Working from home (WFH) may sound easy, but it has its challenges. WFH is status-quo for most small business owners and all KidsPark franchisees do it from day one; so did I when I started KidsPark over 30 years ago. What else did we have in common? We all had small kids and we all survived WFH! Times may have changed, technology certainly has, yet some things remain constant.
WFH has immense multi-task conveniences: do laundry, prep meals, save on commute time, less traffic stress, save on gas, …. It also has its challenge of being pulled in 2 directions – share both workspace and time with children. I know you have read all the usual: set boundaries, have routines and keep to a schedule. But really, there is more to it!
Lessons Learned from long-time work-at-homers.
Blend work and family. Heather from our Arlington, TX franchise says it best – ”their play/work is valued alongside mine.”
From a child’s point of view, Mom and Dad are doing their important thing; they want to do theirs, too. Kids want to be like their parents. Set up a play space for your child that mimics yours. When I took my satchel to my workspace, my daughter took her “briefcase” to her workspace. I pulled out my computer, papers, memos. She pulled out her coloring book, crayons, and a pretend phone. We both did our thing. When I wasn’t on the phone and she was, it was funny to hear her impression of a business call! (Do I really say “ good point “ that often??
Make your office or workspace kid-friendly. This may solve the issue of supervision. Lisa, from our Sacramento, CA franchise, recalls pak-n-plays on the floor.
Set-up non-verbal signals. If you are on a call and cannot be disturbed, signal this to your kids with an agreed-upon sign. I placed a big, red bowl on my desk that stood for no interruptions till I put it away.
It is hard for kids to keep busy while you work if they are doing the same-old-same-old. Think about bringing out a new and non-messy activity ONLY for the time you are working. It will stay fresh and engaging so you will have fewer interruptions. Gigi, our Franchisee in Rocklin, CA describes how her sister puts tape on her back fence to create picture frames and then gives her kids chalk. The kids color for hours while she works on the computer watching them. When done, the tape comes off and gorgeous pictures remain (till it rains or is hosed off).
A lot is said to set kids’ schedules, but what about yours? Decide when you work best. If you are an early riser – work for a few hours before your kids get up to take the stress out of the day of needing to finish certain tasks. If you are a night owl, work a few hours after the kids go to bed. Work your schedule around your family. I know this works – I get emails from our franchisees at the oddest times.
Know when to turn off the lights. WFH can easily become 24/7 since it is always staring at you. Be sensitive to the difference of working around your children to always working. Be kind to yourself and allow guilt-free down-time.
Ask your company to designate a core meeting time, for example, between 10am – noon or 1pm – 3pm, popular nap times. I recognize some professions and companies are more flexible than others. As a national franchise, with owners across all time zones, KidsPark’s corporate office has figured out key times to reach-out to everyone. We know not to schedule calls at school pick-up times (remember those days?) or too early or late in the day. Like Goldilocks, we want to find the perfect time.
I think the way we work will change after this pandemic. Businesses have learned people can be productive and part of a team from home. When I was younger, the call-to-action from working moms was to allow a 4 day 10-hour workweek. Instead, 24/7 seems to have become the norm. I hope priorities are reassessed and lifestyles made more family-friendly with work schedules incorporating both office and WFH, . . . but only after a break from the kids 🙂