No matter how much time you get off from work to spend with your newborn baby, eventually you have to face the reality of going back. It’s sad, and just the thought of it can heighten your anxiety. Your baby has been your world.
Sure, work has crept in the back of your thoughts on occasion, but knowing you didn’t have to go was always a comfort.
You will have to go back to the office at some point, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. If your employer allows you to work from home several days a week, you may be able to maintain the bond with your child while still being an integral part of your team at work.
You can work your schedule around your baby’s needs and focus on your job duties during those long naps or quiet time. You might even get more work done without pesky co-workers monopolizing your time with complaints, gossip, and questions.
The Option of Working From Home
Many employers are embracing the work-from-home structure, as it helps retain good employees. It also increases company loyalty among appreciative employees when they are allowed to balance their work and family schedules.
It doesn’t come without change, though. There are times where everyone must be in the office. There will be times you can’t be there, even though you should. How do you maintain relationships with the chain of command and other departments if you aren’t physically there to do so?
Like any change, it requires you to take a different approach than the way you used to do things, and it requires more flexibility on the part of your employer to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial.
Telecommuting Is on the Rise
According to research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, working from home or telecommuting has increased 115% between 2005 and 2015. That’s almost 4 million employees and roughly 3% of the total workforce of the United States who have worked from home at least part of the time.
Since it is now commonplace for families to have both parents working, it has become more practical to have a remote workforce. Also, with the rise of single-parent families, it has become harder to balance work and family obligations.
Telecommuting can save money, too. When you take into consideration expenses like gas, public transit, parking, and dry cleaning, the average worker saves more than $4,000 per year by telecommuting. Employers can save up to $11,000 per year by allowing an employee to telecommute half the time. Telecommuting has become an attractive perk in the recruiting and hiring process.
Create and Maintain a New Routine
Being allowed to work from home is a blessing, but it will take a lot of work on your part to make it effective. Think of all the time you will save commuting to and from work, and imagine it as extra time to get your work done. Keep in mind there are drawbacks, too. You won’t be able to run errands to and from work, like grocery shopping. You will have to make time for the things that used to be on your way.
Make changes where needed, but don’t allow yourself to stray from your obligations. Just because no one is looking, it doesn’t mean you should watch YouTube videos for half an hour. Plan for arranged interruptions in your day, like feeding the baby or going to a school function, but also keep ahead of things in case there are unexpected interruptions.
Your employer will be more empathic when you miss work but have been on top of your duties. Some people enjoy working at their computer in their pajamas or comfy clothes, but it might help you concentrate if you are showered and dressed for work. This will put your mind in work mode.
Reach out to Your Coworkers
Contact coworkers via email as early as you can. Make sure they know you are available to them and busy working on whatever needs to get accomplished that day. Ask questions or confirm information, so you know everyone is on the same page. Return or make phone calls right away, so no one is waiting on you for information.
It’s essential to cultivate work relationships, and it’s more challenging when you can’t physically be there. Make an effort to reach out to others regularly. Be a listening ear or a source of advice. Ask questions of mentors or those higher up so they know you are committed to excelling in your career.
If you are going to be on video conferences, make sure your work environment looks clean, organized, and professional. You don’t want coworkers to see you with “bed head,” surrounded by dishes and candy wrappers. Keep baby items out of the line of sight, as well. You don’t want them to be a distraction to others or a conversation topic you aren’t interested in having.
If you have the time to show up to work, make an effort to do so now and then, even if you don’t have to that day. Making an unscheduled appearance that involves working and not just passing around the baby will make a good impression on coworkers and superiors.
Periodically dropping into the office will also help you maintain control of your workflow and obligations. You will get to meet new employees face to face and catch up with coworkers with whom you may not usually interact. Make sure your employers know how much working from home means to you. Praise the benefits this arrangement has given you and your employer.
Learn to Work When the Baby Naps
As tired as you might be, following the advice of sleeping when your baby sleeps only means you will never have free time to get things done. If you can, schedule a nap in your day. But when the baby is sleeping, buckle down and get your work done while you can.
Babies can give you hours of quiet time. Unfortunately, it’s just not usually at night when you are trying to sleep. Try to develop a regular nap schedule for them. They will do better and will be more reliable, and you will get more work done.
Take Advantage of Baby Gear
Baby slings or harnesses — which can keep your baby warm and close to you while you work — can give you lots of uninterrupted time. Baby carriers for naps next to you are also helpful. When they get a little older, put them in a Pack and Play, where they can jump around and play with their favorite toys while they are in your company.
Have a Babysitter Handy
Depending on how many children you have and what their ages are, there are going to be times where you are too overwhelmed with them to get your work done. There may also be times when you can’t be home, or your work requires uninterrupted attention.
For these days, have a reliable babysitter you can call to help you make it work. Even if it gets you just a few uninterrupted hours, it will be worth the extra expense. Your kids will enjoy the change and the companionship. If you know another parent in your situation, share a nanny or babysitter on a regular schedule.
Establish Work Rules
When your children are old enough, make sure they know when you are in your office, at your desk or wherever you work, they shouldn’t interrupt you unless it is absolutely necessary. What is “absolutely necessary” will evolve over time, but try to impress upon them that you need your time and space to work, so you will have more time to enjoy with them.
Make rules for yourself, as well. If coffee helps you work, drink up. But if it is just an excuse to leave your work environment, limit yourself to two cups until you are finished with a certain task. Breaks are healthy, but surfing the Internet is not. The more you concentrate and focus on your work, the more free time you will have.
Use the hands-free options your devices offer. When on the phone, use headphones with a microphone attached to them. This way, you don’t have to use the speakerphone option, which many people find offensive. Speaking over headphones sounds as natural as any other call. Be ready to use the mute button, too.
If your child cries out during a business call, just be honest and admit what’s going on. Most people will be supportive and will find humor in the interruption. Use your smartphone’s calendar and reminder functions to aid your tired and forgetful mind.
There is no guarantee how successful you will be working from home. Everyone is different, and everyone has their own unique experiences raising children. Some babies are more demanding than others, and they all have different needs. It’s essential that you stay positive and realize some days aren’t going to go your way.
Be patient with yourself, with your children, and with your spouse, who may not understand what you have been through that day. You’re going to make mistakes, but you will learn from them. Over time, you will become more proficient at balancing work and home duties. By then, your kids might be old enough for you to go back to the office.
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Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on finding happiness and success in life and at work. You can find her dishing out advice with a side of wit on Twitter and her career advice blog, Punched Clocks.
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