing as work-life balance when you work from home. You just learn to deal with the interruptions and distractions. Now, some of you other work-from-home moms may have figured out how to balance it all, but I haven’t. I’ve been working from home since November 2010, and my family and friends still refuse to believe I have a “real job.” I think people picture me sitting in the living room, watching television, and eating Bon Bon’s when, in reality, my workday consists of dealing with irate customers, overworked colleagues, and impatient bosses.
Although I haven’t figured out exactly how to balance my crazy life, I have learned to deal with the work-home life. Learning to navigate the work-home dynamic has been interesting, and I’ve learned quite a bit over the past eight years.
Colossians 3:23-24, “and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
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1. Embrace Your Limitations
One of my biggest work-from-home struggles was feeling that I had to be all things to all people at all times. I struggled early on trying to be the best employee, best wife, best mother, and best minister.
I tried wearing all those hats simultaneously but soon learned that was impossible. Trying to tackle a work task, while helping my daughter with her homework and fielding a phone call from my husband meant something or somebody wasn’t getting my undivided attention.
I started making a lot of mistakes, at work and home. I started missing deadlines and not producing my best work at work, misplacing bills at home, and forgetting important school dates for my children. I felt like I should have been able to be the perfect employee, wife, mother, and minister because I no longer had to commute to work. I’ve since learned working from home doesn’t make you superwoman. If you aren’t careful, working from home increases your workload and the amount of time you spend working.
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2. Establish Your Workspace
Make sure your family understands that when they see you in your designated workspace, it means you aren’t to be interrupted or disturbed unless the interruption is an emergency. Training your family not to disrupt you will take some time for them to grasp, especially if you have younger children in the home. In the beginning, my family would enter my home office, turn on the television, or engage me in conversation while I was busy putting out fires for my employer. You may have to resort to putting a sign on your workspace door to help them remember you are working. And if you have young children, you may have to consider daycare during your work hours.
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"A strained back or neck won’t help your productivity."
Also, ensure your workspace is conducive to comfort and productivity. Working a secular job, or any job for that matter, is difficult. The least we can do is make sure our space is comfortable and allows us to be productive. Purchasing or refurbishing a spacious desk and a comfortable chair is essential. A strained back or neck won’t help your productivity. Indeed, it will hinder your productivity. So make sure you invest in a comfortable workstation.
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3. Set Your Work Hours
My workday generally runs 8am-5pm, and I typically take an hour lunch around noon. Ensuring your family knows your schedule, can help them respect your work day. Setting your schedule and sticking with it is a boundary that eventually your family will understand should not be crossed (again, except in the case of an emergency). My family now knows I take a 15-minute break in the morning, an hour at lunch, and a 15-minute break in the afternoon. They limit their interactions with me to my breaks, freeing me to focus on my work tasks during the day.
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4. Limit Work on Your Days Off
Merging work tasks with family time is easy when you work from home. It’s tempting to catch up on work while watching a movie with the family on Saturday or Sunday evenings. Resist that temptation.
Since you strive to give your employer 40 uninterrupted hours each week, you must provide your family with the same respect. If it’s family time, work must wait until the next business day. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule if you’re a manager, are on call, or a work emergency arises. If you have a dedicated office space for your job, try to limit the time you spend in that space during off-work hours. I close my office door at 5 p.m. every day and try not to open it until 8 a.m. the following work day.
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5. Take Care of Yourself
This tip is like the Limit Work tip above, but I’m separating it because I want to focus on your “me time.” After the 40 hours you give your employer and time you give your family, church, friends, and other extracurricular activities, carving time out for yourself is a MUST. It’s easy to burn out. It’s easy to focus so much on work and family that you forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you get your yearly well-woman check-ups. Make a manicure, pedicure, or hair appointment. Leave the house every once in a while and go out to lunch without your laptop or company phone. Visit the local library and check out a few books. Read them in your downtime. Self-care is important. Don’t forget that.
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"Use your vacation days to refocus, renew, and refresh..."
Also, taking vacation and sick days are necessary as well. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you don’t need extended time away from the office. When you’re on vacation, turn off work emails, so they don’t come through on your phone or other mobile devices. Use your vacation days to refocus, renew, and refresh your spirit, mind, and body. It’s difficult to do that when your phone keeps alerting you to work emergencies. And if you’re sick, take the necessary time to get well. Pushing yourself and then getting too sick to work doesn’t help you, your family, nor your employer. Take care of yourself.
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6. Change the Scenery
Sometimes, a change of scenery is all you need to regain a sense of balance. When schools are closed, or hubby is off from work, and everyone is home, the noise can become overwhelming. This usually distracts me from my work. I like a change of venue during those times. Besides, when you work from home and all you see are the walls of your home, you can become unmotivated and tired. When I begin feeling this way, I’ll work a few hours from Starbucks, the local library, or one of my friends’ stores. Frustration with the family can leak into frustration with customers, colleagues, and bosses. So, it’s best to reduce the frustration as much as possible.
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7. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Working from home seems easy enough, but I often find working from home is more difficult than working in the workplace. Why? Because I seem disconnected from my boss and colleagues. In the workplace, I can walk to my boss’s office, plop into her chair, and vent about all my frustrations. When I’m at home alone, the four walls in my office are the only things I can vent to. Thus, communicating with your boss(es) and colleagues as much as possible is essential. Vent to one another, ask others for help when you need help, and express frustrations to your families (in a productive, non-aggressive manner).
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"Working from/at home is a blessing in today’s fast-paced world."
Working from/at home is a blessing in today’s fast-paced world. Although I haven’t learned how to balance the work-from-home lifestyle, and I sometimes still feel overwhelmed with all my responsibilities, I’ve certainly learned to embrace the benefits and convenience of working from home. I try to remember Proverbs 31:31, “Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” And Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking Victoriously. Aretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.
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Originally published Tuesday, 04 September 2018.