I’m sure some people thrive getting dressed up every day and doing the majority of their paid work for a company in an office. I’ve never really worked full-time in an office environment, so I don’t know if that’s a good fit for me. Right now I’m working part-time in a very casual office, and I have a freelance gig I adore. Both of these jobs are nearly 99.9% Internet based, which gives this former preschool teacher flexibility I’ve never known. If my kids are sick or out of school, I have the ability to work from home.
I originally had high hopes of “working from home,” that pie in the sky I heard so much about on various blogs and Facebook posts. Status updates such as, “Slow start this morning, working from home so I’m still in my pajamas,” or “Working from home today while Junior recovers from the stomach flu,” gave me the impression that working from home was desirable and easy.
I”m sure for those with a home office, a sitter or partner to provide childcare, and maybe a maid (while I’m making my dream team) find working from home an enjoyable experience. I’ve found that working from home requires more focus, more time management, and more boundary setting than I thought it would.
Part of the problem is, I’m sure, that my kids see me typing all the time — on Facebook, Twitter, or on my personal blog. They see me answering email and looking up recipes. To them, I’m sure, working for money on the Internet looks exactly the same as ordering something from Lands’ End.
How to work from home successfully with children while they are awake?
Here’s what works for me:
1) Don’t. Seriously, if it’s a project that can be done after-hours, wait until they are asleep. Trust me on this one. My freelance gig is done solely after 8:30pm, and it’s so much easier.
2) Divide and conquer. My daughter attends school, my son a daycare. Most of my work from home days are because one is sick, or my daughter has a school holiday. Guess what? My son still goes to daycare on those days. It is much easier to work with only one child at home.
3) Use a timer or other way to measure time. My daughter is good at occupying herself, but seven hours in a row is asking a lot of a five-year-old. I’ve learned to take breaks, based on either the length of whatever movie’s she’s watching or simply to set a timer. I then take a 10-minute break or so (I think of it as a trip to my virtual water cooler, to catch up with others in the office). During the break I attend to her needs and listen to what she’s been doing. That 10 minutes of attention will often buy me another 90 minutes without interruption.
4) Go mobile. Find a place your kid likes with free Wi-Fi. I have been known to hang out at Chik-Fil-A and McDonald’s. A girlfriend has a bounce place near her that works for her child. This works, I think, for kids who are probably four and older. Last week I got a solid two hours in before my daughter was ready to move onto something else.
How do you focus on work when you’re not in your usual work environment?