Will work from home be the new normal? In my job as a copywriter I work with organisations who (before the pandemic) were used to everyone showing up at the office daily. What I’m finding now is that it’s not a question of ‘Will home work continue?’, but more an acceptance that home working is here to stay. Whilst that might bring challenges, it can also be a huge opportunity for those juggling childcare with work. If you’re weighing up the pros and cons of working from home, here are my best work from home tips for parents.
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10 work from home tips and ideas for parents
The most important work from home tips for success involve creating a designated space in which to work. For most of the Covid lockdowns I worked from a desk in my bedroom, and I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to separate work from leisure time. Putting my desk in the kitchen was even worse; people were in and out all the time wanting to chat, and it meant that when I wanted family time I was constantly distracted by email notifications, or another small work task that I thought could fit in whilst I was cooking dinner. No one was a winner. Here’s how to work from home more effectively when you’re a parent:
1. Setting up your work from home space
A dedicated work from home office space is essential for your concentration and your mental health. It can be a room that you’ve completely repurposed for working from home, or just a dedicated space in a room that’s usually empty during the day. We were lucky enough to have a small garage, so we put all of our junk in the garden shed, and created my new room from a garage conversion. But if you don’t have that space you could section off part of another room that’s not in constant use, for example your living room.
Think about what you need for a productive working day, and work out how you can get as much of that as possible in your work from home setup. Tips include the following:
- A door you can close to indicate when you need privacy for concentration or a confidential call
- Maximising natural light to keep energy levels up, or for any photography you need to do
- Attractive storage baskets or pretty desktop storage to hide staplers, pens and notebooks away when work is over for the day.
Home office equipment ideas
I work from home full time (as well as parenting my two teenagers – who might be more self-sufficient but who definitely need my time during the working day!) One of the things I find most difficult to get right is prioritising my own self-care while I’m working. Here are some of my unique work from home tips to get the most out of my working day without causing parental burnout.
2. Get the best work from home office chair and table you can afford
When it comes to work from home tips, ergonomics is the most important thing on my list. A few years ago I invested in a really good office chair and although I took a sharp intake of breath at the cost, it’s been revolutionary for my back pain. I have fibromyalgia, which means pain is an everyday fact of life, so I was really counting on this chair making the difference, and it has. My tip for home office furniture is to get the best chair you can afford, with as many adjustable settings as possible, so you can really personalise it to your own body shape.
The other thing work from home furniture which has made a difference to my pain is getting an adjustable standing desk. Most work from home health and safety tips recommend setting an alarm hourly to take a break from your chair and move around – go for a short walk, run upstairs to grab a load of washing, or just do some squats while the kettle boils. It prevents stiffness in your muscles from sitting too long in the same position, and gets your circulation moving periodically to keep your heart in a good daytime state. But I think even better is to get a table for working from home that incorporates all that movement without you even needing to leave your workspace. I was lucky enough to be gifted the Flexispot standing desk as part of my home office makeover. It’s designed so that you can regularly adjust its height, allowing me to change up my posture throughout the day, so that I get more time at my desk without stagnating in my seat.
The desk is easy to set up, and feels solid and good quality once it’s made. It has an electric power cable that plugs into any socket, and an electronic control that allows me to adjust my home office desk to any level I need. I played around with levels for a few days to get a feel for what felt best for my height, and then I was able to set separate sitting and standing positions for me. Now I can change from a seated to a standing position regularly throughout the day to keep my body moving, and take the pressure off my back that sometimes comes with sitting for too long.
Are standing desks actually better for you?
I’ll admit I was dubious about whether I’d feel better using a standing desk versus sitting, but I’ve definitely had two main benefits. First my back and hip pain has been better, I think because I’m not in the same position for hours at a time. I’ve managed to set both seated and standing heights at a level that works for my neck, so I’m not bending my head forward, and changing up my position every hour has meant my hip flexors don’t get too tight, as they normally do when I’m seated all day. Secondly – and this is an added bonus I wasn’t expecting – my step count is up and it’s easier to fill the activity ring on my watch app! Turns out just being on your feet a bit more is good for your heart generally. So a standing desk for lower back pain and heart health is definitely worth considering.
3. Use a laptop riser
I bought a laptop riser years ago and it’s been a game changer. I spend all day on my laptop, and already have a lot of pain in my neck and shoulders, which is always worse after a day of looking down at my screen. The laptop riser eliminates that so that I can have my head in a normal, upright position all day. Seriously, if you work regularly on a laptop, this will change your life.
Home office decor ideas
On average we spend 21% of our total waking hours at work, so it’s important that we feel energised in our working space. It’s important to consider work from home and mental health, and for me that means creating a space that not only looks good on Zoom calls, but that feels good to work in, and doesn’t drag my mood down.
4. Home office colour inspiration to boost your mood
My own work from home style tips involve using your favourite colours. Mine are yellow and pink – they’re even part of my branding – so when it came to choosing décor for a work from home space they had to be right at the top of my home office colour scheme.
Central to my whole home office design theme was this gorgeous velvet armchair. It was an old beige chair I used for nursing when my kids were babies, and it needed a new lease of life. Cue a call with my friend Penny, who was training in upholstery. She agreed to practice her skills on my chair, and came up with a gem that’s been admired and coveted by everyone who’s visited so far. I’ve had to tell them it’s an original one-off!
Next up I want to go further in my home office design with a couch against that back wall, underneath the wall art. I’m currently training to become a counselling therapist, and the armchair/sofa set up will be perfect for clients who need to visit me in person. I’m thinking a bright turquoise to offset the pink and keep things vibrant.
5. Home office décor wall art inspiration
Of all the home office remodel ideas I found when I was planning our conversion, the best one for me was creating an attractive Zoom call backdrop. Not only does it help me look professional in meetings, it also really helps me feel more confident, and brightens my mood during endless meetings. Choose something that speaks to you – colours that lift you, words that resonate, or photos that make you happy.
My own backdrop is a wall that I first painted in Dulux pure brilliant white, before adding a thick band of pink emulsion paint to match my brand colours (and if I’m honest, most of my clothing, cushions, and other homewares! I do have a thing for pink). I’m tempted to paint a personal slogan directly onto the pink strip, but for now I’ve opted for a display of colourful prints in various sizes. Some of these were previously gifted to me, and others were little prints and cards I’ve liked and picked up recently. At the centre of everything is my mantra for the voice in my head that likes to pop up on my harder days and tell me that I can’t do it. ‘Watch me’ was a bespoke print designed for me by Junie Poonie in my favourite colours, and it reminds me daily that I CAN do whatever I put my mind to.
6. Work from home productivity tips
It’s easy to feel like you have to spend all day at your desk once you get started, especially when you’re timep-poor, like most parents I know. But most tips for work from home productivity will tell you that regular breaks are essential for your wellbeing and your work output. Here are some well-known – but often ignored – work from home tips to stay productive:
- Set an alarm every hour to take a quick break – make tonight’s dinner ahead, put the washing on, have a walk in the fresh air, or listen to 10 minutes of a podcast. You will head back to your desk with fresh eyes after a mental break.
- Get your body moving. Some effective work from home exercises are squats or jumping jacks in between emails, a few trips up and down the stairs, or even tricep dips in the kitchen while you wait for the kettle to boil!
- Take a proper lunch break. I like to walk the dog if the sun is shining – it splits the day in half, and it’s what you’d do if you were being paid to sit in an office, so you owe it to yourself!
- Make time at the end of your day for a wind down – think of it of your commuting time, only better for you! Go for a walk, to your favourite exercise class, or watch an episode of Friends before you start prepping the family dinner. It will give you that mental break between work time and family time.
- It’s also a good idea to have a set of work from home rules so other members of your household know what you will and won’t accept. Something like this would work for my family:
If you’d like this for your home office space just sign up for my newsletter here and I’ll send you a free downloadable PDF to print out and stick on your door at home.
Work from home inspiring quotes
Finally, here are some home office inspirational quotes to help you get motivated in your new office space, or at least give you ammunition when one of your kids isn’t respecting your work commitments!
You can do it
‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’
– Dr Seuss
‘Strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but in the ability to start over.’
– F Scott Fitzgerald
‘Big dreams happen in small places’
– Sandy Shores
On work anxiety
‘If something is wrong, fix it now. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing.’
– Ernest Hemingway
‘Don’t work from bed. You want your bed to be a place of peace and calm, not work stress.’
– Liz Grossman Kitoyi
‘Remember to enjoy the freedom of being able to work from anywhere and the flexibility to adapt your work to your life rather than the other way around.’
– Alex Muench
Work from home quotes for midlife parents
‘You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream’
– CS Lewis
‘Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.’
– Robert Louis Stevenson
When things feel hard
‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’
– Steven Hawking
‘Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.’
– Oprah Winfrey
So there you have it – my best tips for working from home. If you have any more work from home hints and tips I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line in the comments below.
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