Skye Ross is a creative strategist and host to The Motherness podcast(a must-listen, add it to your list immediately!) Based at home with daughter Albertine, and more recently her husband has started working from home too. (Precautionary practices thanks to COVID-19) – If you are in a similar situ, her honest and satirical advice might be helpful if your new co-worker’s work habits are cramping your style.
How do you stay in routine / not get distracted by the chores (or the fridge?)
Honestly, I do get distracted by the fridge. And the coffee machine. And the pantry. But when it comes to sticking to the job - my job - at hand, I make sure the house is in order before I sit down to work. Even if it means I don’t start my workday at 9am sharp, having everything done before I open my laptop is crucial for staying focused. Yes, there are always more jobs I could do around the house, but as long as my list of essential chores is ticked off (the kitchen is clean, dishes are washed, the house is tidy, and my bed is made), I don’t feel the pull of them and can concentrate. I’m also a big believer that you don’t need to work 40 + hours to earn a salary of someone who does. I can be more productive in three to five hours than someone who’s in an office for eight. You’d be amazed at how much you can get done without the office politics, nonsense meetings, and shit chitchat from co-workers about their latest dating pursuits distracting you. Promise.
In a shared environment, how do you ensure to carve out space dedicated to work?
While on maternity leave, I predominantly worked at the dining table because my projects were sporadic, and I didn’t need an office all the time. But now that I’m working on something for the next three to four months and my partner Mark (aka Vinnie, if you’re in on the joke) is also working from home due to COVID-19, we’ve turned half of our lounge into our ‘office’. The thing with working from home is that you don’t get to leave work at the office, so I feel it’s hugely important to have a dedicated ‘work’ space, especially if you and your partner are working from home together. You gotta keep the love alive, and trust me, a separate area will help both of you switch off!
Tips to juggling work at home with kids
Well, if you have a baby who isn’t moving yet, it’s pretty easy. I’d say live it up while you can! Damn, I miss the days where I could work and she wouldn’t ‘help’ me write emails or try to eat my laptop cord for morning tea. The joys of working from home with a now toddler. These days, it’s all about shifting my expectations. I can’t and don’t work when she’s awake – that’s her time. The same goes for if Mark is working from home and she’s wanting to play – I keep her entertained so he can focus on his job. I work during her nap times and the evenings when she’s asleep; unless we have family looking after her during the day, then you bet I’ll make the most of another set of hands. Working during her sleeps means I have less ‘me time,’ but it’s the sacrifice we make for being working mums, right?!
Tricks to staying productive.
- Write a to-do list. I use Jasmine Dowling’s Essential Notepad – it’s the best one I’ve found. https://www.jasminedowling.com/shop/essential-notepad
- Organisation is key. I love An Organised Life for their Daily Planner and Lined Leather notebook. Plus, it’s v chic. https://www.anorganisedlife.com
- Create a beautiful space that you enjoy being in. Light a candle or some incense, have a coffee at the ready, set your desk up by a window so you can bask in the natural light, buy some house plants to freshen up the space, and have plenty of storage to keep things tidy and organised. Sensing a theme here ha ha?! I’m not pedantic, I just have high standards.
The importance of your morning “commute” or routine
Let me start by saying slippers are kosher, as is loungewear, but pyjamas are not. You wouldn’t go to work in your pyjamas so why would you work from home in them?! Don’t be a grub and get yourself freshened up for the day, I say. I won’t put on a full face of makeup or get dressed up like I’m going to an office, that’s ridiculous. But I do shower and get ready to a level where if I left the house I would look appropriate. It’s just as much about setting myself up mentally for work as it is an appearance thing. “Dress for the job you want” still applies when you’re working from home, okay?
Working at home, but so is your partner – Survival how-to’s
You can get an imaginary, or as I’ve done it, an alter ego co-worker (hi, Vinnie) who you can blame annoying things on instead of nagging your partner!
Seriously though, all the things that apply to having a successful relationship when you aren’t working together are relevant to surviving working from home!
- Set boundaries. If you can, stick to set work hours so you can have time away from your jobs and focus on each other and the kids.
- Be considerate. If one of you has to have a conference call, have the courtesy to put headphones in or if you’re on the phone, take the conversation out of the workspace, so the other isn’t disrupted. If you’re used to working with music on, but your partner isn’t, again, put your headphones in. Also, if you’re the one who usually works from home, I understand that you’re used to thinking of yourself (girl, same), but if you’re getting up to make a coffee or grab a snack, consider your other half too.
- Communicate. If they’re doing something, some things or lots of things that annoy you (i.e., shoes lying about the office, stealing your charging cord, not pushing in their chair and leaving a pile of dirty dishes on the bench – I’m looking at you, Vinnie), let them know it’s mildly irritating you so they can work on it. But be prepared for them to share their own bugbears right back atcha.
- Rules of engagement. You might be co-working right now, but you’re lovers first, so check in with each other to see how your days are going and give each other a kiss while you do it. This is a beautiful time to spend time with each other when you usually wouldn’t. I know it can be hard and claustrophobic, and your working styles are likely quite different, but remember: pressure makes diamonds.