Father and daughter looking at internet on laptop

Opening your home office door to your kids

Committing to work from home is a big decision for most of us. The ultimate question we all face – probably from others as well as ourselves, is whether or not we can focus and be productive. Sure there are lots of potential distractions, but they soon fade into the background. What doesn’t, of course, are children!

Now while it’s true that your working life will probably be a lot simpler if you close your home office door and have someone take care of the children during your working hours, is that what a home office lifestyle is about? If that’s what you want or need to be productive, you’re better off with an external office.

But, if you believe that a working life can also be about family time and sharing the joys of your child’s day, then working from home is not only possible, it’s almost essential.

Work and family are not mutually exclusive. In fact, for most of us, family is why we work. Opening the door to your home office will create the occasional challenge and complication. But with some simple ground-rules, you’ll be able to balance work and family so that every family member, including yourself, wins.

The younger your children, the greater the benefit – in my opinion, for everyone. Depending on which study you read, around 80% of total character formation occurs between birth and age four. Working from home not only allows you to help with the obvious things like teaching a youngster to count, it gives you an incredible opportunity to be the role model you possibly wish you had had! Children naturally model adults. Our society faces many role model challenges. Your child can have the very best start in life by following you.

Modelling is an essential part of growing...
Modelling is an essential part of growing…

Commit to share your home office with the kids
Rather than having a no-go zone, put out a “Children Welcome” mat. Though it may seem that they’re invading your territory it won’t be that bad if you’re prepared. Set the ground-rules. They’ll refrain from playing with your computer, telephone, or even your coffee cup if they understand those rules. If they are still too young, make sure there are other distractions for them. Allow them to keep some of their toys in your office. Paint a wall with blackboard paint and provide lots of chalk. Kids, kittens and puppies all need to be kept busy or they’ll get into mischief.

Make sure they understand that when the phone rings, they need to quieten down. Make a game of it and reward them with a big hug when they comply.

Set your boundaries
If your children are older, help them to understand why you work and what it is that you do at ‘work’. Ensure they understand that it is a privilege for all to be able to live this way but that the privilege comes with a set of rules which you need to implement and adhere to.

Take breaks
Lot’s of them. It’s bad for your longevity to sit all day. Stand every 20 minutes and do something active with the kids for two minutes. Touch your toes. Reach for the sky. Ask them to help you get water for you and them. Ask them to write their name.

Give them your old computer
As mentioned, all children love to imitate their parents. We live in a totally digital age. Sharing your home office is no longer enough. They’ll also want a piece of your computer. I can remember my now 12 year old reaching up and ‘typing’ long before he could see over the top of the desk!  The solution is as easy as giving them an old desktop computer. Load it up with educational games. If possible – and so long as you install something like NetNanny or K9, connect it to sites like BBC for Kids.

Don’t have a spare computer? Don’t despair… I gave my oldest a keyboard (remove the cable) and he was happy with that for a very long time.

Take advantage of their schedule
Working from home allows you to set your own hours. Use this to your advantage to increase your productivity. There are always tasks that require uninterrupted concentration. You’ll be more productive if you schedule these during the times when the kids are at school or when they’re asleep. You may end up working unconventional hours, including weekends, but who wrote a rule saying that life is 9 to 5? I would be (un)lucky to watch an hour of television a month. Instead, while many are whiling away their lives watching pointless drama or sitcoms, I am at my most productive. Try it.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll adapt.

It’s a learning experience
Working from home isn’t only about creating an environment for both working and raising family. Many parents don’t know how to interact with their kids simply because they’ve been so busy at work that the children have grown up without them. Take this irreplaceable opportunity to understand your children and their unique needs and enjoy every priceless moment. They will be adults all too soon and will either be a reflection of what you shared or did not share with them.

Balancing work and family life...
Balancing work and family life…

A final thought…
Life is very short – especially when we look back over our lives. There is no day in your life you can relive. If you can seize the opportunity to work from home, do so. Neither you nor your family will ever regret it.

Remember… no-one has ever died saying, “I wish I had spent more time at the office”!

What problems do you encounter inside your home office? How do you balance work and family?  Not there yet? What hurdles will you have to jump to start?

Share your thoughts with us by writing your comments below.





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