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Struggling with working from home

(7 Posts)
FurbabyMama Wed 18-Mar-20 14:08:04

Hoping someone might be able to give me some advice!

I'm a secondary teacher and 34 weeks pregnant so I was told by the council (ie my employer) on Sunday evening not to come in on Monday and to start working from home. I had never even considered that possible until then so to have it suddenly forced on me was quite a shock to the system! I understand why they've done it but I'm really struggling with it.

The idea of 6 weeks of isolation until I give birth (assuming the baby arrives on time which is unlikely) is really daunting for me. I was already worried about feeling isolated on mat leave and about developing PND (I have had previous mental health issues) but was confident that I had a support network to help me but now it seems more and more likely that I'll have to do without that, at least in the beginning.

I've never been great at concentrating on work/uni stuff at home so working from home was always going to be a challenge anyway but now my manager has given me tons of development work to do which is completely overwhelming me and he keeps emailing, texting and calling for updates which I can't really give him.

On top of that, the house is a complete shambles since we're getting the downstairs bathroom redone and we're in the middle of decorating the baby's room, so there's literally not a single room in the house that isn't a total mess. So anywhere I sit to try and work, i just get distracted looking at all the stuff that needs to be sorted out but knowing I don't have time to do it because I have too much work to do, but being distracted makes the work take longer so I have even less time to sort the house!!

Then I have the dog pestering me to be let out every half hour or so which then means I have to clean the mud off him when he comes in, plus I feel guilty for not playing with him more but I really don't have time to. Not to mention the uncertainty of the whole situation so close to becoming a new mum which I was already feeling pretty underprepared for (and of course they've cancelled our antenatal classes). We've brought forward the fitting of the carpet in the baby's room and bought furniture last night which is still in the car since we have no space in the house just now, so at least I'm not worrying about not having a room for the baby, but I still feel nowhere near ready and no time to do anything!

On top of all that, my back is killing me and I don't have anywhere comfortable to sit and work so it's just getting worse which is making focussing on work harder still!

Sorry, that was a really long rant so thank you if you've managed to read it all! Any suggestions? Seriously considering calling in sick at this stage but I can't bring myself to do it since I don't feel sick, just stressed beyond belief! Help?! confused

Naicemum Wed 18-Mar-20 15:12:53

Oh you poor thing, that sounds like a lot of stress from all angles, I’m not a teacher but I am used to working from home and have two kids so will suggest what I can and hope some of it is useful to you. Apologies for the essay...

First - clear a dedicated work zone, preferably a whole room if you have one (spare room?), clear out as much as possible to other rooms so you can have a space away from all the house chaos - if you don’t have a spare room then make the bedroom a completely clear clutter free space and add a work corner. A small desk/table that is just for work is ideal if that’s possible. Cheap folding one from Amazon/eBay is fine - you’ve got six weeks and then mat leave and then I know teachers bring work home so a comfortable work space for you is a good investment. Ditto re a comfortable chair, if you don’t have a pregnancy pillow maybe consider getting/borrowing one to help. Feeling comfortable is very important right now. And don’t take on any extra ‘home responsibilities’ just because you’re in the house, you still have the same work hours.

Add a radio in the background to help with the isolation - if you can’t work with one on then switch it on at lunchtimes and every time you take a break. Catching up with family/friends on the phone more regularly helps too.

Your manager sounds like they’re not used to dealing with homeworkers too, agree a regular time slot for updating them and stick to it - feel free to put off responding to emails/calls outside of this unless it’s urgent, that way you can concentrate on getting work done and they can be confidant they are being kept up to speed.

If you need help/clarification on the development work then do speak up, nothing worse than staring at a pile of work and not being sure how to tackle it. I find working remotely often requires extra clarification to ensure everyone understands expectations so it’s completely normal to ask more questions.

Don’t know much about dogs I’m afraid but sounds like it needs to get used to a new routine of you being there and that includes when it can go out/when you are available to give attention, you can’t be disturbed every half hour, what happens when you’re not there all day?

It’s a shame you’re missing out on antenatal but everything is available online - YouTube videos/ books etc, maybe post in a separate thread asking anyone who’s just finished their classes what they remember covering so you know what to search for. You will be fine.

I know you’re in chaos and it’s a worrying time but you are in the safest place at home, and no ones ever really prepared for motherhood, we’re all winging it in one way or another, you will be fine. It sounds daft but try and enjoy the isolation while you can, enjoy going to the loo alone, having a shower uninterrupted. Having both hands availablegrin. Trust me, you will miss that. And congratulations! smile

CalendulaAndRoses Wed 18-Mar-20 15:20:19

I work from home on a permanent basis also. Agree with pretty much all of what Naicemum says above.
With regard to concentrating on the work at hand, it can be a problem, especially in these crazy times, but I have a big annual diary, one of those A4 ones with a page per day, and I write myself a todo list every single day and even draw a little check box. As I tackle each task, or part of a task, I tick the check box. It really helps me to break the work down into smaller discrete chunks that I can mark complete as I go. I organise them into tasks I want to complete before I have a break, lunch, finish in the evening. I think it is important to have regular breaks away from the work space and set a defined time to end in the evening also. Otherwise it can leach out into non-work time, especially if you are feeling a bit guilty about not having done enough.
TL:dr : Small tasks, mark them done, set firm boundaries around your time
(there is probably some sophisticated app to do the check box stuff but I enjoy the physical act of writing tasks down and ticking them off grin )

FurbabyMama Wed 18-Mar-20 22:58:05

Thanks for your replies smile so many great suggestions @Naicemum!

Had a bit of a meltdown this afternoon but it resulted in an agreement with the school that my manager won't contact me for updates, I'll just contact him, so that's at least one positive!

I do have a study which I would normally use (although I try as much as possible not to bring any work home) but it's currently piled high (literally) with baby stuff and the furniture out of the spare bedroom (which is going to be the baby's room) so I can't even get in there really, although the carpet just went down in the baby's room today so we can clear at least some of the study over the next few days which should help.

My pregnancy pillow I've only ever used in bed, hadn't occurred to me to use it for working so I will definitely try that! And I'll try putting the radio on as well.

The dog I'm sure will get used to it and calm down, hopefully if I'm a bit more settled he'll follow suit, or at least I might have a bit more patience with him!

And thanks for the reminder about enjoying the time we have left on our own. Everyone keeps telling me that but it can be difficult to remember to actually do that at times smile

I love a good list (or 10!) so I have no idea why I haven't already done that but thank you for that suggestion @CalendulaAndRoses! Likewise the evening finish time, I could definitely get carried away quite easily then end up more stressed because nothing gets done around the house.

HelenDer21 Thu 19-Mar-20 16:18:40

I've been a working mom for almost a year and I'm totally with you, that is pretty challenging - parenting, cooking, wifing issues - you have to deal with all of it at once. That's why I decided to make a working zone in a living room, so my family can't bother me during my 'working hours'. I bought a few office essentials here www.smarthomedesk.com/standing-desk-converter/ to improve my productivity and fix my posture. After a couple of months I realized I was used to this schedule. Moreover, I find my personal extra ncome very pleasant and worthy.

Madcats Thu 19-Mar-20 16:42:52

FurbabyMama I remember panicking about getting our nursery ready (albeit years ago, so advice may have changed) but my health visitor was horrified when she heard we didn't plan to have the baby in with us and convinced me to move DD's cot in with us for the first 6 months! Once the carpet is aired you have a perfect empty office with no distractions.

I am used to WAHing with multiple projects running at once (I also had people working for me remotely with similar workloads).
Some are urgent, others less so and other just need to get done at some point. Try to break them down into chunks and allow yourself some slack of, say 10%, especially if you are only going to be working for a few more weeks. Organise your day as you wish - I tend to do things that need a lot of concentration in the mornings, with more creative work in the afternoon. Once in a while I will make space to tackle a bit of the non-urgent task. Keep tabs on your progress (it can be as simple as a to do list with ticks on) or do project plans with milestones if that's what you enjoy. At the end of the day, shut the door and put the telly on!

Your manager(?) is probably new to this too; he needs you to let him know if you are sinking or swimming (if a co-worker is cagey I tend to panic and try to reassure yourself that the work is getting done by asking more and more questions). If it is apparent that there is too much work you can discuss tweaking the output or underlying research.

With the current climate I am sure you could get plenty of neighbours to volunteer to walk your dog if it really can't settle!

Good luck and I hope you enjoy motherhood.

FurbabyMama Fri 20-Mar-20 15:32:14

Thanks for the suggestions @Madcats, i will give that a go! I can understand it from his perspective too but it was really counter-productive for me. I think we've got that all sorted now though!

Good point about the nursery too. We'd already planned to have baby in our room for the first six months, but we only just have space for a crib in there and nowhere to put any clothes, nappies, etc. (currently in a massive pile in the study!) so definitely need to get the nursery at least mostly done before baby arrives.

@HelenDer21 Thanks for your comment. I don't really want to buy anything specifically for working at home as it's such a short term thing that I don't think it'll be worthwhile for me - only a few more weeks until mat leave then when I go back to work afterwards, everything should hopefully be back to normal and I can go back to working in school rather than at home. I'm glad you're enjoying it though!

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