Working remotely is perfect – until the summer holidays arrive and there are children in your office space. Here are some tips on balancing family and work needs
Working from home has many benefits: you escape the commute and you have peace and quiet to focus on your work. It all works perfectly until the school holidays. Business doesn’t stop just because the mercury rises and the schools shut.
If you’re the person in charge of childcare arrangements in your home, it can become a juggling act of epic proportions, leaving you feeling as if everyone is compromising – you, your children and your work.
So how can we make work work when our nearest and dearest need attention and an escape from boredom?
I’ve tried many solutions over the years. Full-time nannies – great but expensive. Live-in au pairs – more cost effective but often need more shepherding. Holiday camps can be wonderful but you chew through the cash. There are always grandparents and relatives, but my family is half a world away, and many other people’s may not be able to help.
It’s taken me years to devise a regime that works for me, but here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:
Plan and agree your working schedule
Create and agree a working schedule with your family. Decide the hours you will work at home – when you start, when you finish, when you break for lunch. Set these boundaries, explain them to your children and then stick to them. This sets the expectation that you wil be working on this day and at this time, which makes it much easier to implement.
Dress for work
Get dressed for work, even if you aren’t going anywhere. Not only does this put you into a more professional mindset, but it also sends a strong signal to the family that you’re working.
Try some more cost-effective childcare options
Consider doing childcare swaps with other working mums in your area. This is a cost-effective way to get a morning or two of free time. Be sure to check out your local council too – they often have low-cost holiday activity clubs that you can use on an ad hoc basis.
Be an early riser
The early morning is your friend. If you can, set your alarm early and use the quiet time before the house stirs to get some work done.
Signs for silence
If you need to make calls that require business-like silence, tie a scarf to the door handle and tell your children that they can’t come into the room when the scarf is on the door. If this is doomed to failure, you can always do what a client of mine did once, and take a call from the car parked outside the house.
Make time for fun
Schedule some down time with the children. Planning some activities in your diary will help you feel less torn between work and family.
Work when you’re working
Once you have your time chosen to start work, discipline yourself and focus. Don’t be tempted to put a load of washing on or quickly do the vacuuming. If you were working in an office, you wouldn’t do this.
If you have young children at home when you’re working, ensure they have an activity to keep them amused for a decent stretch of time.
Activities that have worked particularly well for me over the years include creating a special movie afternoon, darkening the room, making popcorn and getting the kids to snuggle up – guaranteed peace and quiet for two hours.
Lego challenges have also been useful. Challenge your kids to build a creation using all of their lego. While the tidy up can be a challenge, it’s a great way to earn a little more free time.
Wendy Kerr leads the new Pearson College and Mumsnet online course Start Your Own Business.