Welcome to WFH – the new normal
I have worked from home (WFH) either full or part-time for my entire career. Even while working at WIC or Purdue, my “creative” work happened at home. It was in my home office where I composed nutrition songs for kids, created curriculums, wrote books, developed class lectures and professional speeches. I always found the workplace more distracting than home. Home was the place where I could accomplish “deep work.”
With that said, I primarily accomplished this while my husband was out of the house working and our three kids were at school or had “left the nest.” Many newcomers to the WFH Club are not so fortunate. They are juggling full-time parenting responsibilities along with the distractions of household tasks and 24/7 access to news and entertainment. They are also joining out of necessity rather than personal choice. And during a time of unprecedented upheaval and collective stress.
What advice can I provide to WFH newbies as a WFH veteran?
Create a place to work. A home office is wonderful, but if there isn’t space to dedicate a room to WFH, be creative. If children are home from school, they also need a good place to do school work that promotes quality thinking. Try to set up a space that doesn’t have to be put away for meals. Rearrange the furniture if needed. Set up a card table desk in a corner. If weather permits, create an office on a porch or balcony. Work environment matters. Do the best you can.
Make a schedule, but allow yourself flexibility. A disruption in our normal routine can make us feel out of control, which can make it hard to get work done even for those of us without kids underfoot. In the workplace, someone else may dictate where you are to be and what needs to be done. When you work from home, you make the schedule. Determine priorities for what needs to be done each day. Break up big projects into realistic tasks. Establish new WFH routines, especially if you have kids. Routines give us a sense of security and help us get more done. But allow yourself the flexibility for plans to change.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Spend some time each day talking through what each person in your household’s priorities and plans are for the day. Negotiate how to share responsibilities that keep the household running – kids included. Look online for fun ideas to accomplish this, they’re everywhere. Parents need to take turns supervising children if both expect to WFH. Decide cooperatively as a family on shared activities. Have realistic expectations for yourself and others.
Balance home, work and play. When in the workplace, working is what you do. When at home, work may feel like it doesn’t belong. You may have made it a point to keep work at work and not bring it home. When you WFH the lines dividing work, household responsibilities, parenting, and play become blurred. Balance is HARD. It definitely feels like you’re juggling. Those who thrive on WFH will have a tendency to work too much (guilty), and those who are new to WFH may have a tendency towards being unproductive. Use your schedule to help achieve balance. Give yourself and others grace. Lots of it.
Look for the opportunities this pause in our normal routine provides. What good can come out of this “pause” in our normal routine? Do you have some free time to learn a new skill, play more games with your kids, make more home-cooked meals, or catch up on some reading? Maybe you wondered whether you might enjoy working from home and a home-based business sounded intriguing. You are getting a chance to see if WFH is for you. I hope it encourages more flexible work schedules even when we get back to the office!
WFH works for me; I hope it works for you, too. Welcome to the club!
“When you work from home there is no such thing as a holiday.”
~ Anthony T. Hincks
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