You’re working at home…and the kids are on holiday?!

Do you work full- or part-time from home? You’re not alone – it is estimated that within the next few years, up to 50 per cent of employees will be working full or part-time, remotely – particularly from their homes.

One of the main challenges for people working from home is achieving an appropriate work-life balance. Those who work at home can encounter difficulties in keeping both their family and work obligations in their rightful places as the two realms mingle under one roof.

With school holidays upon us, now is the time to develop some strategies to cope when the kids are on their holidays.

1. Establish boundaries

If you aren’t working the traditional nine to five, some family members and friends may assume you don’t have to work at all. Set firm boundaries about not being disturbed while you’re “at work”, even if the office is only down the corridor. One of those rules should be to set your working hours in advance.

But no matter how good you are at sticking to your ground rules, there will be distractions when you’re working at home. Try to understand what your distractions might be, plan for them and learn how to deal with them.

2. Claim your territory

Try to have a specific room or space and equipment to use exclusively for work. A whole room with a door you can close is ideal, but a designated corner will do if you must share rooms. When at work, make sure the kids know you are not to be disturbed unless it’s a real emergency. Your brother or sister hitting you is no reason to interrupt Mum or Dad while they are working. In any case, even if you live alone, you’ll feel more capable and ready for work in your own professional work environment. What’s more, if you are going to claim a tax deduction for expenses associated with a home office, there needs to be a particular space dedicated to that one purpose. Setting up your laptop on the kitchen table does not qualify as a home office!

3. Get comfortable

The principles of ergonomics do not change when you leave work and head for home. Whatever area you choose to work from, you need, at the very least, a desk, chair, computer and some shelving or other storage space. If using shelves or bookcases, bear in mind the height of the top shelves (reaching above shoulder height is a hazardous manual activity) and the possibility of items falling.

Take time to make it an inviting space, decorating it with pictures or mementos in the way that you might a cubicle in your central workplace. You should enjoy being in this space.

4. If you have to look after young children find a home carer or baby sitter

A home office is a great option for mums and dads who want to combine stay-at-home parenting and a career. It doesn’t mean you can or should manage home life without help. If you have children at home, as they will be during the school holidays, don’t be afraid to find help balancing home and work. Ask for help from your spouse, partner, relatives, friends or children. If you and your partner both work from home, consider the division of labour and determine who does what, especially if you have children.

Dr David McIvor, Director, WorkSafety Pty Ltd and author of “Working From Home Safety Handbook”

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