Working from home is clearly not a “one-size-fits-all” concept! I’m sure most of you have figured this out by now! Especially with a full household, some filled with home schooled children, others with other working family members, younger children that are not in school yet and of course our 4-legged pets wondering if they will EVER have a moment of alone time again! It can often feel like a circus or like I sometimes say, like I am a hamster on a never-ending wheel of fun! (insert sarcasm here 😊)
Everyone is different in how they learn, how they work and communicate. Home offices also take many different shapes and forms such as those that use their kitchen table, versus private offices in their homes and those that may use their outdoor patio as an oasis throughout the busy workday. With the current business climate, I feel that many people are just trying to find the right balance between business and their families. Many parents are finding themselves in the new role of “teacher” for their children’s home schooling each day. Others that may not have children or whose children are grown are juggling their home life and business responsibilities.
As a business owner and a mom, this has been a challenging time as I want to do my best to make time for everyone involved and also keep some level of normalcy (also known as sanity) in our world. Now the goods news is that I have spent the majority of my career working from home and have been very successful at it…roughly 13 years out of my 19 year career has been working at from my home office. And YES it is POSSIBLE! However, for years I have done this with an empty home and kids at school! In years past, my office has taken on many different versions of itself…some days its my kitchen, others the porch, but now I find myself using the living room as I have to be accessible for my kids throughout the day. So, how do you get work done with the constant interruptions and many people sharing the same space? That’s a good question…to which the answer is…(insert drum roll)
Probably not what you expected me to say, but it is the MOST important element of being successful at working from home. Your family…most importantly, your children, have to understand that your “homework” is just as important as their work. You have to take steps to properly set up the right boundaries in which you can all co-exist and be successful in your own way.
In other words find ways that work for you and your family to equally RESPECT each other’s space and productivity.
Here are some helpful ways of making it through this NEW NORM!
Step 1: SET BOUNDARIES
Take a good look at your kid’s workload each day; figure out when they may have their live zooms versus pre recorded videos and self-paced worksheets/reading/writing projects. Use your time wisely by letting them know that during the time they are watching live zooms or pre recorded videos, they are NOT to come into your work space unless they have issues with the technology. Let them know this is YOUR TIME to get some work done. Use this quiet time for your sales calls, customers check ins, vendor communications, business calls, and/or zoom meetings.
Step 2: COME BACK LATER
Don’t be afraid to CLOSE YOUR DOOR or if you don’t have a door, PUT UP A SIGN reading “COME BACK LATER” (unless you are bleeding). I say this kiddingly, but my kids have learned that if you see me on my phone (or now if they see me with a work shirt on with PJ pants talking to my computer) they are not to bother me unless it is an emergency. This is a learned behavior. It is not going to go into full effect in a day or two, it will take time but they will quickly figure it out if you stick with it.
I won’t lie, there are still some times that the “mom look” comes into play when I start hearing that word that can cause me to cringe when I am on a work call or zoom …. “Mom!!!!” But give it time….stay consistent! And don’t worry, you are not being mean or selfish, this is our new norm and you have to make it clear that you count too!
Step 3: BE FAIR
Just as you need to communicate with your co-workers/employees/vendors to get your work done, so do your kids! They will need YOU as their teacher to guide them and give them time so they understand your expectations for each of their subjects in school. Don’t short change them the time they need as they will then feel confused and need to interrupt you more often than otherwise necessary.
Take your time explaining things to them so you can then leave them to work on a project allowing you the time to do what you need to do! I have a 7 year old and I got a white board where I give her 3 school tasks at a time. Just as I would with an employee, I go over the directions and explain what I expect to be completed by a certain time. This helps them keep on task and out of your hair!
Step 4: FIND WHAT WORKS
You know your family better than any of us! Figure out what works best based for each of your kids and how you know they learn and accept information. Perhaps you do school work in the morning with the kids and devote all afternoon to your work if you have a flexible schedule. Or if you have to work all day, structure breaks in and between meetings and calls to work with your kids. Kids and adults work better with a sense of structure and schedule. Keeping the day compartmentalized will keep you organized and successful. Find what works for your family and most importantly STICK TO IT!
Step 5: KEEP YOUR ROUTINE
The worst thing you can do is change your normal routine…if it works! For your mental stability, continue your same workout schedules, wake up routines, make up or get dressed by certain times, etc. Laziness and lack of productivity are directly linked to how you are dressed, how you feel about yourself, your mental health and physical activity. If you change or reduce your normal schedule, chances are you will see a decline in your productivity at work and at home. This concept also pertains to your home life. Get the kids up in the morning…normal routine continues. Get dressed, brush teeth, make your bed, do chores, breakfast and get ready for school/work! Structure and schedules are your friend!
For years I have watched people TRY working from home as they allow every distraction to be an excuse. In order to properly handle your business you have to make a game plan. It never works to start and stop projects throughout the day, never completing anything. For most it is the social distancing that comes with working from home.
For my social butterflies out there that “need people” to interact with, you will want to use your Face Time/Video chats, social apps, Zoom meetings, etc, as a constant in your work day. This will help you feel and stay connected to your co-workers and staff. It will also bring a sense of normalcy to your day when you see those familiar faces and for most of the parents out there….some adults to talk to for sanity purposes! You will have to come out of your comfort zone to get through this phase of your career but guess what….that is OK! We are all in this together! We will all make it through this one way or another but these steps will help you to manage the chaos. YOU CAN DO IT!
Written by: Nicole Hernandez, Owner, Mom, Home School Teacher and Wife – “Apart we are small pieces of a big picture, together we are a beautiful scene admired by many”