Generally, I make it a rule not to take calls on family outings, but yesterday “prototype guy” needed to follow-up on a few important items before this week. I should note that I was NOT driving the car, so I was able to answer the call in route to the destination. But, you try to keep 2 grade school boys quiet while you discuss bras! Before answering the phone, I prepped the boys about appropriate behavior and set the tone….I took the call with little interruption, but definitely a few giggles.
This adventure reminded me of a recent article that I read on the plus side of working at home. The article was geared towards anyone who is considering working from home. It was not focused on any specific gender or group, but made some overall blanket statements about working from home (especially for moms and dads). The excerpt definitely included some great tax incentive information and offered little tidbits on the convenience of a home office.
While I agree that there are many benefits to having a home office (especially an entrepreneurial one), this article stuck in my mind. The piece was missing several important details. First of all, when a writer decides to write a piece like this, I think that they should specify their background before making recommendations to others. For example, if a person does not have a family of their own and they are making statements about working parents, they should state that they do not have real life knowledge of this particular area. Admitting that you do not know something first hand or may not be the expert in a particular area, actually gives you more credibility.
Secondly, it should be noted that having a home office for a working mom or dad is a completely different scenario than a home office of a single person, empty nester, etc. This article insinuated that as children reach school age, it is easier to have a home office. FALSE! Even though having a home office makes sick/snow days appear to be easier to handle, the article did not address the following: boundaries need to be set about days that your children are home and the parent needs to work; the children have to accept the added responsibility of entertaining themselves, grabbing lunch, not interrupting while the parent is working, and possibly helping with a younger sibling; if the child is sick and really needs the parent – how do they get the parent’s attention without interrupting something important.
It is extremely difficult to make a conference call while a little one is “yacking” in the background. It is nearly impossible to write a business plan, concentrate on market research, or email staff while kids are walking in and out with snow-covered clothing asking for hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows. Not to mention when school is in regular session and the child simply barges into the home office needing immediate help with homework. There is also the simple question of “play dates”. Do you deny your children having friends over or how do you help them set the limits with their friends?
All this being said, a “home office friendly environment” is attainable if certain boundaries and procedures are in place. Some examples of this include: a sign on the office door that states the hours that the parent will be working that day; making an outline for a snow day’s plans including breaks that the parent stops to check in with the children; getting a sick room set up for the “patient” complete with tissues, bottle water, garbage can and some rented movies; having an area of the house in the basement, 3rd floor, or backyard where kids can play and have fun with friends.
If these steps are taken, having a home office can be rewarding and an absolute bonus! After all, who would want to miss hot chocolate and mini-marshmallows on a snow day?