Five Keys to Success For Work At Home Parents
How do you manage your workday?
Daddy is Working
I am a WAHD (work at home dad). Others may have things a bit more complicated, where they are SAHWD or SAHWM (stay at home working dad or mom) or perhaps even a WAHMAD (work at home mom and dad). No matter the acronym, working from home is great if you can manage it properly. I have been working from a home office at a variety of "jobs" for the better part of ten years. I have been successful at some endeavors and failed at others. The common thread across all of my work from home jobs has been my ability to manage my work day. That ability had and has a direct correlation to my success or failure on a particular project or job.
Working from home allows for opportunities that working outside of the home does not provide. How you take advantage of the opportunities can impact your success. One of the biggest challenges when I started working from home was establishing the work boundary. I found that within a few weeks of working out of the house, my "Honey Do" list had grown, and the expectation being set that I would take care of things during the week, so I would be free on the weekends. Of course, it quickly became obvious that if I was working on projects in our house Monday through Friday, I wasn't working on projects in someone else's house - someone who was going to pay me to work on projects. Today, I have clear work boundaries set up and I have a schedule established. This way, I know when I am working and so does everyone else. Just as important, I know when I am not working, and so does everyone else.
An opportunity that my wife and I take advantage of is my ability to be around for the kids during the day when needed. During the school year, I drop the kids off at school and at the bus stop and I am home for the bus in the afternoon. If someone is sick and needs to stay home, I take the "day off." During the summer, rather than put the kids in camp, they are home. When you have kids at home, you really need to set up the work boundaries or you run the risk of failure. During the school year, my work day is from 8:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon, I take a break between the time the bus comes until the kids are all in bed, then I come back to my desk for about an hour to wrap up any loose ends from the day. During the summer, I work in the morning from about 6:30 until noon, then the rest of the day is dedicated to the kids. After they are all in bed, I come back to my computer for an hour or so. One special arrangement my wife and I have is with sick days. She takes one day to be with whoever is home sick, and I take two. This way it is not always me and I am not scrambling to make up lost time.
Keys To Success
While your spouse is able to help you manage your work from home career, your kids may not always understand why you are home and what you are doing. Establishing the boundaries is critical, just as with your spouse, you need to make sure your kids know that you are not around as a source of endless entertainment.
- Establish ground rules - Set a short list of rules for your kids to follow when you are in your office space, when you are working, and when you are on the phone. Also, let everyone know what they can and cannot touch in your work area. Some of my ground rules include knocking on the library door before coming in when I am working, and Daddy's desk is a no touch zone.
- Define your workday - Set a work schedule, try to keep it to normal working hours. If you need to split the day to make things flow better, or to take advantage of an opportunity, do it, but stick to whatever schedule you have established. If you are a stay at home parent who is also working from home, it is more difficult to establish a work day. Try to work things out with your spouse so you are doing shift work that begins when he or she comes home for the day.
- Schedule breaks - Do this especially if you are home with your kids, take your breaks with them. Have lunch with the family. If your spouse works a typical schedule, take a break from the time your spouse and kids come home until the time the kids go to bed. I take a break in the morning and have a cup of coffee with my kids while they eat breakfast.
- Explain what you do - Kids are smart and they will understand what you are doing if you take the time to explain it to them. Your children want to be as proud of you as you are of them, and want to be able to tell their friends what mommy or daddy does .
- Take them to work - Have a "bring your child to work" day. Let them spend your typical work dayw ith you. Give them a project to work on and show them what you do while you are working. I took my oldest with me on a photo shoot a few months back. We went to take pictures of the Union Pacific's No. 844. I had him take a digital camera along and gave him an assignment to work on while we were there. As it turned out, some of the pictures he took were better than mine!
Better Your Chances
It can be hard working from home. When you work in an office, there are things that are defined for you. When you work from home, it is up to you to define things. For me, during the school year when I simply work from home (WFH) I have a set schedule that enables me to accomplish what I need to accomplish when I am home alone, and after the family comes home. During the summer, careful scheduling, planning and set boundaries allow me to successfully switch to the role of work at home dad (WAHD) while still taking care of the little ones who are here with me. If you are able to manage your work day, and enlist the help of your spouse and family, you will have a much better chance at success from the home office.