Surviving Working From Home (Even With Kids)

April 23, 2014

I've been very lucky throughout my career to have a lot of flexibility in where I work. I've tried everything from a few days a year to full time from home.

I'm currently in my third stint in working from home the majority of time, and I think I've finally started to get the hang of it. My perspective is as a developer with kids, but many of the thoughts below apply to any situation.

Firstly, be honest with yourself. Is it for you?

Working from home can be fantastic for introverts like myself, but if you are an extrovert that thrives on being around other people and lots of background noise then it may not be a wise decision.

Have a dedicated space.

It's an obvious one, but many people still overlook it. Have a dedicated room where you can shut the door and block out everything else.

Make the space you

Decorate the space so it reflects you, somewhere you would want to hang out. I love live music, so I've covered my walls with gig posters I have collected over time.

Have dedicated sub spaces within your room

A change is as good as a holiday, no matter how small the change. If I find I'm not being productive at my desk, then I move the one of the other spaces within my room like the couch, been bag or standup desk area.

Here is my little space. Simple, but I love it.

Work From Home

Remove distractions

If you're a gamer, like to read RSS, Hacker News, Twitter, Flipboard etc then make this very separate to your work laptop/devices. Have a dedicated iPad (or dedicated gaming machine) to use for entertainment. This device should live on the coffee table or in another room. Similarly your MacBook is only for work, not fun, and stays in the office.

Music

I find music a great way to block out background noise. Sometimes I even like to wear headphones to focus in, even though there’s nobody else in the room.

Here is one of my favourite artists to work to:

Open the window

Here is one you don’t get in most offices. Open the window and get some fresh air! It’s amazing how much better and more productive you will feel.

Be flexible

Kids leave for school at 8:30am and get home at 3:15pm, accept it and set aside 15 minutes around these times to hang with them. I drop off and pick up my kids from school a couple of days a week, not because I have to, but because it's amazing to see them in their element. I feel bad for those parents that work 8-6 and never get to see that.

Meetings

You can’t completely avoid meetings, well at least I haven't found a way to (yet). Instead of dreading them, use them as a way to get out and meet new people. I try and get all meetings on the same day every few weeks. I think its better to write off a day rather than be interrupted on multiple different days. Meet at coffee shops, at their office or even for lunch.

It doesn't have to be every day

I currently work at a clients office two days a week, it's a great way to break up the week. A co-working space, coffee shop or library is another great option for a change of scenery.

Exercise

The one I really fail at working from home is getting enough exercise. Walking to/from the bus or car, walking up the stairs at the office and so on really help and you miss out on these working from home. You need to keep this in the back of your mind, walk the kids to school and walk to the coffee shop, whatever you can to replace that lost movement.

Do it

Working from home can be fantastic, it can take time, planning, training and understanding from others, but is well worth it.

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