Learn about the importance of distinguishing work time vs. family time.
- Working from home can be a challenge regardless of your life situation, and if you work from home and also have loved ones who live in that home and you care about them, you have an additional set of challenges. I'm referring especially to people who have children at home, or where they also act as a caregiver for a loved one while they're at home working. Many people also have pets who share their workspace. In the same way that freedom is a blessing and a curse for you working from home, the freedom creates opportunities and potential confusion for those you live with.
This is why it's especially important to establish boundaries for yourself with them. In earlier videos, I asked you to create a starting line and a finish line for your day. I recommend you start by discussing that work schedule with loved ones. Come in with an open mindset, so that you can find middle ground when needed. If you're talking to an adult, this will be a fairly simple conversation in which you're just negotiating the hours and perhaps making some small adjustments to accommodate their needs.
In this conversation, what you're looking for is agreement. Agreement in terms of when you will be working and when you will not be working, and be available to them. At the end, you should make a commitment to them that you will honor that agreement. It's also reasonable to ask them to make a commitment to you, that they will also honor that agreement in turn. For example, I've committed to my family that I will stop all work each day at five p.m. and that I will not work on the weekends.
In turn, they have committed to allow me to stay focused during that time by not interrupting me with anything that isn't a true emergency. They honor their commitment because they know I will honor mine. Now what if you have children who don't have a schedule like that, or maybe they're just getting used to the idea of having a calendar? I find it's helpful to talk in terms of specific numbers on a clock. For instance, at five o'clock, this is Dad at-home time.
This is when you have access to me. Before that time, it's work time, and Dad needs to stay focused. This also means that I need to look, if I may need to help have my children be safe and occupied during the times that they're home, whether that means putting an older child in charge or having a babysitter come over for a couple of hours, or having a place for them to go for the hours in between when school ends and when my work time ends. Quiet time is another system that's been helpful in my house.
This is a set up time of the day where everyone is expected to work quietly or play quietly in their room, usually for a couple of hours such as from 1:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon. This time not only provides my wife and I, as parents, a much needed break, but also helps our children learn that they do not constantly need to be entertained or stimulated. Now, if you have pets, you're also going to need to come up with a schedule for them. Of course, they're not going to understand what that schedule is, but animals are very often creatures of habit and daily rhythm.
Remember, you want to have periods of intense, focused work, periods of perhaps slower work where you're able to give them partial attention, and then downtime, where perhaps you focus and spend time and take the dog for a walk or play with the cat a little bit. Be strategic about it and plan this in advance in your calendar. It may take a few weeks of practice for you to both get used to the schedule, but you can find a pattern that works. Many people, when they start working from home, go with the flow, and they allow themselves to be interrupted by family members.
That's a recipe for constant distraction. Instead, think about it, create a strategy, and then work that strategy out with loved ones. These boundaries will help you both be focused during work, and pay attention to them when it's time to enjoy the other side of life.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home