Achieving success in both remote work and family life can be difficult. After 17 years of working from home with three children, Laura Spawn, CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Vocations, shares some of the key lessons she’s learned to make working remotely and family life work together.
Remote Work and Family Life: 8 Tips for Success
When my first child was 6 months old, I was lucky enough to begin my career working from home doing small side jobs as a freelancer. That was 17 years ago. After adding two more children to the mix, supporting my husband who was in school full-time through a professional program, and moving through five more temporary remote positions until I co-founded Virtual Vocations in 2007, it’s safe to say I’ve had plenty of experience juggling a remote career and a busy family life.
One thing I’ve noticed over the past 17 years is that as my family’s needs have changed so has the way I’ve managed my work schedule and accomplished my career goals. I’m happy to say that, for both myself and my family, working remotely has been a positive experience—one that I would highly encourage others to take advantage of if their career field allows it.
Here are eight quick tips to achieve success in remote work and family life. These are all things I’ve put into place over the past 17 years as I’ve gone from supporting wife and mother of three kids under the age of four, to a successful business owner with three teens—all while working remotely from home.
Depending on your current phase of family life, some of these tips will be more applicable than others, but hopefully each of them will provide some insight and ideas into how to make your remote work and family life successful.
1. Ask for Flexible Work Hours
When my children were young, I fit the majority of my work in the early morning hours before they were awake, during nap time and after they went to bed at night. If your job allows it, don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility during this time of life when young children need your attention while they are awake.
2. Have a Child Care Option Available
It’s not fair to ask or expect a family member to care for your children during the week for free while you work from home, just because they can come over and ‘hang out’ while caring for your child(ren). If you have a remote job that requires work hours during the day, be prepared to pay for regular care, or agree on some type of exchange of services, but have a plan already in place for when you need daycare.
3. Get Rid of the Guilt
No matter how well planned your work day is, there will be times when you have to work off schedule and will need to either park your kids in front of the TV or let them play extra on their video games so you can meet a deadline or attend an impromptu video meeting. Don’t feel bad about it! But it happens often, maybe it’s time to take a look at adjusting your current schedule. This goes for when your kids are teens as well!
4. Integrate Your Family into Your Work Life
As my children have gotten older, it is fun to ask for their opinions on work decisions ranging from choosing colors for a new graphic to their opinion on a new feature. They ARE ‘digital natives’ after all, so I’m currently using that to my advantage when it comes to UX input. Seriously though, kids, and even your spouse, appreciate being included in your work, especially when you work from home and they have a front row seat to you sitting at your desk all day.
5. Set Clear Goals and Prioritize Your Workflow
Whether you work for yourself or a company, have a discussion and make sure goals and expected outcomes for your position are clear, then prioritize your work, and report back on progress. Doing so decreases the time you spend trying to figure out where to start and mindless multi-tasking.
6. Get Enough Sleep
I love the quote from Princess Bride that reminds us, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” It’s tempting to deprive yourself of sleep to get more done, but that will result in poor performance and productivity and make for a harder family life as well.
7. Make Time for Yourself
Yes, I know this is old news to all of us, and it can be really frustrating to hear when you already feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but if you fit in a few minutes of self-care, it will actually make your day feel longer and easier. It took me years to actually make time for myself, and I have done it better and worse during different times of life, but these days with all the kids being teens and pretty self-sufficient, I have found it’s a little easier. Blocking out 30 minutes to an hour each day for some ‘you time’ is well worth the return of a calmer, more focused mind, ultimately leading to accomplishing more with higher quality results.
8. Make InstaPot, Freezer Meals or a Crockpot Your Best Friend
There’s nothing more stressful at the end of a day than having no idea what you are going to feed your hungry brood, especially if you are the main family cook. To avoid unhealthy, processed foods not to mention the expense of going out to eat regularly, invest in spending a few hours on the weekends preparing meals for the coming week that will take you 15-20 minutes at most to throw together, or put in the crockpot first thing in the morning. Make it a family bonding time!
With my first child turning 18 in the coming year, I feel like I’ve come full circle learning to work remotely and take care of my family during all the various stages of life and growth, both personally and in my career. I wouldn’t have done things any differently, even with the learning curve of juggling work and family obligations over the years during the different phases of our lives.
One thing remains certain, working remotely from home has been a benefit that has allowed me to feel more connected to my family on a daily basis and be available to them when they need me, and has also allowed me to grow personally as a business owner and CEO, reaching above and beyond where I thought my career would take me.
Join Virtual Vocations in Celebrating National Work and Family Month 2019, October 7 – 11
Virtual Vocations values work and family as well as the flexibility that remote work can provide working families. With better work-life integration through telecommuting, families can be more successful within their professional and personal lives.
For more information on National Work and Family Month 2019, visit our event page for details about special Virtual Vocations discounts on memberships and career services, a link to take our Remote Work Benefits survey, the scoop on a Facebook Q&A with Virtual Vocations’ remote work experts, information on how to enter our giveaways including Amazon gift cards valued at up to $100, and more!
Please visit Virtual Vocations social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for additional remote work and family content and conversations. All week long, follow our hashtags #VVWorkAndFamily and #VVNWFM.