I’ve been working from home exclusively for the past nine years (this month I celebrated my nine year anniversary with ClearanceJobs! How very unmillennial of me!). When I accepted the position, I had a three-month old. I’ve since added three more kids, and now work from home with a nine, seven, three and one-year old wandering about. In full disclosure, I have an amazing nanny and have had some form of at-home childcare since I started. But life is life – sometimes the nanny is sick, sometimes the kids don’t respect my boundaries, and life is messy. Outside of having a nanny (I’ve found amazing ones through church and NextDoor in the past), there are other tips to help you navigate working from home with kids in the house.
This one is big for me – have you ever noticed where most home offices are? Right by the front door, right next to some of the biggest foot traffic, with those beautiful, full-length windowed doors THAT DON’T HAVE LOCKS. This is insanity. I personally chose a den for my home office when we moved into our current house. When we lived in a 1200 sq. ft. house in Arlington, Va., I worked in a sunroom that doubled as the laundry room (’cause, #momboss). Your office needs a few things – locks or the ability to barricade the door (yes, I said that), privacy, some element, of quiet, and a window, if you can swing it. A home office by the front door may work for you, but only if you are able to eliminate distractions (don’t answer the door every time it rings, or get annoyed when your kids race their matchbox cars by your door all day).
2. Have the right tools.
When the world isn’t plagued by a novel virus, I’m typically on the move – so portability is key for me. I don’t have an extra monitor, or even a laptop with a big screen – what I have is portability, so I can grab my stuff and run out the door for Starbucks in about 2 minutes. Noise cancelling headphones have been a huge boon to me. Just ask my nanny, who has freaked the living heck out of me because she can walk into my office with a screaming child and I don’t even notice until she’s right behind me (years of listening to punk rock have prepared my ears for this).
3. Set clear expectations.
Work productivity is going to be less in the coming quarter. There are some real, legitimate reasons for that (mental health is real, and some families need to shift time to other priorities now). But some lost productivity will simply be due to a failure to set expectations. Don’t expect your employees to get things done unless you’ve given them a battle plan.
4. Be flexible.
For years, I got up every morning at 5 – it let me have some quiet reading time, and also quality writing time before the kids woke up. That ship sailed two babies and years of sleep deprivation ago, but it may be a worthwhile rhythm in this season, especially if telework is temporary for you and you need to have some daytime availability to help with your kids’ school.
When I was hired for this job, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to be as involved with my kids as I had planned to be. But my interview process was like a warm hug, assuring me this was a great fit. I remember our President, Evan Lesser, mentioning that he founded ClearanceJobs with young kids in the house, and has had kids in his house as he himself worked from home. In my interview, he said he would pause in his workday to help his son with critical video game emergencies – and that’s the kind of work environment I’ve had. I’ve had children sneak into video calls, babies scream in the background during phone calls…and probably more other fireable offenses than I could count. My amazing leadership has always given me the chance to be flexible in my work – and that has been a blessing that has made this crazy, nine-years of remote work with four kids, work.
If you’re working from home for the first time, give yourself grace, embrace (and enjoy!) your new normal, and count your blessings that you’re able to continue to work.