How to Get Work Done with the Kids Around
One of the many benefits of working at home is that you can spend more time with your family – but having the kids around while you’re trying to work also presents a challenge. It may seem impossible to work at home productively with the kids around, but it can be done. To make this happen, it’s important to set boundaries between work space and home space and work time and home time wherever you can. Here are some tips on working at home with the kids around.
Working at Home with Kids: Baby on Board
If you have an infant or young toddler and you’re working at home plus taking care of the baby, your work schedule will most likely have to fit in between naps and brief quiet spells. If possible, arrange for child care one or more days during the week to maximize the time you can focus on your work. See if there’s some work you can do early in the morning or late at night. Keep an up-to-date list of work tasks you can complete with less-than 100% concentration (filing, going through papers and email, for example) and those that demand all your attention. When the baby’s asleep, get right to work and don’t allow any other distractions … until you get the wake-up call, that is.
Working at Home with Kids: Set the Record Straight
When you’re working at home and have kids around, establish some rules as soon as they’re old enough to understand. Set up a work area that’s separate from shared family space –an extra room you can turn into an office would be ideal, but a corner of a bedroom or den or garage can work just as well – and make sure the kids know that when you’re there working, it’s off limits except in case of an emergency. Make a working-at-home schedule and try your best to stick to it. But remember to take breaks when you can and spend that time with your kids – after all, isn’t that one of the reasons you’re working at home in the first place? If your kids can keep themselves busy and you can concentrate on your work with them around, consider setting up some toys they can play with quietly and independently in your work space. Also, whenever possible, schedule meetings or work-related phone calls when your children are at school or away on play dates. And install a separate phone line or use your cell phone for work, so it will always be readily available. Instruct the kids not to answer that phone when it rings, and invest in a good-quality headset for those times when you have to carry on a work conversation while wrangling a toddler at the same time.
Working at Home with Kids: Put the Kids to “Work”
If your children are small, working at home will be easier to manage if you make them feel like they’re part of the process. Help them make a sign or other work-related decorations for your home office – an “in” or “out” sign on the office door will clue them in on your availability. Set up a play desk with their own supplies and turn arts and crafts into “work” assignments, or give them a hand-me-down computer with educational and play software installed. Reward them for keeping quiet when you’re on the phone with a work-related call. If you have school-aged children, invite them into the office space when they come home and continue with your work while they’re doing homework.