Surviving the Summer When You Work from Home

work from home

When I accepted a job that gave me the opportunity to work from home, I never considered how school breaks would turn my life upside down.

My working from home fantasy included waltzing down to my basement office each morning, working in elastic waist pants without showering. I’d be extra productive since I would have fewer distractions. Using the extra time to work out or fold laundry. My work from home reality is nothing like I imagined. It sounds like elephants are running around above me and I have to crawl over mountains of toys to get to my desk. If the kids are home, the interruptions are constant and work is a challenge.

The privilege of working from home is not lost on me.

This is our first summer where I work from home. A summer without alarm clocks, schedules and a more laid back approach to activities is exactly what our family needs. But winter and spring break were tough. Lots of interruptions and frustrations on everyone’s part. We thought having an adult at home would mean that childcare was taken care of. Turned out we were wrong. My kids will search me out to ask a question, any question, or tell me some never-ending story.

I’m nervous about this summer. I have nightmares that I will be interrupted 12 million times a day to settle fights over toys, find missing shoes and get snacks.  I’ve polled a bunch of my work-from-home friends and here are the best tips I’ve collected for a productive summer.

  • Create a schedule. Working from home = flexible hours, which is one of the main reasons I was excited to work from home. However, with the tiny humans around, this lack of schedule can be challenging for them. I’ve created office hours for the summer so the kids know when I am available.
  • Create a signal. I have a stop sign on the stairs to the basement. If the sign is up, the kids cannot come downstairs unless there is blood or fire. Friends have also suggested that the kids can knock once or slip a note under the door.
  • Pack a lunch. Several friends recommended packing a lunch like I was leaving for the day and basically locking myself in the basement. This would mean I wouldn’t have to say “goodbye” to my kids 10 times a day.
  • Get a refrigerator.  Buy a small fridge to keep snacks and drinks. This means less trips into common spaces. Make sure to get one that locks if you share space with your kids.
  • Plan for the day. Tell your kids the next time you’ll see them. So if you’re having lunch with them, tell them it will be noon. If you’re busy all day, let them know that. I am planning to get a timer that goes in the kitchen so the kids can check when I will be available next.
  • Create an incentive. I am planning to give my kids three popsicle sticks every day. Each popsicle stick allows them to interrupt me. At the end of each day, I will pay them 25 cents for each unused popsicle stick. My hope is that they will learn some problem solving and self-control.
  • Communicate with caregivers. Have an important call or time that you cannot be interrupted? Let your babysitter know. Ask them to have the kids outside or away from the house. I plan to ask for an hour of quiet time each day immediately after lunch.
  • Leave the house. I am lucky enough to have a job where I can work from coffee shops, neighbors houses or even my car. I am planning to use all of these places over the summer to create a quieter place for work.

I’m hoping that our family can strike a balance between an unscheduled summer for the kids and a productive summer for me.

If all else fails, I’ve ordered a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones.


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