I was surprised to learn that 1 in 5 Americans works from home at least part-time, according to Forbes.
In fact, that number is expected to only increase over the next five years, by an estimated 63%! As a work-at-home editor and writer for several years, I'm excited for all the opportunities for working at home, especially for stay-at-home moms.
While I'd been a freelance writer for over 15 years, I've found that working for an outside company brings its own set of challenges and rewards! Many work-at-home moms also have children at home or even homeschool, like I do, and find the flexibility appealing.
However, there are a few work-at-home pitfalls I've discovered:
1. Not having a set work space.
Even if you live in a small place, I encourage you to find a small corner to set up for your work. Not only will other people take you more seriously, you will, too. A big turning point for me came when my husband bought me a desk as a surprise. Before that, I would write in snatches here and there with my laptop perched...on my lap. Now, that works sometimes too, but there was something about having my desk, editing manuals, and the writing course I was enrolled in at the time all set up as a reminder to me and my children that when I was at my desk, I was working.
2. Not having set work hours.
Part of the beauty of working from home is its flexibility. As a homeschooling mom, the demands of certain days and weeks can be downright unpredictable. But the temptation is to flex so far that work gets procrastinated and I find myself pushing to meet a deadline at 2 a.m.
I find it best to have set hours where I tackle e-mail and any urgent issues first thing in the morning, homeschool for several hours, then return to work when my children are busy with their assignments or after our "school hours."
Find whatever schedule works best for you, then try to stick with it as best you can so you at least have a norm to get back to. This also lets neighbors and friends know when you're busy with work! I also know some moms with young children who hire a "mommy's helper" for a set number of hours per week to allow for chunks of quiet time to work.
3. Not being flexible enough.
I know this sounds like I'm contradicting myself, and if you have figured out this fine balance, please let me know! But I need to be reminded that I do have a flexible schedule. I can get so task oriented that I forget I am also a stay-at-home mom. At times, answering another e-mail or finishing a task can be set aside for a few moments while I tend to my children's needs. And that is a reason I love working from home!
4. Working too much.
This goes along with the above. We tend to think of a workaholic as someone who stays late at the office and brings his or her work home--someone never truly off work. However, among my work-at-home friends, this seems to be a common problem. It can be difficult to unplug and walk away from work when it's always right there, waiting.
There comes a point each day when I close my laptop, roll my chair under my desk, and know that there will be tomorrow. It is imperative to rest and have down time and not always be on. When faced with an issue outside of my regular work hours, I ask myself, can this wait?
5. Neglecting real relationships.
When you work remotely, you may interact with clients or coworkers via videoconference, phone, or e-mail and you can be as mentally exhausted from the interaction as you would in a real office. I've learned that there is still a need for relationships in my daily life. It can be easy to become a hermit! Be sure to make time for your real life friends and family.