Golden Retriever lying on bed

Finding your Balance

Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse.  For those new to working from home the first weeks or even months seem like it is the best thing since sliced bread.  No more commuting and getting stuck in traffic, no more rushing to get a decent breakfast before heading out the door; no more making sure you look ‘just right’ to create that all important personal presentation to your fellow work team.  This sounds like a dream and it does feel like one, well at first. 

If you compare this to being newly married, you are in the honeymoon phase.  Everything feels so wonderful, nothing bothers you or if it does you just brush it off as no big deal. However, once that honeymoon phase starts to lose its luster and the rose-colored glasses start sliding off reality sets in.  That reality can be like being hit with a brick or the subtle letdown that no matter how you package it, work is work.  The challenge of integrating your personal and professional life was likely a myriad of compromises before you brought it all home.  Now you must face other issues that you need to decide how to handle.  What are your priorities in each and how do they mesh or collide in the grand scheme of things?

As a parent who has worked from home for the last 20+ years I can tell you that each day can bring about challenges.  It is how we face them and decide what takes ultimate precedence in our lives that can determine how successful we are in all areas of our life.  I know I have made a lot of mistakes, put work before family more often than I care to admit.  In sharing my experiences, I am hopeful you can learn from my mistakes and make a few less along your path.

In our current situation around the world many have been thrust into the “work from home” rather than go into an office environment.  It is not a choice but a requirement.  That helps because when you ‘went into the office’ to work, you had set hours; try to keep those hours now.  If your workday started at 8 and ended at 5 with an hour for lunch.  Set a timer and keep those hours as if you walked through the doors of your workplace and sat down at your workstation/desk. 

There are challenges to this concept.  If you have children of any age seeing you ‘at home’ now becomes [in their minds] you are accessible and available ALL of the time.  Depending on the ages of your children, you can sit them down and tell them you have a 10 min breaks at such and such a time and your lunch hour is at noon.  If they are old enough, they will either rejoice or look at it as a chance to challenge every rule you ever set down.  Yes, challenge, you did read that right.  Having raised two boys, they looked at my time on conference calls as challenges to see who could get me to yell first or worse get into things, they should have had more supervision doing.  Several unexpected trips to urgent care along with stitches occurred during such times.  If I could turn back time and do it all again, I would have given them strict options vs letting them choose whatever kept them quiet so I could work during those times.

If your children are younger you must be more creative to continue to be productive at your chosen profession.  A good rule of thumb is your child, whatever age they are, you have that number of minutes before they lose interest and need a change of pace, distraction, or action.  So if you are trying to go over spreadsheet numbers and you have a 4 year old playing near your desk, you get all of 4 minutes, if you are lucky, to focus before your darling loses interest or demands attention.  If you have a spouse who has been relegated to also work from home or take time off due to restrictions in the workplace you can ask for help.  That may or may not be the kind of help you need or want. 

Did I tell you I have been down this road?  Yes, the help received from my husband was not the kind I expected.  It was of the “go ask your mother” variety and usually at the most inopportune times.   Looking back I believe I did make my needs known for trying to be successful in my ‘work from home’ endeavors, but somehow there was a definite disconnect from the stating what I needed to what was heard by my spouse.  Now, I would suggest writing out expectations and needs to accomplish the work you need to get done.  That way if you read it out loud and then post it someplace where you both agree it can be easily accessed it will act as a reminder to what you asked for in the first place.  On the flip side of this is what your spouse needs while he/she is also working from home.  Just as you need certain things to focus on the job at hand, they too have certain things they need to work up the standards their boss has come to expect when they are in the workplace.  Be fully prepared and expect to compromise so both of you can be your best selves and be as productive as you have in the past.  Who knows, you may spur each other on to not just do better but be better and happier in the long haul.

Now as to the logistics of maintaining your office space at home.  For some, there is a designated space that you can close off by shutting a door.  This is ideal but not always available.  If you are limited on private areas such as not having a spare bedroom or den that allows for privacy you have to become creative.  In my case I have a sunroom that is my office area.  I have all the normal things in that room, a desk, file cabinets, printer, computer, phone but I lack one big item; the ability to close it off from the rest of the house.  This means that day to day living creeps into my office on a regular basis. 

When my children were young, we had schedules in our home for the summer months when they were out of school and even during the school year when I needed to work after they were home.  The understanding was if they kept the noise and interruptions down or outside this would allow for special rewards.   Those special rewards were usually an extended bedtime on weekends or camp out with bonfire with friends.  I am sure if you take a bit of time you can come up with some creative ways to accomplish what you need to.  The key is your desire to actually be the most productive in your space in spite of interruptions that will come.   Many times, we can be focused on work then ‘family issues’ creep in and we get distracted from the work at hand.  Keeping one’s focus on your daily list of ‘to do’s’ can help.

That daily “to do” list is not just for students and bosses.  It is a way to keep your focus on work when you have extra distractions.  You may find yourself straying into the thoughts of what can you make for dinner before it’s even lunchtime so that reminder that you are or should be mentally “at work” can sometimes be jogged back by that TO DO list.  Understanding you have set goals to accomplish for work each day will help maintain that mindset.  I know that someone falling, crying, overly loud teenagers or demanding spouses are all distractions we face at home.  As I sit editing this, I was besieged with interruptions and distractions.  The dog got out of the yard; son needed help trying to use the sewing machine plus the phone ringing off the hook.  Now I should be taking my own advice and look at my TO DO list, post it in a visible place; maybe more than one place and remind my lovely family and extended family that I need to stay on task as well. 

I know you can take the tidbits and use them to either laugh, criticize, or just commiserate with the challenges we all face working from home.  There are benefits for the work from home group that anyone in the ‘business world’ cannot fully appreciate unless they really know what they miss out on day to day.  Our families grow and change on a daily basis and when we spend 9-10+ hours away from them Monday through Friday for years on end, I wonder if one day we will regret doing that.  Conversely, will we cherish the opportunity to work from home with all of it’s challenges and decide it is what we really want to continue doing because we got thrust into this ‘life/work style’ because of a virus? Finding our personal balance for home, work, family can be a challenge.  For the ones that have learned to master and find their balance the rewards, both big and small, are worth every challenge along the path. 

About the author

Chairperson, Compumatrix Board of Directors
Mother, Wife and Grandmother who chose to leave the office and work from home since 1995. I believe every person should continue to learn in all sorts of areas as long as we have the ability to do so.

Comments

  1. Thank you Jane for sharing your experience of working at home.
    Every household is different and the obstacles you encounter can be different than mine and vice-versa.
    My position as RR for LatinAmerica group (which is still a small group of members) I can handle easy . But what when hundreds or thousands join ?
    It is said never take your work home. So what you do if your house is your workplace.? Working- business hours s must be estabished . Focus, having the right mindset and Do list is a must for me

  2. This makes me want to go back out of retirement! JUST KIDDING!

    I just retired this past Spring from teaching. You look forward to retirement for so long that it is hard when your husband says, “we have work to get done in our business!” We have been in and out of various business ventures over the years lately. Our concern is this. Will we be able to keep up with the business dealings we have coming up because of our Compumatrix Business? Of course this is big because we will be changing lives of other people!

  3. Finding my balance is one of my New Years resolutions every year. Where you place your energy I believe will help those ideas flourish. I stated this is on my list EVERY year because I never really master balancing family and work.

    Your article had a few great points that I wish I would have know years ago. I like the idea of setting up a good schedule during the summer for the kids including rewards. Most importantly I need to remind myself to walk away from my desk and take a lunch break to simply clear my mind!!!!

  4. Jane, thanks for sharing your experiences with working from home. I am sure most of us if not all have had some or all the experiences that you have had. Personally,working from home has been an excellent experience for me, although, I have also been frustrated at times with varies interruptions from family, pets and neighbors. Personally, the best approach that I found successful was to concentrate on the task at hand, and that was not easy to start, but with time it paid off. A good walk out side every two hours always helped with stress and improved my concentration. In the long run it has been a good experience to be be close to my family during the day. The only thing that I have missed is the personal face to face contact with great people during outside work.

  5. Thanks, Ma’am Jane. I can relate to working at home, especially in this unsettling period. My kids too are home, and I help them with homework and agree, it does present a challenge to keep them entertained and interested, that is not a natural balance to achieve as it takes work and knowing when they get bored and need to change what they are doing!

  6. Yes working from home can be a blessing if you do not have a large family and surroundings to distract you. One can not find a better option and it saves a lot of cost,overheads,time, travelling etc.And the main thing is you can earn a decent residual income working from home if you are in the right job or online program.The recent virus has put a lot of people out of jobs,and the best option is to work from home,be safe and stay healthy from the environment.

    1. Ali, this is an interesting perspective on the “Finding your Balance” blog post. I do not know what it is like to have a “large” family, but I noticed in your comment that you said that having a “large” family and working from home may not be a blessing. I come from a family of four and I love that I have other members in my home who I can count on if I need something to help me in my working at home or who can hold me accountable when I get distracted. I love how your comment challenged me to think outside of the box though!

  7. Jane, your post made me stop for a second and assess my balance. I have worked from home for approximately 12 years now and I have really loved every minute of it. Prior to being locked down I did have balance. I would wake up early every morning, shower, dress and get ‘ready for work’. Picking up my handbag I would walk upstairs into a different life. My office. The phone would start ringing, I would check my diary, email, and prioritise my projects and sit down in front of my computer and start working. Sometimes I could take a lunch break and occasionally left the ‘office’ for a meeting with a client.

    Now this has all changed. I get up at least an hour later. Run upstairs to switch on my pc. Back downstairs for a cup of coffee and back upstairs again. And that is where I am sitting right now at 13h48 on a Friday afternoon, still in my pyjamas. Its amazing, I get nothing done any more. We are coming out of lockdown slowly. I must get my balance right and soon!

  8. I have not been working from home for my career as a kitchen guy I spent most of days n nites in someone elses kitchen and being a dad I also found that many times I would have liked to be home — but — this is a great read and I now past the 60 part am looking and learning how to be working from home and also semi retired and that is nice feeling also lol Thank you Jane and great to share your experiences —

  9. Jane, your post definitely shows why women are so good at multi-tasking – well most of the time – not taking into consideration the unusual things found in the refrigerator or the things you may agree to when your children interrupt you with a pressing question. Love your idea of setting up special rewards for the kids to work towards. I believe all these challenges make us, our children and significant others grow in very positive ways!

  10. I do not have children so I cannot imagine what you are going through because of the forced “work-at-home” situation, but I do have a sister. Our “workspace rooms” are next to each other so I can hear everything in her room. I love my sister, but she loves to blast music, facetime with her friends, and play loud video games. My time is precious and when I am in “work mode”; I do not want to be disturbed. Time is precious and that is why finding the balance for work, family and friends, and work is crucial to one’s satisfaction with themselves. Allocate your time wisely…

  11. That is quite a story you told there Jane! It reminds me of the newspaper comic strip Family Circus…lol. You are so right though about using To Do lists to help with keeping focus on what actually needs to get done in a day or a week. Having that list and prioritizing it as well makes a big difference in the amount of tasks that one will actually complete in a timely manner. That applies to working at home or working at an office as well. I like the methods that you used to reward your children for “disturbing you less than usual”…lol Thank you for sharing this Jane.

  12. I have never had to take an online class or do school from home until recent events. I never knew how different it would be and the sometimes lack of motivation I would feel from doing all my work in my bed. It definitely is different and sometimes I can get easily distracted with a tv, siblings, animals or any distractions that come with being at home. I think a “to-do” list would have been very helpful in keeping my mind focused for the whole day.

  13. I did both. Working from home and working in a school. The school was the main focus of my job but when I got home I wasn’t finished yet. I had to correct the tasks of the students, prepare the lassons for the next day and help student with some extra lessons and attention if they were a little behind. So I have experience is both and I don’t have a preference.

  14. Yes the struggle is real. Having spent 20 plus years working outside of the house, I find the time working from home to be a real stressor. The worrying about if we are being productive by being home. It’s a awkward feeling of always thinking I need to be doing something since now im in this covid-19 forced virtual work space. The blogs suggestions seem like very good ideas to incorporate into the daily work life setting. Thanks so much for the tips!!!

  15. I have been working as a Manager Human Recources for companies and the government but I also had my own consultancy that I used to train ceo’s and managers in how to make their company succesfull. Most of the work for this job I did from my home and I liked that. You are the boss of your own time which is great but what I missed was the interaction with collegues. A quick chat or drinking coffee together can be very inspiring.

  16. I have my own business and am my own boss. An agricultural/biodynamic farm where I am one with nature and where I find a perfect balance. I can’t imagine that I have to work for a boss who tells me what I have to do. What I have now is all the ever wanted in life.

  17. Some people say I work too much, but I think I am just passionate about what I do. I feel bad sometimes for working so much when all my little sister wants is to play with me, but I try and balance my time efficiently. Balance is essential if one leans too far to the right or left, they will fall. I think that is the same with everything in life – if one does too much of one thing, they will experience burn out.

  18. It’s not just Finding Your Balance that makes this information important. For me, over the last couple of days especially, it has been finding the Right Balance. Sometimes working from home can be a blessing and sometimes not. With this virus going, the finances are being strained which has unbalanced me. Right now, I’m out of sync with just about everything and I hope I will at least be able to rebalance with Compumatrix.

  19. I have not laughed so much in a long time after reading this excellent article. It hit a home run in so many areas. I too am a grandmother, and I have been raising two young boys, 4 and 7 and my ability to focus on one task severely challenged on a daily basis. Have you heard about distracted driving? Well I practice distracted everything. I want to run an efficient, productive, wonderful Compumatrix business from home and Mutt and Jeff are there to help me all the time! All I can say is thank goodness for the “record” button. Now with Covid-19 on the loose, we are going to add homeschooling to the list as the school district wants kids only 63% of the time! Their ages increase, it doesn’t get any easier just different and what one doesn’t think up to do the other one does. I live in a wonderful world of chaos and always changing circumstances and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  20. Having retired some time ago, it has always been my wish to find something I can do from home. Coming across Compumatrix and earning in the Portal suits me so much. The blogs are great in focussing our attention on the important things to keep us focussed. I enjoy reading them and thinking about how I can improve my understanding of the business. Thanks Jane for taking the time to put this blog together. I can certainly relate to the challenges you mention.

  21. I agree with your balance blog. I feel better when I wake up early, exercise, and get dressed for work, even when I am working from home. It gives me the empowerment that I feel as if I was working at an office. Every night I write out my to-do list, while I am sleeping, I feel I have more clarity when I wake up on what is the most important task for the day.

  22. Working from home is a challenge to most of us as it is difficult to find a balance relating to marriage, family, money, health, social circles, spiritual development and mental growth. The time runs away with us and before you know it you have spent a whole day or evening on the computer. How do we devote enough energy to a balanced life when we are so busy trying to make ends meet… Assessing your life as it is, making a conscious decision to become balanced, setting realistic goals your life and willing to take the risk would certainly be a starting point. If something isn’t working be prepared to reassess and make new decisions.

  23. I completely relate to this! I work from home running my own interior design business, but I am also a single parent raising two children. I have to balance working with my making dinner for, playing with, and driving my children places everyday – I must say it is quite the feat. I also like to take personal time too because I know that that will make me a better mom and business owner. It is all a balance, but completely worth it!

  24. it is a good thing to find peace and joy in working from home if that is what You want inside — compu is a great spot to make it work and also know from having toiled outside the home over 40 years that learning home work takes a bit of patience and time — and you must truly map out a plan and work that plan — jmho but darn fun —

  25. I have been looking forward to working at home I know there will be challenges and thank you for this blog it has given me some very good tips. I have been raising my great nieces since they were 4 and 6 now 15 and 17 so this has helped me a lot. I have already started to fix up a spare bedroom into my office and can’t hardly wait to work Compumatrix full time.

  26. Jane points out the pratfalls of working from home especially with children growing up. Kids have needs and they never run out of them as most of us know. The phrase: “where did that come from” is heard by parents everyday.

    Setting rules when I was working at home was necessary for them and my spouse. The easy explanation was a simple one. “I’m working which means I’m making money, translation no new “stuff” if I don’t earn.” That message was clearly understood.

    I spent a lot of time teaching them how to sell, be it yachts, motorcycles, real estate or exotic cars. I dragged them everywhere across the U.S. giving them a broad view of life and what it takes to accomplish your goals.

    At home, it was my office which meant my space. They still came in when the door was open and knew it was necessary to be quiet. Fast forward to today, still have one entire room for an office of course filled to the brim with photos, trophies and a stuffed dog. But, I’m comfortable in here spending many hours everyday. Beats traveling to an office.

    Make yourself comfortable, work relaxed, stay out of the refrigerator if you can, that is a real test of wills.

  27. I agree balance is key to happiness and not getting too overwhelmed. Learning to work from home or for some of us not having a job or being furloughed has been an eye-opener on my job, my employer, everything. Compumatrix has been great at keeping me busy so I’m not bored at home while looking for work. the new blogging is fun and I’m really enjoying it.

  28. oh it is so much thought process involved and balance in everything we do is more important than just a blog can point out — however in each day every moment is that important — not always is that moment put together but when you look back at each day those moments are very noticeable — hence why i really like coming in here and reading and putting these blogs and replies into perspective — very much appreciative to the effort and truth put forth — rj

  29. Working from home is a comprise and a challenge. You are so on point with this blog Jane. I often wished I had an office away from home, to be able to focus on the necessary things I needed to do each day to build my business. Financially it is better to have a home business. We have to set a time we can work, with the least amount of interruption. Good blog.

  30. am surprised honestly i have not been back to read this great Blog — there is just so much honest good hearted info in this and to know each of us have walked or traveled down so many roads that are similar in hindsight but also what we have learned from those many parts are just awe-inspiring in my opinion — thank you Jane seriously and will be back to read many more times —

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