2020 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to set up the best home office for working moms and dads — but you may want to check out our more recent discussion on mistakes to avoid when working from home, or all of our work from home tips at Corporette.
It’s been a few years since we last discussed how to create the best office at home on Corporette — but a reader emailed me for an update, particularly for working moms, so I thought we’d discuss. For working moms campaigning for more flexible working arrangements, having a great home office can make everything easier; if you’re productive and get work done at home, it gives you confidence that you can work from home more often, which means saving time on your commute, offering flexibility when your kiddo is sick, and more. So — here is my $.02 for setting up a home office, but I can’t wait to hear your tips:
- If working from home is a regular thing, get childcare. I don’t know about you, but when I am focused on my job I am 100% focused. My kids could be throwing the wedding china off the roof and I wouldn’t notice… which isn’t the best for, well, anyone. With a really little baby you can sort of multitask since they sleep so much (and you can trap them in the Exersaucer/swing, hehe), but once they get to that crawling-walking-HEY-WHY-ISN’T-MOMMY-100%-FOCUSED-ON-ME stage, you need at least a mother’s helper, but probably a babysitter or local daycare. (You may ask, “But why even bother working from home if I still have to get childcare?” If your commute is 30 minutes, you gain an hour every workday; you can be more flexible when your kiddo is sick or when your partner suddenly has to work late; and you can even fit in a few personal tasks during the day, like throwing a load of laundry in, starting water boiling for dinner, etc. 2018 Update: OK and fine here’s a link to BBC Dad which is always great to think about if you’ll be on any video calls.
- Have a dedicated space that you can close up when you’re done. Whether it’s a room with a door or a secretary desk or other hutch with a door, this is a must for your home office. Not only does it keep your kiddo (and nanny) away from your computer and papers, but it can help you get into and out of “work mode” — seeing that the room or desk is closed can help you relax and unwind in a way you can’t otherwise. Plus, you will be amazed at the damage your kiddo can do to your computer (I’m told cats are the same) — H, my 2.5-year-old who’s in that phase where he loves to bang on things, has changed passwords (on the start screen!), inverted the monitor display, and more. Yaaaaaay.
- A system to keep your work files separate from your family files, both physically and on the computer. The temptation to organize family pictures or pay the bills when you should be working can be… strong. Things that are discrete tasks (paying the insurance bill) can be fine, as long as they don’t turn into a massive procrastination project. (LOOK how disorganized my files are! I must fix this right now!) I use a tray organizer to keep work and family stuff separate.
- A solid Internet connection. Note that in my experience, you can upgrade to “business-level service” for your Internet for just $10-$25 more a month.
- A good monitor (or two — here’s why I love my dual monitors).
- A printer and scanner. I prefer to edit on paper and print a ton of things, and I still use my scanner often. (2020 update: these are our best tips on how to cut down on printing at home!)
- A nod to ergonomics. The $179 chair I have at my desk is ugly, but well-reviewed as an affordable chair for the home office. I also use a footrest beneath my desk to try to resist the lure of sitting on my feet, and my keyboard and mouse are both ergonomically friendly.
For those of you who work at home, what else do you keep in your home office? Any particular products you swear by, or techniques or tactics that help you keep things separate? What are YOUR best tips on how to set up the best home office for working moms and dads?
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