Q: I work from home, and with my kids home for the summer, I am having a hard time getting things done. What should I do?
A: Working from home brings a certain sense of freedom– you can set your own schedule, create your own office culture, and perhaps best of all, relish the joys of the world’s shortest commute. Yet the home-based office also has its share of challenges. Especially during the summer, when kids are on vacation, camp might be over, and they want to hang out with you just as you are trying to complete you massive to-do list.
Here are a few key techniques to savor the fruits of summer downtime with your kids, AND get your work done.
Set summer work hours. Consider creating special summer working hours that give you a little more free time with your kids---and then post your schedule and let the kids know what they are. Perhaps you start work a little earlier each day (while your kids sleep in) and then finish a little earlier a couple afternoons each week; or, you might double down Monday-Thursday so that you can take Fridays off for adventures in or out of town. Whatever you decide, make it as consistent as possible and stick to it. Predictability is the key to everyone respecting the schedule.
Make sure someone else is watching the kids. Just because you’re working from home, doesn't mean you “are home.” You can't get work done when you are interrupted every 5 minutes with, "hey Mom, can I have a snack; Dad--wanna shoot some hoops? Sara won't play with me!”. Get a babysitter, a mother's helper, arrange playdates.... Just make sure the kids are occupied. During your work hours, another adult needs to be available to handle the constant stream of questions and needs that come with being a little human.
Pick the right location. If your home office happens to be in a central location (i.e. a room off the kitchen, the dining room, a corner of the living room) it may not be conducive to concentration when the kids are home from school. When you work from home--and they SEE you, and think you are interruptible. Consider temporarily "moving" your workspace to a more remote location-- an upstairs bedroom, the basement, or a local co-working space you can rent by the hour, day, or week until the fall. Out of sight is out of mind, and when you get home...the fun and games can begin!