Hectic. Intense. Manic.
No matter how you try to sum it up, managing children and a career is a big challenge for many of us.
As a marketing manager for Citrix with two little children (aged 4 and 1), I have often asked myself this question: How can I professionally handle my demanding work tasks while having enough quality time with my family?
Well, it is possible. Besides requiring a positive but realistic attitude, you will also need the support of your company.
I count myself lucky that my organisation lives by the idea that working anytime, anywhere and with any device is the key for success. Therefore, I am equipped with the necessary tools for online collaboration that have revolutionised the daily work of so many people over recent years.
I know that some companies are still reluctant to consider online collaboration and workshifting, but flexible working is on the rise. Already, 4.2 million people work from home in the UK.
For the flexible-work doubters and the parents looking for a better work-life balance, here are four tips to help you manage work and home life.
Tip 1: Get your company’s support to work from home
With a young family, organisation is key, now more than ever before. However, in addition to getting lunches and clothes ready the night before, you will need one more thing: “time”.
With the recent changes in flexible working legislation, any employee has the right to request flexible working, and your employer must consider your request. So if you’re like me, your mornings are accompanied by unpredictable scenarios (as well as your children thinking that they have all the time in the world). Instead of rushing your kids out the door whilst chewing on a piece of toast, consider making a proposal to your manager to work from home at least a few days per week.
Working from home for three days gives me the chance to enjoy having breakfast with my children. I am more relaxed (at least more than usual), even if my daughter doesn’t want to brush her teeth or is hiding herself behind the sofa yelling very, very loudly. On my home days, I have more time for these daily joys because I don’t need to drive or spend time dressing up for the office.
Nevertheless, I do feel it is important to be in the office one or two days per week so I can enjoy socialising with my colleagues. The combination of both home and office work gives me a higher level of satisfaction, which makes me happier, more productive and highly efficient.
Tip 2: Get equipped with efficient online collaboration tools that are easy to use
To enable seamless work in the office and at home, I have access to some great online collaboration tools that let me be a full part of my team.
Firstly, I can connect to the company network via VPN for access to all drives, folders and documents that I need to fulfill my tasks. Second, with Citrix GoToMeeting, I can easily join and participate in all kinds of meetings. For example, in our weekly, international marketing team meeting, we talk about strategy, project statuses, milestones and responsibilities. By sharing webcams and talking through VoIP, it almost feels like I am sitting in the same room. This meeting makes sure I always have the “big picture” of the team’s milestones and activities. And that is essential when you are working part time and/or from home.
For sharing huge documents, such as video proofs and large presentations, I use ShareFile. Therefore, I never have to struggle with file size limitations when sending materials via email.
And finally, as part of a global team and a member of specific projects, I use Podio, a social collaboration platform. I am always up to date, since project details, milestones, team communication and all relevant documents are archived in project workspaces. I can be sure that my colleagues and I are working on the same document and data, all in one place.
Working from home gives you more flexibility, and your online collaboration tools will make you more efficient, so be sure to find some that fit your needs.
Tip 3: Make a list with simple recipes and try to cook enough for at least two days
Besides my flexible-working tips, I have to share with you another thing that helps me keep my situation under control. I am certain that many of you are more than familiar with this question: What’s for dinner? I must confess that this catches up with me almost every day. That is why I started to create a weekly list of recipes that:
- Take very little time to prepare (not exceeding 30 minutes)
- Require only a few pans
- Need just a few ingredients (and are reasonably healthy)
I try to plan for the coming week so I can get the necessary ingredients, and I put the recipes in the form of small cards in a box (placed in the kitchen and categorised — one for every weekday). I can easily take a card with me when I do my weekly shopping and sort it back in afterwards. You’ll be even more efficient if you double the portion to have enough for another day.
Tip 4: Outsource as much as you can
Last but not least, there is one thing that is really time-consuming, normally not enjoyable and yet still necessary. Oh yes, it’s one of our favourites — cleaning!
Being a working parent means that you might benefit from a little helping hand. Outsourcing the cleaning, ironing or even dog walking will give you back extra time for yourself and your family. It’s certainly worth considering. In fact, anything that makes your life easier is worth considering!
What helps you to manage your career and family? If you have any additional tips, please post them here!