How to Balance Volunteering With Working at Home

I really like the school my kids go to. It’s a part of the International Baccalaureate program and really challenges the kids. Sometimes it’s challenging for me too – they have volunteer requirements for parents and kids. The kids’ volunteer hours mostly happen at school – they do community service projects at school. But there are still my hours at the school plus we volunteer at the local animal shelter once a week. It can add up.

All this is, of course, far easier to handle when you work at home than when you work outside the home – I have the flexibility to do my volunteer time during the week rather than having it eat up my weekends. On the other hand, it definitely eats into my work time at home. Volunteering is something you have to balance carefully when you work at home. Here are some things to consider.

Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering is, of course, a good thing to do for your community. It’s a good example for your kids. Sometimes it’s even fun. My kids certainly enjoy their involvement at the animal shelter – the time we spend there is far above what the school requires, and continues through the summer break each year. At their ages, it’s mostly easy stuff – folding laundry and helping to socialize the animals, especially the cats. Taking three kids into a kennel with a dog is rarely appealing – most dogs get too excited.

The benefits my kids have gotten go beyond all the fun they’ve had with the animals – or even the two cats we finally adopted. They’re learning the value of work, and may even be able to list their volunteer time as work experience when the time comes for them to seek paid work. They’ll have references from people who will know what they’re capable of. That’s why we keep at it beyond what the school requires.

Of course, I benefit too. Volunteering can be a form of networking. If I have a need of a reference, these are people who know me. It’s also a time to get out and be around other people, not just my kids, which can be hard to come by when you work at home.

If you’re looking for work, volunteering can help you too. It can be a way to get a bit of experience in a new field. It can be a form of networking. It’s something to put on your resume, especially if the kind of work you do as a volunteer would benefit a potential employer.

How Do You Manage Scheduling?

The big thing with volunteering while you work at home is making sure it interferes with your paid work as little as possible. My volunteer time at my kids’ school, for example, is one day a week in the morning. I prefer to lose time in the mornings rather than in the middle of my work day. I hate having my day broken up – it really makes it harder for me to be productive when I lose hours out of the middle of my day. I use the same day to run any errands I need done.

The animal shelter isn’t as easy to schedule. We used to volunteer there on Saturday mornings, but found it made it too difficult to do other things on weekends. Fridays are minimum days at my kids’ school, so it’s a relatively easy day to go in, as it won’t interfere with the kids’ homework.

These are the kinds of things you have to consider when you schedule your volunteer hours. You may find it best to do it at a time where it doesn’t break up your work day, or you may prefer the break of working on something totally different. Some people find it more refreshing to work on something different for a while, then return to their regular work. Figure out what works best for you.

Don’t allow volunteering to take an excess of the time you have for paid work without good reason. There can be good reasons to take on more volunteer work over time, but without that you don’t want to lose too much time to work on things that help you to earn a living.

If the hours you’re volunteering become a problem for your work, speak up. Most times you can change them around, decrease them, whatever it takes to make it better. Some opportunities can even be done from home. Volunteering from home is more limited, of course, and you don’t get the direct interaction with others so much, but if that’s what works best, that’s what you should do.

Volunteering for a cause you believe in and enjoy working with can be worthwhile in many ways. It’s a good thing to do as a family if you can fit it into your routine.