The idea of working from home is often sold as the ultimate dream. You work in your PJs, you wake up late, and you can take as many breaks as you want. Plus, you can look after the little ones at the same time!
Of course, that’s the idealized version. Reality may look a little bit different. For one, in reality, it may be difficult to divide your attention and remain productive working right next to your kids. That’s why it’s important for you to find ways to instill a bit of order in your hectic work/life space and environment. When you work from home, the line between free time and work time becomes even more blurred, and everything suffers: the kids, you, and your work. So, here are some of the things you can do to make sure that your workspace is peaceful and productive – even with kids!
1. Have a separate space for your office
The best thing you can do for your productivity and overall tranquility is to set aside a separate space for your home office. Especially if you’re in the market for a new home, put that at the top of your list – having that additional designated space has multiple advantages.
First of all, it grants you the privacy and quiet you need to work in peace. You can’t be productive if you’re being interrupted or distracted every 5 minutes by loud noises, small hands, and messes that are being created around you.
In addition, creating this space enables you to create a mental separation, as well. At 9 am, you step into the office and you’re in work mode. At 5, you can step out and leave the work at the office and be back in parent mode. Not only will that help with productivity, but it will also teach your children the same mental separation.
2. “Commute” to work
And speaking of a physical separation, a lot of people report that the commute to and from work helps them transition in and out of these mental spaces. Perhaps surprisingly, that can be achieved even when you work from home.
If the layout of your home permits it, try to set the office in an area of your home that doesn’t see too much traffic. That separates your work area from your living area as much as possible, it helps you stay “in the zone” and ensures your kids won’t be constantly tempted to barge in. Even the small physical act of getting out of bed, getting ready, and then walking down the hall to another room can serve the purpose of that “commute”.
Your fake commute can also be some time you spend listening to music, meditating, getting ready, or just
planning your day at your desk – but taking this time for yourself boosts your productivity.
3. Lock the door behind you
It’s never too early to teach your kids the importance of privacy and respecting locked doors. That is why having an office with a door that has a lock is important. Kids, pets, and spouses can be excitable. That means that they may (well-meaningly) bust into your office three, five, or fourteen times a day with all sorts of “important” bits.
If you’re hunkering down to work, the kids are being looked after, and there is no emergency, there is no need to feel guilty about setting this boundary. And yes, sometimes it needs to be physical. It will protect your productivity and your sanity, not to mention any valuable equipment, files, or information you may be using for work.
4. Take your kids to work
In certain situations, having someone else take care of the kids is just simply not possible, and it falls to you to play parent and employee at the same time. What do you do? You “take them to work”.
This can be as easy as setting up a corner for them to play quietly. Including a small children’s library, some art supplies, or a box of toys would not interfere with your work and would give them something to do while you’re otherwise engaged. You always want to make sure that they have an activity that will keep them occupied to allow you to do your job, while also being able to keep an eye on them.
Even if you don’t have a designated office, per se, setting them up at the opposite end of the kitchen table from you and designating that their “workspace” can be enough. Have them do some coloring, write a story, play – anything that they can do quietly.
5. Technology is your friend
Let’s face it – most homes will probably not be an oasis of peace and quiet. In fact, your kids are probably pretty loud, regardless of activity. Hardly the ideal work environment. It’s harder to have your children be quiet than it is to block out the noise, so you may find that your new best friend is a simple pair of headphones. That allows you to focus on what you need without being startled or irritated.
If you feel uncomfortable not being able to check on the kids, then perhaps a smart device like an Amazon Echo or a camera device would be beneficial. All you need is a stable internet connection, really, and you can rely on this type of device to check up on your little ones as often as you need to, and even talk to them remotely.
What’s the bottom line?
All in all, working from home and being productive is entirely possible, even if you’ve got kids. The secret is to go about it in a way that respects both your work responsibilities and your home responsibilities. As long as you operate strategically and create a space for yourself that allows you to focus for the amount of time that you need, you can achieve the work/life balance everyone is chasing.