Tips for Surviving Work & Children in the Virtual Office
By Jen Barrier-ETMG Project Manager
People often wonder how I work at home so effectively with three children. It isn’t always easy, but once you discipline yourself and your family it’s the best of both worlds. It’s more challenging for the youngest who is 3, she doesn’t always understand like my 11- and 14-year old do. Here are some tips that have helped me survive the balancing act.
Set boundaries and stick to them
Our rules are pretty simple: door shut=Mom is not here. When Mom is on the phone, don’t interrupt unless someone is bleeding or the cat is on fire. When Mom is in the middle of typing a proposal, wait until she stops until you speak. Simple enough rules that everyone, including my husband, can understand.
Make sure you’re sharing your day with your spouse and your children. Don’t expect your family to know when you’re under deadline and have three people demanding deliverables. They’re not in your world and can’t be expected to know what you’re trying to manage. There is nothing worse than not communicating and finding out you have to do a presentation in the car with the kids in the back seat because your husband also has an off-site meeting and can’t pick them up. Bribery works really well here.
Establish a routine
It’s important to have a routine so your children know when you’re available to them and when they need to stay clear. In our home, they know I am typically available right after school to share a story from their day, or get started on homework. If you give your family a chunk of quality time it usually means less interruptions later. There are many times I can’t take time to greet them and I pay for it later by having everyone parade in begging for attention. No one wins here—especially me. I end up with my hair on end and a least one drama-queen freaking out in the corner.
Have a sense of humor
Let’s face it, you may hear my dog barking in the background, my girls giggling like fiends, or even a shriek when the toddler isn’t getting her way. Obviously this is something you’re challenged with constantly and want to avoid. When it does happen, you have to roll with it. Most coworkers and clients understand and think little of it. I’ll never forget being on a business call thinking I was on mute and the little one running in very proudly telling me she went potty on the potty chair. Definitely got a chuckle!
Even though you may be brushing your daughter’s hair or throwing in a load of laundry while on a conference call, you must always stay professional with your clients and make your activities invisible to them.
There is an art to balancing your work and home tasks and when it’s done well, both your clients and your family will reap the benefits. Give them both the time and attention they deserve and they will appreciate your dedication in the end.