Thanks to our National Work & Family Month resources, you’ve found a flexible telecommute job with a family-friendly telecommute employer, but how do you make working remotely work within your family? It’s time to talk telecommuting work-life balance.
Working from home really is all it’s cracked up to be, but that doesn’t mean telecommuting is not without its challenges. Every professional must figure out how to navigate through work and family stress, but, as a remote worker, those frustrations are magnified because they occupy the same location: your home.
Gain a deeper understanding of telecommuting work-life balance with our examination of 15 challenges telecommuters commonly face, as well as their solutions.
The Top Five Telecommuting Work-Life Balance Challenges
1. Finding Self-Motivation
Removed from the physical managerial supervision that comes with working on-site, home-based professionals must rely on their own self-motivation to decide to work. However, being self-directed is particularly challenging for telecommuters because they are surrounded by the comforts of home.
Believe it or not, telling yourself “If I don’t complete this project right now, there goes the money for my electric bill” isn’t always enough motivation to convince yourself to work when your bed and your favorite Netflix binge show are calling out to you; it is a Siren’s song. Sometimes, you have to entice yourself to work.
Establish a rewards system for completing tasks or working for a set period of time.
Once you normalize a pattern of working for two hours then enjoying an episode of a beloved television show, you’ll find yourself looking forward to your binge breaks and appreciating them as respites from work, not resenting them as irresponsible substitutions for work you’ll later regret.
2. Defining Boundaries
When your professional life and your personal life exist under one roof, the line between work time and personal time is often blurred. Unclear boundaries can lead to diminished productivity in your job, tension within your family, and a downward shift on the scales of telecommuting work-life balance.
Create a work area that is all your own.
If you don’t have the space to devote an entire room to a home office, create an office nook in the corner of your bedroom or kitchen, or claim the space under your stairs. Talk to your family and agree that when you are in your work zone you are off limits as a spouse or as a parent.
Related: Finding Spare Space for Your Home Office
3. Deciding on Childcare
The desire to care for a child at home is a driving force for a majority of professionals to pursue home-based employment, but working from home while simultaneously looking after a child isn’t always best strategy to succeed as a professional or as a parent.
Craft a childcare plan that best suits the needs of your family, and don’t be afraid to examine off-site daycare options.
Sending your child to daycare while you work from your home office will not make you a failure as a parent. When drafting your childcare plan and determining whether or not you need to seek off-site services, consider the following:
- How much work you can accomplish during times your child is asleep? This will mean utilizing your child’s nap time for work as well as getting up early and/or staying up late.
- Is your child easily occupied? Could you work while your child is at home playing quietly or, when you are in the vicinity of your child, does your child want your constant, focused attention?
- Do you have a friend or family member who could come to your home and care for your child while you work?
- Are there other work-at-home parents in your neighborhood with whom you could form a childcare co-op in which you take turns watching each other’s children throughout the week?
4. Working in Your Pajamas
Although the prospect of having a job that doesn’t require you to ever get out of your pajamas is alluring to telecommute job seekers, working in your pajamas is one of the biggest telecommuting work-life balance killers for home-based professionals.
Get dressed at least 80% of the time.
Sure, on occasion, indulge in your own “professional” pajama party, but the majority of the time you should change out of your bed clothes before you start your work day. This simple act is an easy solution for switching your brain to work mode.
Related: Telecommuting Confessions: Wackiest Work-at-Home Experiences
5. Devaluing Self-Care
Because telecommuters’ work and family environments are the same, challenges that arise in those areas feel all the more pressing, leading to remote workers thinking of themselves last and throwing off their telecommuting work-life balance.
Schedule time for yourself.
In the same way that you designate work hours or devote a Saturday to quality family time, you must also set aside time to check in with yourself and evaluate your own personal needs. Your job and your family are extensions of yourself, and if you aren’t your best self then your ability to function on the job and within your family will suffer as well.
10 Additional Telecommuting Work-Life Balance Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them
1. Creating a Schedule
By and large, telecommuting jobs offer at least some degree of scheduling flexibility. However, the most successful telecommuters adhere to a set work schedule the majority of the time. This means assigning a start time and an end time to your work day as well as scheduling breaks for relaxation, lunch, or a burst of exercise. Failing to do so will ensure you are less productive and more likely to procrastinate.
2. Prioritizing Quality Time
Remote workers may see their families more often than on-site professionals, but the quality of time spent as a family is just as challenging for telecommuting households. A spouse, partner, child, or other relative may have a difficult time coping with the fact that even though your family can see you, if you are working, you may not be able to actively engage with them—all the more reason for defining boundaries.
The solution to this tricky telecommuting work-life balance challenge is to clearly define your work and your family time, making each moment count. When you’re working, focus solely on work; when you’re with your family, take off your work hat and be fully present.
While telecommuters save money by not eating out as often for lunch, working from home means working only a few feet away from your refrigerator. Coupled with the sedentary nature of working virtually, it’s easy to gain weight when you transition to working off-site. Stave off gaining the telecommute 10 with these three tried-and-true tips:
- Incorporate breaks for lunch and healthy snacking throughout your work day
- Never bring food to your work station
- Get up and move when talking on the phone
4. Avoiding Distractions
A home work environment is most often a distracted work environment. From tripping over children’s toys and snuggling with your favorite fur babies to answering the door when a neighbor stops by, our homes are a hotbed for work distractions. And without a supervisor hovering over your shoulder to investigate your computer screen or catch you using your smartphone under your desk, you are free to waste oodles of time watching viral recipe videos, following your favorite celebrity’s latest Twitter meltdown, and sharing cat memes.
Keep in mind, the more work time you spend on non-work related activities the more free time you’ll have to expend to catch up on your work. Maintain a distraction-free work zone by disabling your smartphone and desktop notifications for non-work apps and programs during work hours, share a schedule of your home office hours with your friends and family so they’ll know not to call or stop by unless there’s an emergency, and keep your work space free of family cutter, including chew toys, that will inspire your human and animal family members to visit your home office while you work.
5. Doing Household Chores
Allow us to state this as plainly as possible:
Working at home does not, by default, make you primarily responsible for the upkeep of your home.
You’re in for a rude awakening if you venture into telecommuting under the assumption that you’ll be more prone to doing household chores while you work remotely. The notion that “Oh, I’ll just throw in a load of laundry while I take this call” is a trap. Either you’ll immerse yourself entirely in cleaning house and neglecting your work or you’ll end up washing the same load of laundry three times because you’re distracted by the fantasy of “doing it all.” Save your sanity and restrict your portion of the household chores to before you work, after you work, and on weekends.
One of the greatest telecommuting work-life balance challenges is truly feeling like you aren’t working. This challenge is heightened because telecommuters spend so much of their work and personal time online. If you want to be more successful at achieving telecommuting work-life balance, you have to understand when it’s time to unplug.
When creating your work schedule, as we suggested above, it’s critical to establish an end time for your work day, even if the actual time you can stop working varies daily.
Reinforce the conclusion of your work day by housing your work equipment and supplies in a cabinet, closet, or designated room with doors that close.
Additionally, at least once per month, take a day or weekend to unplug your life from your online connections. Don’t check your email or social media profiles during this time. Go outside and explore your local community, travel, and delight in tangible connections. The amount of telecommuters who swear by camping agree.
7. Combating Isolation
No matter how much you instant message, video conference, or talk on the phone with your clients, co-workers, and managers, digital communication cannot entirely replace in-person interaction. Strengthen your telecommuting work-life balance by valuing face-to-face communication with your colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
If your company has a centralized office, occasionally attend on-site meetings, trainings, and parties so that you feel like part of the loop. When it comes to your non-work relationships, make the extra effort to get out of the house and spend time with people you enjoy. Something as simple as a standing brunch date with a former college roommate or meeting your neighbor twice a week for a walk at a local park will boost your morale and help mitigate the sometimes isolating conditions of remote work.
8. Neglecting Administrative Tasks
This telecommuting work-life balance tip is offered particularly with freelance telecommuters in mind. As an independent contractor, a telecommuter is responsible for meeting client deliverables and functioning as an office manager.
Freelancers must be adept at report writing, creating invoices, logging receipts for tax purposes, withholding their own taxes, and troubleshooting technical issues that arise from their home office equipment.
Neglecting to set aside time each week to tend to administrative tasks will spell trouble for you down the road. Setting a simple reminder on your smartphone for a Friday evening administrative check-in should do the trick. Utilize this time to perform the following tasks:
- Respond to unanswered emails and instant messages, as well as archive your correspondence in their appropriate digital folders
- Create and submit your weekly time sheet or invoice
- Update your itemized list of work receipts
- Remove clutter from your computer’s desktop by dragging and droping files into their appropriate folders and backing up your work files via your favorite cloud storage medium or removable hard drive
- Speaking of desktops, de-clutter your home office desktop as well by shredding unnecessary paper documents, placing critical paper files inside a cabinet, and giving your work sufaces a quick dusting before ending your work week
9. Fighting Back Burnout
When the majority of every day is spent at home, the monotony of your environment can manifest as negative feelings about your work, also known as burnout. If you feel similarly, take a step back and objectively think about when these feelings started and if the root of your disdain lies with your surroundings or your line of work itself.
The good news is: telecommuting is a flexible work model.
Don’t want to work from home? You don’t have to. Consider spending some of your work week at a co-working center in your area. Interested in a new remote career? Virtual Vocations’ Telecommute Jobs Database features thousands of current, vetted telecommute job openings in more than 40 industries.
10. Being Taken Seriously
Ironically, as sought after as telecommute jobs are, the idea of working from home is unjustly interpreted as getting paid to be lazy. The stereotype of someone who works from home is one of a pseudo-professional who hasn’t showered in four days, is pantsless, unshaven, and a pro at mindlessly entering vague “data” into a computer while watching re-runs of The Jerry Springer Show. In reality, telecommuters, who often work longer hours than traditional employees, occupy the same jobs as on-site professionals, the only difference being that telecommuters perform those jobs from home or from another non-centralized location.
If you want to be taken seriously, take pride in yourself and your work. Print business cards, which you can do inexpensively via a company like VistaPrint, to advertise your services and easily pass along your contact information, create a free blog or website through services like WordPress, Wix, or Weebly, and talk openly about your personal experience with telecommuting.
Take Our National Work & Family Month Survey for a Chance to Win!
As Virtual Vocations continues to honor National Work & Family Month throughout October, we encourage you to take our 10-question Work & Family survey through Friday, October 28, 2016.
Answering 10 simple questions about the role of telecommuting work-life balance in your life will automatically give you a chance to win one of five $50 Amazon Gift Cards! Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, October 31, 2016, ensuring they’ll have a most Happy Halloween.
Telecommuting Work-Life Balance Starts with a Telecommute Job
Take advantage of our free registration and get started immediately with Virtual Vocations—the largest online job board focused exclusively on providing researched and screened telecommute jobs to job seekers. We review, approve, abstract, and upload an average of 10,000 new telecommuting job postings to our job board every month—sorting through more than 500,000 potential telecommuting jobs annually to find the best job leads for you.
As part of our service, you’ll have complete access to our Telecommute Companies Database filled with thousands of profiles of family-friendly telecommute employers known for hiring qualified professionals to work from home. Each company profile includes valuable information like the employer’s business stats, a graph of their most recent hiring trends, and social media profiles links.
Are you interested in achieving greater telecommuting work-life balance? Share your answer when you connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook and Twitter. Use hashtags #VVWorkAndFamily and #WorkLifeWins. We’d love to hear from you!
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Our family-owned company is committed to helping you find quality job leads. We strive to help make your work-at-home job search faster, easier and safer by bringing you scam-free jobs that offer some form of telecommuting or virtual work.
Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background.