I am a software engineer in the Marketing Cloud and have been working from home full time for about six months. My three kids are all under five. Working from home with young kids can be challenging. It has significant pros and cons. In this post, I’m going to share what I have learned so far.
You need some boundaries
Software engineering requires concentration. Your best work is done when you’re “in the zone”. This is difficult if your kids interrupt you every few minutes. If you don’t have support to minimise the distractions, it can be tough. Talk openly with your partner and kids. Help them understand the nature of the work and why you need periods of undisturbed time. Finding balance is key.
Get your own space. Finding space away from the noise and the chaos is important. I definitely recommend a different room than where your kids spend most of their time; preferably on a different floor.
But, one of the benefits of home working is spending more time with your kids, so don’t lock yourself in a room all day. When my kids want to show me something or speak to me, it’s great to be able to take a moment and be there for them before I get back to the task at hand.
Kids can be noisy — really noisy. Sadly there’s little you can do about that. They are kids after all. What you can do is block out the noise with some headphones; ideally noise cancelling headphones.
Some people prefer to listen to background music while working. Personally, I can’t listen to music when I need to really concentrate on a task. If I want to block out noise, but not listen to music I use noisli. It’s a free site which streams a bunch of ambient sounds. Things like rain, people chatting in a cafe, an open fire, etc. Sounds like this aren’t distracting to me and some people even claim they can improve your productivity.
For me one of the best things about working from home is the flexibility. I don’t have to be in my seat at exactly 9:30 and clock off at exactly 17:30. Take advantage of it. We can see Santa at the local shopping centre at 10:30. No problem. There’s a play on at 15:00 on Thursday, want to come? Sure! It’s snowing. Lets go! Flexibility is good in other scenarios as well. If any of the kids are ill, I’m at home to help out. If we have forgotten a vital ingredient for dinner, either my wife or I can go to the shop without having to take all the children with us.
This extra time you get to spend with your kids is special. I’m often reminded of just how special it is when I talk to my friends and realise how much they miss out on when they’re in the office.
Of course, there is a down side to flexibility. The hours still need to be worked, usually in the evenings. But, I believe it’s a small price to pay.
Block out time in your calendar
The team I work on covers four time zones. The largest time difference is eight hours which leaves a small window for organising full team meetings. If you’re not careful this can eat into family time. I try to be as flexible as possible for work, but 18:00–19:00 is dinner time and bed time. I don’t want to miss this so I block out that hour in my calendar to dissuade people from booking meetings. Sure, at a push I will attend a meeting during this time, but not often.