Thursday, March 10, 2011

Create Your Ideal Work-at-Home Space

I am often asked how I manage to focus with so many distractions -- two children, loads of laundry crying to be cleaned, husband hanging around, and two barking dogs chewing their squeaky toys. When my children now ages 7 and 13 were smaller, believe it or not, it was easier in some respects. The nanny would come and scoop up the little one and distract them with a toy. When they got older, I resorted to locking my office door. What I teach people who want what appears to them to be the ideal work-at-home setup is to create a space and boundaries within the space. So, here are some tips to help other at-home workers.

Boundaries -- there is nothing wrong with locking your office door. A lock is the best clear boundary you can use. And don't feel guilty that you've locked it and unlock it the minute you hear junior knocking for attention. Junior can wait. Also, if junior routinely takes up the habit of pounding on the locked door, teach your wee one not to do that. "When mommy is working, I am not your mommy. You will have to wait until I get off work." Or to your teenager, "Mister! Get a life!" LOL

Childcare -- working at home does not replace child care. The ideal situation is to have in-home help. Some people still take their kids to day care, but if you sat down and did the math, you would find that in-home help costs the same. The best advice is to work out a schedule where the in-home help comes at only the necessary times. Maybe from 8:00 a.m. to nap time where you can stretch another hour or two without help. Flexible care helps cut overall costs. In my case, I use in-home help as an assistant too and as a tutor for my kids. My goal was to never send my children off to daycare. I wanted the next best thing to being a stay-at-home mom -- and in-home care combined with working and being present in the home was the closest solution. And now I don't have latch-key kids, which is actually a time in their lives when they need the most careful watch and supervision to stay out of trouble.

Office equipment -- back to boundaries. If your office equipment makes you money,  it should not be open season for your kids to use and crash your computer, erase files and cause general mayhem on your desktop. Invest in lower-end computers for your kids. Do not allow them to use your desktop, laptop or iPhone for play. You cannot afford to have them destroy your work.

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