How to Master a Home Office With Children: Advice from Remote Professionals

Flexibility is Key to Your Home Office with Kids

Erin spends much of the week working at her home office. Her son is in elementary school, so her challenges arise before morning rush hour and later in the afternoon. However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays – two busy days for Erin – her son has an early dismissal, throwing a wrench into the works.

 “Activities to keep him busy are super-important,” Erin says. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he understands I have a lot to finish before the end of the day, and so I include him by having him do his homework alongside of me – quietly, with concentration – or in the next room, within earshot. When all else fails – no homework, no reading, restlessness during quiet time – I’m not above giving him a video game and saying ‘Go to it’ if I’m up against a big deliverables deadline.”

 Another remote colleague keeps a Google calendar with her husband – they schedule “office hours” of childcare responsibility and time for “work/R&R.” Wow! You know raising a child is an adventure when you put work on the same slash line with R&R.

Even though you are working from home, you may want to hire a babysitter or use daycare. This gives you the peace of mind knowing you won’t have interruptions and you can get more done in less time.

If you are trying to get work done with the children are around, work around their schedule. Take advantage of nap and quiet time to get done the work that requires uninterrupted concentration. Be upfront with your colleagues, project manager or facilitator about your available time slots.

If meeting times are more unpredictable, do your best to prepare your materials in advance so you’re ready whenever they come up. Run periodic maintenance checks on your technology so you can have confidence and stay cool if a last-minute call comes up. Most of all, be clear with your children – and the rest of the household, for that matter – that boundaries must be respected.

Punching the Clock in Your Home Office With Kids

Manuel, a writer with two young children, wakes up before 5 am to work – hours before the rest of his family is awake. He told me he was never a morning person before, but having kids changed his calculus, and now he has found a rhythm. By the time his children awake, he has already put in a few hours of work, creating a natural time to take a break and assist with morning activities. If the early morning hours aren’t conducive to your home life, you also have the opportunity to work after your children have gone to bed for the night.

Similarly, as a digital worker – especially a digital worker new to Remote Nation – you may have to adjust your preconceptions about work schedule, aiming for a more holistic approach that integrates your peak productivity into the flow of the household and family. Of course, this isn’t possible with some responsibilities, in which case you’ll need to plan accordingly, negotiate, and improvise to meet your work commitments.

Finding Your Space

When you work on your work from home as a parent, it’s especially important to have a dedicated space, says Jennifer. It could be a spare room or the corner of the living room, but you need a place to keep and organize your work-related materials.

Carving out a spot for your work accomplishes two things: First, you can mentally “go to the office” when you enter that space, creating some separation; and, second, it sends a signal to the rest of the household that you’re occupied for the time being. It also keeps you out of their way. Having a space like this also helps to set the boundaries. Your family will know when that you are working when you are in your space and you should be left alone. Let your children know the rules and when they can interrupt you and how they should get your attention if needed. One family has fun passwords that range from “mildly important” to “urgent.”

Mastering a Home Office With Kids: The Bottom Line

Being a remote professional demands both consistency and flexibility, as well as the cooperation of your family and co-workers. It’s not easy, but we can promise you it’s worthwhile once you’ve hit your stride. This will take testing and patience on your part. Ask for help when you need it – including from the community here at Remote Nation.

Photo by Alexander Dummer