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Homeworking can seem like the ideal solution to work-life balance, but it can come with its own challenges. Here are some things to consider.
Plenty of dads want to be around more for their partner and children, while maintaining a fulfilling career. Homeworking can seem like the perfect solution – you’re around for the nursery drop or school run, can manage a couple of housekeeping jobs during the day and you avoid the drudgery of a daily commute.
But as many homeworkers will tell you, it’s not a bed of roses. Like anything in life, it’s best to know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge. Here are a few things to consider before you make the switch to working from home.
Be honest with yourself about how well homeworking will suit you. If you tend towards being a workaholic it can be difficult to switch off when you effectively live in the office. You’ll need to be strict about when you start and stop work so that you don’t end up working round the clock.
On the other hand, some of us find homeworking is a fight against distraction. You might find that you can’t start work until the kitchen is tidy, or you have a sudden urge to fix the squeaky cupboard door rather than write that dull report.
Both situations are greatly helped if you have a formal office within the home. Many dads work from their shed or a converted garage. Having a proper work space helps you concentrate and, importantly, you can close the office door at the end of the working day.
Do bear in mind that working at home can be very isolating. Some dads thrive in a quiet home, but others crave the adult company that’s so normal in an office.
While you could be speaking to people all day by phone, what’s missing for a home-worker is the standard office chat – the short bursts of interaction, from a quick catch up on the football to a discussion about the latest Netflix series.
It’s also harder to ask for people’s opinions or for support. If you have the option to work in an office a few days a month, it can really help with this sense of isolation.
A common problem for homeworking dads is that if you’re doing a good job, you go unnoticed. Often managers only get involved when something’s gone wrong. You might also find you’re the last to know about new projects or company developments – or even social events – especially if your other colleagues are office-based.
Make sure you have plenty of regular calls and meetings in place to share this kind of detail. It’s just as important for you to tell your team what you’ve been working on or have heard from clients. As a home worker, it’s better to over-share information than be thought of as uncommunicative.
Another potential disadvantage of homeworking is that you’re less visible from a promotion point of view. Again, be clear about your own priorities here. Are you happy in your current role and less interested in pursuing the next career move, or do you actively want to chase your next payrise? How much of an issue is it if the job at the next level wouldn’t suit homeworking?
Once you know where you want to be in two years’ time, work out the skills you need to develop along the way. Put together a career development map and talk it through with your boss. Most companies are happy to help you achieve your goals, but will look to you to lead your own development.
A final danger of working from home is that other people don’t see it as work. Make sure that your extended family and friends understand that you can’t be disturbed by calls or visits unless agreed in advance.
It’s also good to schedule in regular time away from your desk. Take a walk at lunchtime or meet a contact or friend for coffee.
Homeworking can be a great solution to the career vs family dilemma, but it can mean making more of an effort to achieve what’s normal in an office environment. Making allowances for this can make all the difference to your homeworking career.