I'm lucky to have an employer that lets me telework so I can be a full-time caregiver for my parents. When I do visit AARP's headquarters in Washington, D.C., (I live in Florida) my co-workers talk to me about how nice it must be working from home.
"You can wear your pajamas all day!" exudes one co-worker. "Yeah, you don't even have to wear a bra!" exclaims another. I don't how they dreamed up these crazy ideas but I can assure you I'm working in non-pajama-type clothes and wearing a bra.
I know there are fellow work-from-home caregivers that are perhaps dealing with the same sort of perception. I have a daily routine to keep me motivated as a caregiver and productive as an employee. I thought I'd share with you to try to help you stay productive, healthy and compartmentalized:
1. You Time Is Y-O-U Time
The hardest thing to do as a caregiver is to not feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. For those who work from home and tend to a loved one(s), that guilt is doubled.
If you don't have the down time to yourself, you'll be no better off than the loved one you're caring for and won't be all that productive of an employee, either. What to do?
- Go to a movie by yourself or get a pedicure or massage after business hours. Many salons stay open until 8 or 9 pm.
- Meet up with friends or co-workers for lunch or dinner.
- Walk the dogs. Go to the gym. Take a yoga class.
- Just get out of the house once, alone, daily!
These precious escapes, even during crazy times, are going to help keep you centered and focused. Think about it: At the office many of your co-workers go to the gym during lunch or go shopping right after work. Why should you be any different since you work from home?
2. Scheduling Is Key
I block out one weekday afternoon to assist my parents with appointments, errands, etc. I work late some nights or on weekends to make up this time but by carving out one afternoon to run errands, I don't feel rushed to do it on other days. I let my internal and external clients know when I'm out of the office by attaching a note to my email signature that I'm out of the office on Wednesday afternoons. They appreciate it and respect that I'm out of reach during this time.
It's also important to keep an updated calendar and give everyone access to it. Block off time when you're going to be out of the office. If people see that you're gone they'll likely contact you when you're around and it's easier for you to respond.
Talk to your manager and explain your needs. A good boss will work with you on making sure you're not overwhelmed with personal obligations so that your production is suffering. Just make sure you check-in with your manager on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to evaluate your performance.
3. Keep 'Em Separated
It's hard to keep work and caregiving separate, especially if your parent(s) live with you or you see them daily. Now I might go against the norm here, but I don't share work goings on with my parents. They certainly know when I've had a bad day but I don't like burdening them with work problems. Why? Well, my mom is a master worrier (Think a silver medal in the Mom Olympics in Worrying) and I know she has a lot on her mind.
I keep everything separated. I have a personal mobile phone and a work mobile phone, same as a personal computer and a work computer. By keeping my two worlds separated - except for the calendar - I don't feel obligated to work when I'm not supposed to be. Which brings me to ...
4. Don't Overwork
Teleworker employee flagrant foul No. 1 is overworking. Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as overworking. And sometimes I don't adhere to my own advice.
In order to make sure you're sticking to your 40 hours, write down on a desk calendar your start and finish time each day and be diligent about it! If you sneak in three hours on a Saturday, that counts! Write it down. Trust me, it's the same approach dieters take when they write down everything they eat. It's very eye-opening!
Sometimes you have to say "no" and stick to it.
5. Get a Pet
If you don't already have one, get a cat, dog, whatever. I have two dogs that keep me on my toes and entertained. I know that for some the stress of caring for an animal might add to the stress (and expense!) of caregiving. Trust me, I get that. I had the dogs before I started with my parents but they have become therapy dogs for my dad and everyone is a lot happier ... including the pups!
It's just nice to have a friend in the house that nestles up to you after that bad day.
So there they are. I hope they help you. Please comment below and let me know what you do to keep you an effective employee and caregiver.
Now excuse me while I slip into my PJs and take off my bra. KIDDING!