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Whether you work at home or go out to work, you will face challenges that you need to overcome and different routines and set-ups that you must put in place before you reach as close to a perfect working situation as you can. Nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect, but whilst working from home can sometimes solve more problems that it creates, there are still bumps in the road to level out and deal with prior to settling down to the job.
Working from home is often seen as the answer to a stay at home mum's prayers. She will often have a reasonable amount of time on her hands during the day and can usually fit in a couple of hours of undisturbed working time. This theory can be applied to stay at home dads too - and to single parents in whose households there is no main breadwinner. These situations are often more of a challenge as the parent working from home will strive to bring in the most money they can, often resulting in long hours of working from home, depending on what they choose to do. Where the challenge becomes slightly easier is in households where both parents work from home, say, running their own business together, or with their own individual jobs, as there's plenty of room for manoeuvre when there are two parents juggling jobs from home, childcare and household chores.
Most people are aware of the main pros and cons of working from home and the following points identify the most common examples.
Childcare: You can be on hand for your children and work around their schedule.
Commuting: No more over inflated public transport costs and no crawling through rush hour traffic.
Work: You can wear whatever you like when working from home with no boss looking over your shoulder. Less pressure can sometimes mean higher productivity.
Feeling isolated: There is no opportunity to interact with colleagues and conversation with the kids can only go so far.
The feeling of being housebound: Whilst the act of physically leaving for the office every morning can seem like a chore, by the same token, feeling like you rarely leave the house can be equally as frustrating.
The lack of boundaries between home and work: This could be a particular problem if you don't have the room to claim a designated office or work area, and it may sometimes feel like you've never left the office if you're confronted with your work every time you walk into your kitchen.
Too many distractions: It's tricky to keep distractions to a minimum when working from home. The chores, the kids and even the neighbours' activities can all be tempting distractions from time to time and can sometimes prove too much if not tackled head on.
These are just the obvious pros and cons of parents working from home, but there are other things to consider that might not have made it onto your radar at the outset. These further pros and cons can serve to either enhance or frustrate your working from home plans - nevertheless, it's worth thinking about them carefully as they can often benefit as well as hinder you.
Earning power: Your financial contribution to the household can make all the difference to to your family and can help towards bills, holidays and other expenses. Making a financial contribution can also promote the feeling that there's more to you than being a parent!
Also, for single parents, particularly those who were previously unemployed, you will find taking a home based job is well worth it. If you work 30 hours a week or more (employed or self employed) you will be entitled to claim the higher level of working tax credit. Depending how much you earn, you may still be entitled to housing and council tax benefit too. Your children might well retain their free school meal entitlement and contrary to popular (and somewhat misguided) belief, you will find yourself far better off than you would be on JSA and will no longer be required to 'sign on'.
Boosts your self-esteem: Contributing to your family's success can make you feel great, and relieves some of the financial pressure on the main breadwinner in the home. Other parents might also begin to see you in a whole new light if you were previously 'bringing your kids up on benefits'.
Taking the children to and from school: So many parents working outside of the home confess to missing out on much of their children's growing up. Working from home can make the school run a brief but valuable piece of quality time with your children. The same goes for after school and evenings.
Check your tax situation: The government has recently raised the threshold for paying tax, but make sure you don't get into a mess by forgetting to make any necessary allowances. Paperwork must be kept. Invoices, bank statements, proof of earnings and expenditure will all be needed when the time comes to filling in your tax return if self employed. Similarly, if claiming housing and related benefits, your local council will require similar proof and form filling can feel like a never ending chore.
You may still need childcare: If the children being at home outside of school time proves to be too much of a distraction, then you may need childcare after all. This can prove costly and, if this is the case, working from home might not be worthwhile.
Extra pressure: You might feel that you're expected to still do the same amount of household chores as well as making time to work. This is one of the disadvantages that might not seem like an issue in the beginning, but once you start to feel that pressure, stop and think about how you can change things so that you're not feeling the strain.
For those who already feel like they've got enough on their plate seeing to the home, the kids and any other external commitments, taking on a home based job probably isn't such a good idea. However, it may be something to bear in mind for the future - for example, once your children have started school.
Although working from home can often strengthen parent/child relationships, the reverse can also be true. For mothers (and fathers) whose previous sole role was that of homemaker, working within the home can often take up valuable time which would otherwise have been spent with their kids - worse still if the kids start to notice and resent this.
Here, balance is key. If your children are at school, try to work during these hours or when they are in bed. If they are on holiday, you could have them go to various holiday clubs and activities. This needn't cost the Earth and as long as they're willing and don't feel like they're being 'palmed off,' this should result in a win-win situation all round.
Working at night can sometimes be a good idea too, providing you have a partner or other responsible person available to take over the childcare for part of the day whilst you sleep. However, do make sure you spend some quality time with your kids in between.
There are many aspects of working from home that can tip the scales in its favour, but nothing in life is black and white and the devil's in the detail! Meeting new challenges head on is tantamount to securing a well organised working life no matter where and how you work, out of which a healthy work/life balance can arise. Whilst teething problems are inevitable, at least one parent working from home in a well constructed routine, will normally result in more headache free days for you and your family.