With much of the world putting on their out-of-office and joining the ranks of the WFH, there’s never been a more apt time to revisit this story from 2015. Georgia Macmillan finds out how to work from home in style (and actually get things done).
I have worked for myself from home for more than five years, and while I love the independence of setting my own hours, doing something I’m passionate about, and enjoying meetings at a nearby café, it does come with the dilemma of how to be organised and neat in a domestic environment - especially with a toddler in tow - and importantly, looking chic.
Metres of PC, laptop, printer, and phone cords, filing cabinets, folders, and purpose built shelves are not attractive. And even in a bid to go paperless I still end up with piles of paperwork. Plus, working from home does not strictly mean being desk-bound. Unless I’m painting, planning, or drawing in my studio, where I consider mess artistic, everything else is computer-based at my desk, dining table, on the grass, the couch and, well, sometimes in bed. Despite all of this freedom, I try to ensure everything has its place and doesn’t look too office-y. I’m big on handwritten and typed to-do lists, daily iCal deadline reminders, paints and brushes being boxed away and emptying my dirty paint water. It’s good psychology to sit down to a clean space the next day.
So how do other stay-at-home-working mothers manage their time, workspaces and the chic factor? We ask women from some of our favourite Australian brands to divulge their tips and secrets.
Elise Pioch Balzac, Founder of Maison Balzac
I used to struggle until recently, especially because we have two homes. But one of my resolutions was to do things immediately instead of thinking ‘I can do this later’. So far it is working a treat.
1. Invest in great desk essentials. Mine are my laptop, a Muji pen, a Clairefontaine notebook, a Maison Balzac candle (of course), a calculator and a small bouquet of flowers from Doctor Cooper Studio.
2. Create boundaries. Since we have built my Maison Balzac atelier in the back garden, it has made that difference much clearer (between home and office). Even the simple act of walking outside, into the garden and inside my tiny office, helps make a distinction and allows me to focus on work 100%.
3. De-clutter. I love when things are looking square, balanced and harmonious around me. If there is clutter outside, it’s also in my head. By keeping things minimal, I keep my mind clear. It’s fine to have a box full of mess under the desk or in a cupboard, but a surface should remain clear of THINGS at all times.
Kate Pascoe Squires
I’m totally not structured. I’m often working with the kids painting beside me in the office, or returning emails while they play at the park. There is no line really, and it’s a constant juggle, but it’s my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
1. Have a place for everything. I mean everything, and ensure that at the end of the day, everything is returned to its place. So simple, and so effective.
2. Tidy often. I try to tidy things when the kids are at school and I’m returning phone calls – multitasking is my best friend!
3. Let things go. Some days you have to let things go, but be warned, it does make for more work tomorrow!
Georgie Abay, Founder of The Grace Tales
I always thought working from home with children would be the ideal set up and while there are so many benefits - the flexibility, the time with your children - it’s also challenging. I’m on and off my laptop and spend a lot of time working at night when the girls have gone to bed. I am trying to get into the habit of turning off my laptop when I am with my girls. It’s hard as things need to get done, and there are days when I need to do business calls while I am also trying to feed the girls. I wouldn’t change it though - it’s a happy chaos.
1. Stay on top of the mess. Sometimes, I feel like I spend the entire day tidying up the house. If I leave things, it snowballs and I get stressed out if the house gets too messy. I’m a little obsessed with having a tidy house. I get it from my mother – she can’t sit still. Of course there are days when the wheels fall off, things get super messy, and you just have to let go.
2. Love your workspace. It’s important you feel happy in the space you work in. I’ve got a beautiful big wooden desk which I love, and a huge pin board filled with pictures which inspire me. I’m a very visual person. It’s also great for placing your to do list and weekly planner on. A clutter-free desk helps me work more efficiently, so I tend to keep it pretty simple: a coffee or a peppermint tea, my laptop, a printer, an orchid, and a few notepads.
3. Have a dedicated work space. Until recently, my desk was in my 10-month-old daughter’s room. Or rather, she slept in the office. As she sleeps twice a day and is in bed by 6pm, this set-up wasn’t working. I found myself working off the couch, from the dining room table, the bed, the kitchen bench, the café near our home - everywhere and anywhere! I really need a dedicated workspace to function efficiently. We’ve now turned the office into Lottie’s room, and moved my desk to a rather cramped corner of the house, which is tucked away and quite private. It’s small, but it works!
4. Get some fresh air. I never spend the entire day at home. I generally spend half the day working and half the day with my girls. It’s a huge juggle, but it works.
5. De-clutter constantly. Throw out or file away papers, don’t leave cups or plates sitting on your desk. It’s amazing what a clean, tidy environment can do for your clarity of mind.
Tory Waller, Freelance Stylist, Founder of Living Green
Lists, lists, lists. Also I print out a weekly planner which goes on the fridge. This includes the menu, show and tell day, after school activities, and any nights out.
1. Finding balance is hard. Ideally I would like to get all my work done while the boys are at school/nursery, and spend the afternoons with them. However this is not realistic with my freelance hours. So I count on the fact some weeks are busier than others, and it all balances out in the end.
2. Structure works. I am very structured, I feel lost without a plan and up-to-date calendar.
3. Clean out your space. We live in a small space, so I tend to do a clean out each weekend. The boys’ artwork goes into a storage box, all excess clutter gets recycled, or goes to the bin. A clean space equals a clean mind for me.
4. A little love goes a long way. To survive those hellish weeks, I sneak in big hugs and kisses with the boys whenever I can. They comfort me.
Fiona Kowalski, Founder of printebebe
“Our stock room is between our room and our daughter’s, and the office is inside a small cabinet in the lounge. We have rebuilt the wardrobes to create more stock space, and the lounge cupboards house packing bags, cards and envelopes. I often greet my husband at the door with, ‘Can you just fix this on the website?’ and if Gidget decides not to have a day sleep it can go a bit pear shaped! Mostly it’s good working from home, for the flexibility it creates, and sometimes it drives me crazy, but it’s working, or has worked so far. We are getting our first dedicated office/showroom space soon. I am nervous and excited all at the same time.”
1. Invest in good essentials. My essentials are a MacBook pro and iPhone, artline pens for writing notes, and plain black ballpoint for addresses. Apart from sending out, all our information is online.
2. Everything needs a place. The only way I can keep a hold on a business at home is for everything to have a place. Our stock system, while very simple, is super organised – and I have to constantly make sure everything goes back into its place straight away or it easily turns to chaos!
3. Keep things small. My tips are to keep things small (I invested in the thinnest printer) and make sure everything has a place and can be put away and shut out of sight. My office gets put away every night. My desk is the kitchen table, so it has to be adaptable. Also, cupboards that close with a door are the best. At least you can shut everything.