How I Mastered The Challenges Of Working From Home

kidsMaybe “mastered” is a little bold, but I do have years of experience working from home and have fumbled my way to relative success. The challenges of working from home are different for everyone, but here are three of the biggest challenges I’ve faced and the solutions that have worked for me.

Challenge #1: Kids

As a parent, it goes without saying that you love your children. But as much as we love our kids and love being parents, work and kids do not go hand-in-hand. Your kids may have been a factor in your decision to work from home, but that doesn’t necessarily make juggling work and kids any easier.

If you have young children, like I do, you don’t have the benefit of having school hours to buckle down and focus on work. This means you are splitting your time between the kids and work during the day, getting up early and staying up late to work, working weekends, or calling in reinforcements (family, nanny, babysitter, daycare) to help out with the kids.

I’ve done all of those things listed above and after facing severe burnout from lack of sleep and working through every weekend to try to stay caught up, I discovered that the best solution for me (and the kids) was setting up childcare outside the house a few days a week. This gives me the dedicated work time I need to run my business, and it gives the kids a break from me and some socialization time with other children their age. When they are home, I have less work to do so my time with them is more focused and attentive. And there’s a lot less stress.

Challenge #2: Isolation

Let’s face it, working from home can be lonely. You don’t have coworkers sitting down the hall who you can chat with during the day, and you may not get out to do much face-to-face networking. Add to that being an introvert, like I am, and forget it…you’re on your own!

For me the solution for this has been my regular calls with clients, scheduling some time during the day to run errands, and forming relationships with colleagues online. While I use many social media outlets for business, I have also had the amazing benefit of forming personal relationships with some great people I connected with online, which has been invaluable to me.

Challenge #3: Unplugging

Because I love what I do, I face a challenge I suspect many of us who work from home face – the inability to shut down, turn off and put away work at the end of the day. This can be a good and a bad thing. Good, because you get more done and are able to stay on top of everything. Bad, because we all need time away from work. And if you frequently work on the weekends, too, you may be in desperate need of a break.

My solution for this, and I admit it is an ongoing area of improvement for me, is trying to plan time that is work-free — when my kids are home, for some weekend hours and in the evening. I can always jump back into the loop with my BlackBerry, but I’m learning not to be tethered to my laptop and incoming messages. This gives me some much needed down-time and makes my dedicated work time much more productive and efficient.

The bottom line is that I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do in business from my home on my own time. And I wouldn’t change my situation for anything, even if I frequently have to troubleshoot solutions for challenges that arise. Your challenges may be different from mine and what others face, but the key is finding solutions that work for you.

What are your biggest challenges of working from home? What solutions have helped you?

Image credit: Jeremy Doorten

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  • Adam Petrie

    Even though I don’t work from home I still find that unplugging is a challenge. For me what seems to work best is dedicated time with people won’t settle for ‘just let me respond to this e-mail.’

    When your surrounded with people who want your attention and who you’re willing to give attention to, I find that staying in the loop with my laptop drops down the priority ladder.

    The key of course is finding the right time to be around those people and finding the right time to sit down and get some work done.

  • Veronica

    I loved your article! I felt you were actually writing about my life. :)

  • alzwell1

    I don’t have any kids left at home, and my husband is also a remote worker. We share a large office partially filled with computers and servers. Big enough that we don’t interfere with each other except occasionally on printer use.

    Yes I work way mega more than I should, but being able to do laundry, move the water, run up to the corner post office and start dinner during breaks makes up for it! Besides, even when I’m a non-remote worker I still do too much work in evenings from home.

    It’s the dog that gets me. Big 120 pound Ridgeback that drops things in my lap, whams my elbow with her nose, sets her big head on my keyboard and continually whines at me to do something, anything with her that annoys the heck out of me.

  • bebopdesigner

    I used to work at home, switching from an office environment to being on your own can be difficult at the beginning, just because of the social variable. One has to manage a great deal of anxiety at first, but working by objectives and keeping in touch with your clients can really help you get by. Thanks for sharing, I have kids too.

  • sergeb

    Twitter has been of a tremendous help with my Isolation challenge. Not only I’m not feeling lonely as much anymore, I also made new friends and connections. Of course, this doesn’t entirely substitute the face-to-face networking, so I’m trying to get out to as many conferences and get-togethers (free or paid) as I can afford to.

  • phpballer

    The kids are my biggest challenge. I have kids that go to school and one that doesn’t. Sometimes it can be difficult to get them to understand that I’m working and can’t take time to look at the TV every 5 seconds. I’m thinking about moving my office (it’s off the kitchen now) to another less traveled location in the house.

  • http://www.vancelucas.com Czaries

    If you’re working from home facing isolation (#2), you should check out co-working, and consider it as an option for at least 1-2 days a week. If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, drop by the okcCoCo, which just opened up on May 1st. You can get a free day pass to check it out. You get to hang out and work with a bunch of other smart, creative, and talented people instead of just yourself.

  • http://www.pishondesigns.com zainabSULE

    I also work from home. Quite challenging, I must say. But I do believe that you can do simply anything if you put ur mind to it. I don’t ve any kids yet, but am a movie freak, as well as a guitar nerd. How can you combine THAT with computers?
    Its been hard, but we need to eat. so we need to work.
    zainab

  • moxsum

    For me the biggest challenge in working from home has been keeping focused and not distracted. The problem is, I would say the biggest distractions are on the computer.. namely facebook and other social networking type sites and forums.. and instant messenger. I find my mind wandering and wasting time messing about on stupid websites instead of focusing.

  • http://thecybertramp.com stikkybubble

    For me the biggest problem in working from home is that there is no such thing as ‘time off’. I tend to be the last in the ‘production line’, turning docs into web content, and every deadline comes down to me.

  • picohax

    Time-tracking desktop programs do help a bit in some situations, like mine :-)
    Workrave is an awesome program – a must-see – it just works!(TM)
    Elsewhere on the blogosphere (codinghorror.com) “pair-progamming” and “peer code-review” is advised for many people.
    Developing online friendships with simple, like-minded geeks or programmers is not as easy as it sounds because many people sound way nicer than they actually are, and equally the other way round. This is a socializing issue I guess, which boils down to your nature, so treat it on case-by-case basis.
    Keeping away from gadgets and electronic devices for brief periods of time actually increases sharp thinking, productivity and understanding of the problem. Contrary to easy conclusion, using pen and paper to devise solutions works much much better than using keyboard and mouse – Flow diagrams, for example. Unless you have the power tools – like a pen Tablet and some cool CAD/drawing software.
    IMO, there is a huge case for a VOIP conference portal for home-workers.(Skype, Gizmo, GTalk, Yahoo! messenger) But the revenue model might be trouble to work out.
    Of course, nothing can substitute a true friend or a down-to-earth honest geek in your close contacts circle :-P

  • Jeannie

    Great ideas here. I totally relate to needing outside childcare for my busy little monkey a couple times a week. Right now I don’t have it and I’m so stressed and exhausted it’s crazy.

    Jeannie @ The Adventures of Mr. Busypants, http://mamabusypants.blogspot.com and @ The Writer in Me, http://jeannieanderson.blogspot.com

  • Monit

    Hi there

    That’s very true what you wrote. I am facing the same challenges in my life as well. I also work from home and a freelance graphics designer, and I also babysit my 3 year old nephew. Its real difficult, I end up working very late night hours. For relaxation I take small breaks where I play with my kid or tell him story etc. Its fun, also it gives me some breathing space to think over upcoming projects and develop new ideas.

    I agree with you I wont give up my work at home lifestyle a break for anything, I simply love it. I am FREE.

    I liked your article very much

    Monit

  • vanderMan

    I have been working from home since February this year… The biggest challenge for me was to spend less time with my guitar. She keeps staring me in the eyes begging me to play her! :)

    I’m have moved from a corporate software developer job to a freelancing php web developer working from the comfort of my room at my parents home…

    I am still very young, but determined to make a success of my passion and opening my own business!

    I’m from South Africa, a great country indeed, but discrimination is turning from what use to be against blacks, now against whites and it is very hard to land a proper job! This made me decide to work hard to become a web developer and along with my freelancing web design and development work, I am dreaming of opening my own online shopping business…