The exchange of working at home instead of going in to the office is not one to be taken lightly. It goes without saying that a telecommuter or SAHW (stay-at-home-worker) has a number of issues to overcome that fall under the header of “self-disciplined.” Without going into great detail there is no one at your house to keep you in check; no time clocks, no supervisor, no dress code, no coffee cart, etc. What there is though are a ton of distractions including – but certainly not limited to – kids. While I have been a telecommuter for almost 11 years now and a father for just over 4, I would be remiss to say that I don’t still struggle. I want to be a great employee. I want to be a great dad. And I want to be happy doing it!
My daughter is the apple of my eye. She is my princess and no matter how much I swore she wouldn’t wrap me around her little finger, she has done just that. And at 4 years old I am sure it goes without saying that when I sit down to work she finds herself right up under me and full of questions and requests. It is as if she is hard wired to the laptop lid. When it opens up, she opens up!
Through the past few years though I have developed a sort of list or rather a set of strategies that have helped me and helped her and made working from with youngins at my feet a successful endeavor.
If you have a child that demands your attention when you aren’t working then why would you expect them to sit at a table or in a corner with crayons, book, or even an iPad for several hours while you work “just a few more minutes.” I know that as an adult I am sidetracked – phone calls, TXT messages, emails, Instagram checks, etc – to name a few. Kids are no different and a new sound coming from your laptop is a huge distraction for them and one that draws them like moths to a flame. It is important not to forget. You are the center ring of your child’s circus. You are the headlining act!
Don’t fail to communicate with your youngin’. You may be surprised to find out what they understand in regards to what you are doing. Explain to your child that daddy is working and that because he works he is able to keep the family in your comfy home with toys and food and (insert your child’s trigger comfort here) the little toasty plug-in heater.
LEARN YOUR SOFTWARE
Whether it be GoTo Meeting or JoinMe or Microsoft Lync or any number of voice and tele-conferencing tools, know your software. Know how to shut the video off. Know how to mute your end of the line. There is nothing worse than being on a client video call or a staff meeting and having a cameo by your youngin’ who just that morning decided pants were optional! You can fall back to COMMUNICATE on this one too and let your son or daughter know when you are on an important call and when you need them to respect mommy and daddy and their work.
photo courtesy of PopSugar
Not to get all Old Testament but “an eye for an eye.” If you require your child to give you time and space, they too require it from you. Don’t be afraid to trade respect with your youngin’. In my house a solid 2 hours of “work time” is good for a focused 20-minutes of outdoor playtime or a walk to the park or even a small ice cream cone. Remember, you are sharing the homefront space with someone who knows little else outside of it!
DESIGNATE A “HOME OFFICE”
First of all, there is no reason to work from home if you are going to isolate yourself from the rest of the house (especially your youngin’). Instead, designate a “home office” where you go only to work. It is not a “man cave” or a “craft room” or something you could too easily disappear to. It is for work and over time your youngin’ will recognize such. I often hear “that is Daddy’s office” or something similar. Equip your space with good lighting, a lockable door, reliable Internet signal, a telephone, etc.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR TIME
Part of the joy of working at home is being able to be flexible. Is it your week to run carpool? Start your work day a bit earlier to adjust productivity for that time zap. You have a deadline tomorrow? Work after the rest of your house has gone on to bed at night. Your youngin’ asking repeatedly to go for a bike ride? Go. Work will wait and if it is just “business as usual” and you have no appointments or meetings set the computer aside and go for that bike ride. Tasks will come and go but a 4-year old will never be 4 again.
EMBRACE THE SUNRISE
I personally embrace the sunrise in order to maximize my workday. I like to watch the sunrise and when I get an early morning start I feel like I have gotten the best of the day. I have tricked Father Time into giving me every minute I need. I typically use these early moments when the rest of the house is sleeping to catch up on emails, organize my calendar, or help out around the house (remember, working at home doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for household duties too) by putting dishes away, attacking the ‘honey do’ list, fixing breakfast for those preparing to wake up, or even taking the trash to the recycle station.
KEEP IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE
Why did you decide to work from home? Was it so you could wear basketball shorts all day? Was it so you could make your own hours? For me it was to spend more time in the presence of my family and recondition myself to live first, work second. That said, it is important for me to regularly put it all back in to perspective. Family first. There is no difference in taking 5 minutes to cuddle with your kid when in the office setting you would take 5 or more to go get another cup of coffee or catch up with a colleagues personal life.
Working from home isn’t for everyone. It is a discipline and a practice. But it is one with great reward and one that can be done – with great success – even with youngins at your feet!
Do you work from home? Do you have any tips for those that do or are looking to?