What better place than your place to balance business with baby?
Julie Lenzer Kirk loved her job for a technological company. She was good at what she did and considered the frequent traveling opportunities to be a great perk. But when her daughter was born, her focus shifted. “Before our baby came, I was sure I’d be eager to get back to work,” she says. “I had lined up great daycare and had a husband who supported my decision to continue working. Then my daughter arrived. I took one look at her, and in a moment everything changed.”
Kirk not only made a successful transition from the office to self-employment in the IT field, but now has a well-established career as a consultant, is a mentor to parents who want to start their own businesses, and is the author of The Parent-Preneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business (Wiley, 2007).
For moms who decide that returning to a job away from home no longer fits into their plans, working from home can balance the need for an income with the desire to be close to their babies.
According to a recent U.S. census, nearly a third of moms who work from home are telecommuting employees doing part of, or their entire, job from home. More than half of those who work from home are their own bosses – in fields as varied as consulting, sales, IT, manufacturing, communications, administration, finance and entertainment.
The New Workplace
Employers are increasingly open to permitting – even encouraging – telecommuting arrangements in which employees shift their workspace to their homes. Working from home increases employee satisfaction and productivity, boosts morale, cuts down on the use of company resources such as office and parking spaces,and reduces the company’s environmental impact. Having happy employees reduces employee turnover, which in turn cuts costs associated with recruitment and training.
Creating a Home Office
The kind of work you do will determine the resources you need to succeed at working from home. In most situations, you will require basic hardware as well as more personal forms of support.
Almost two thirds of all American homes have Internet access. If you don’t, a high-speed connection with wireless access (especially if you enjoy the portability of a laptop) is an important investment. An all-in-one printer that also functions as a fax and a scanner is also basic home-office equipment. An invaluable extra is a reliable online account to safely store your backed-up files (IBackup, Box, Mozy and xDrive are popular choices). Software needs will vary with the nature of your work, but should certainly include a finance manager geared to home businesses (Quick-Books is user-friendly).
Be on Call
It’s hard to be taken seriously at work without a phone line and phone (with voicemail), separate from the one your family uses. If you type and talk at the same time, consider a hands-free headset.
Establish Your Workplace
Even if you’re just walking downstairs to the room that used to be your dining room every morning, it still feels like going to work. No one needs to know that when it says Suite G as part of the address on your business cards, it means you’ve taken over what used to be the guest room. For the sake of your back and to help avoid repetitive-motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, invest in a proper desk and a good chair. These don’t have to be expensive, just comfortable.
Arrange for Childcare
It may sound counterintuitive when the main motivation for working from home is to be able to spend more time with your baby, but you will need a regular chunk of time in which to work without interruption. The flexibility that comes with working from home means you’re likely to need far less childcare than you would if you commuted to the office every day. If you hire a sitter to come to your house, you can refuel with regular baby breaks.
Continue to Network
It’s easy to feel isolated when you work from home. Stay on top of news in your industry by subscribing to e-mail or hardcopy publications in your field, or Internet RSS feeds that alert you when a topic of interest is being discussed. But these are no substitutes for regular meetings – formal and informal – with office and other work-from-home colleagues. Make sure that you also schedule regular facetime with your employer.
The following books and Web sites go into detail about what it takes to work successfully from home:
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, Barbara Weltman (Alpha, 2007).
- Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin (Business Plus, 2008).
- The Third Path Institute in Philadelphia helps individuals, and employers define family-friendly working conditions (www.thirdpath.org).
- Go to www.workoptions.com for advice on nontraditional work arrangements.
GET AN ONLINE ASSISTANT
Working from home but still spending precious baby time on errands? Streamline your schedule by delegating chores to the best home-office assistant a mom could want – the Internet.
- For getting packages and documents off quickly, establish an account with a delivery service that will pick up from your home.
- Out of stamps? Go to any U.S. Post Office approved vendor to find out how to send metered mail from home.
- You may not need as many suits as you did before, but when you do, Internet dry-cleaning services pick up and deliver to your door and bill you online.
- Many large grocery stores now will take your order online and deliver to your home. Check with your local store to see if such a service is offered.
- Need a coffee break? Buy an espresso machine online for a fresh coffee delivery every month.
- For office supplies, you can order everything online — from paper clips to desks — for a speedy delivery.
Nancy Hall, author of Balancing Pregnancy and Work (Rodale, 2004), writes frequently about child development, parenting and maintaining a healthy work/life balance.