Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
As a working parent, the ability to work from your home office has likely made life substantially easier. But with a shift in your work location, there are concerns that you might not have explored before.
In a traditional office setting, homework, dinner prep, and laundry must wait until you walk in the door.
When you work from home, balancing these tasks can be more challenging because they’re just down the hall. Not only that, but kids — especially small children — are notoriously unapologetic about trying to gain your attention.
By acknowledging the challenge of balancing dual roles as a work-from-home professional and a working parent, you can still thrive.
Use the following tips to create a plan as you approach your new role as a work-from-home parent.
1. Acknowledge That You Need a Routine
No matter how much you enjoy your job, the reality is that work will still feel like work most days. And the distractions of home and parenting duties will call your attention away.
To thrive, you need to create a routine. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule, creating a pattern ensures you never feel guilty about focusing on the task in front of you.
That routine should include getting ready in the morning and moving to a dedicated workspace.
But you’ll also benefit from knowing that when you shut work down and move into parent mode, you don’t have to stress about the rest of the work hanging over you. Knowing precisely when you need to be back on the clock can help you be in the moment with your kids.
2. Create a Master Schedule
As a parent, a lot is going on, and this is especially true as your children get older. One of the most significant advantages of working remotely is finding a balance between caregiving duties and work tasks.
Often, that means working outside of a traditional 9-to-5 schedule so you can swap caregiving duties with another parent. Or, perhaps that means breaking up your plan so you can work early before school and again after bedtime.
And for many parents, technology has allowed them to get some work done while waiting for dance or karate lessons to be completed.
Don’t forget that you need to ensure that work time doesn’t spill into personal time. For example, try to avoid eating lunch at your desk. Instead, take advantage of working from home to devote your lunchtime to your personal life.
3. Consider Flexible and Alternative Schedules
Tying into the tip above, if you’re a freelancer or have a more flexible role, perhaps you can create blocks of time to balance your priorities.
Maybe you only work when your partner is home to take over childcare duties.
Or, perhaps you could take advantage of an alternative schedule and utilize compressed workweeks. You could potentially work three 12-hour days and then have four days off to devote to your family.
It’s not for everyone, but if you can manage it, alternative schedules can be a dream come true for working parents who want to be more present in their children’s lives while succeeding in their careers.
4. Advocate for Yourself
When balancing work and childcare, you must devote time to yourself, regardless of where your office is. But this is even more true when your biggest fans are waiting patiently outside your office door every day.
If you don’t intentionally schedule self-care, it won’t be long before you are stretched thin on every level.
Recognize that you can’t be everything to everyone. There are small ways to regain time and sanity, but you must actively look for them.
Ensure your schedule includes nonnegotiable “me time,” even if that’s just a daily walk before or after work.
Or, if one day a week is particularly hectic, maybe you can devote that night to takeout or a premade meal. Taking something off your chore list because you have set healthy limits is an excellent way to promote balance.
5. Set Clear Boundaries
Do your kids respect your work boundaries? The best way to find out is to ask them how they know when you’re unavailable to them.
It might go against your parenting instincts, but chances are you get more stressed with every interruption. Give yourself permission to prioritize work when necessary.
Consider setting boundaries with a visual cue. That might be a closed door or a sign that reminds your kids that you’re working. If that’s not efficient, it’s time to readdress getting childcare.
If you have any flexibility in your job, you might also be able to set a more flexible boundary for older kids. Depending on your children and their temperaments, perhaps you can set up a reading nook or a quiet homework corner in your office.
In this case, you should clearly outline the expectations that this is a quiet space, like the public library. But this is often a great compromise if your kids can work independently and would enjoy being near you for an hour or two after school.
6. Understand Your Company Requirements
Most remote companies have expectations or policies for childcare. Although there is generally a bit of flexibility for emergencies, the reality is that you won’t be able to accomplish what you need to with a toddler running around.
Contact your manager or HR representative if you’re unsure what your company policy is.
Making sure you comply with you company’s policy means you can avoid unexpected conflicts, like if someone pops their head up at your desk during a virtual meeting.
Discover Your Unique Balance
It’s always a dangerous thing as a parent to compare ourselves and our situation to someone else’s. Each child, home, and job will have unique needs.
One of the greatest gifts that remote work offers is the ability to create a unique work situation that meets your family’s specific needs.
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