Across The Board

Updates, inspiration, and musings from the folks behind Trello.

A Remote Work Guide, For Parents

parents working from home guide

Companies across the globe are beginning to adopt remote hiring at a larger rate. Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast predicts that 43% of the workforce will be remote by 2016. Remote work has many positive effects for businesses, such as lower overhead costs and broader applicant pools not contingent on location.

Many parents have jumped on the work-from-home bandwagon because of the flexibility and the chance to spend more time with their kids. Being able to wake up and spend time eating breakfast (and maybe even lunch and dinner) with family is a rare perk for parents seeking the elusive work-life balance.

If you’re a parent and you’re considering a remote job, it’s easy to envision the benefits of working at home. But remember to keep in mind, it ain’t all lollipops and rainbows.

As great as it is to cut out the commute and be with the kids more than you ever were during your average 9-5, remote work has its own set of challenges that you’ll want to prepare for to help keep your sanity.  

Prep Your And Your Kids’ Emotions

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You would think that the move to working from home wouldn’t be a feelings rollercoaster, but it can create an interesting emotional concoction set to blow up if you’re not careful.

Karen Alpert of Fast Company put it succinctly when she said, “Working from home means none of the commute—but a double serving of guilt.”

What tends to happen for many parents who switch to working from home is the lines between work and home life, which used to be so clearly marked, get blurred for everyone. Where kids once thought of mom or dad being home as pure family time, now home is where parents are sometimes working, and playtime or outings have to wait for a scheduled time.

One important way to mitigate this is to establish space and time boundaries with your kids. When they are told that “[Mom or Dad] is at work when they are in their office,” kids are able to delineate that even though Mom or Dad is in the house, they are not available for playtime.

Nail Down a Morning Routine

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Going from the bedroom straight to your home office in your pajamas might sound nice to everyone, but unless you’ve trained your brain to kick into a, “Let’s crank out some work” mental drive, then you’re going to find it hard to get anything done.

Add the hustle and bustle of kids, especially if they’re in the hands-on “I still need help wiping” phase of life, plus family foot traffic in the house, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for productivity disaster.

Either way, having a daily morning routine helps — a lot!

Here are a few tips to help you get a better morning habit that helps you get more done:

  • Wake up the same time every day, including the weekends. This can be hard if you’ve got little ones that keep you up throughout the night or have a schedule of their own. Waking up at the same time helps to create consistency that retrains your brain so it knows what to expect. (The mind is a fickle thing like that...)
  • Get ready for work and strap on your shoes. If you had to leave for a normal 9-5 job, then you’d go through the motions of getting ready in the morning to go to work. This means you’ve prepped your brain to do this before you get to work. Use that to your advantage. Brush your teeth. Change your clothes. Wear your shoes. Get to work.
  • Write out your routine and stick to it. Your parent brain is constantly juggling 50 things. You probably forget more than you remember. Recording your to-do list is vital to ever getting anything done. Even better is a digital list that you can quickly reference.

Establish Your At-Home Workflow

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First off, you need a dedicated space that you only access when you’re working. It should be a closed off space that has a door with a lock, to preserve video call integrity (as adorable as it is when your toddler comes in to show you something, it’s best to prevent that from happening during important calls).

Second, you need to set ground rules for how other people in the house can get in touch with you during the day. Ask your spouse or nanny to text you when they need to ask you something, that way you can engage or disengage when you’re ready.

Don’t run the risk of your office becoming a revolving door of context switching. If your kids are in the same house as you are, then there should be a level of separation when you are working. Think of it as a form of “mental distance” between work and home.

This means that you create a method for when and how you’ll get things done. You can batch tasks together and get them done using the Pomodoro technique. Instead of checking your email every time they come in, you might set aside 20 minutes or so at a specific time.

The most productive days often start the day before. How so?  Another good item to add to your workflow is to create your “Tomorrow List.” Take a few minutes the day before to work out what you’re going to the next day and in what order can help prevent you from forgetting anything important.

And the pros agree: check out how some of the world’s most successful people did this and take note.

You’re Going to Need Help

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Every home is different.

Some of you might have kids that are of school age, or at the point where they really don’t need much attention and help as soon as they get home. If that’s you, then you’re lucky because you probably won’t need to invest too much in child care.

But if your kids are young and require you to be quite hands on when you’re around, then you can pretty much assume that you’re going to need to get some help. Working from home while trying to watch your kids is really, really, really hard. Unless you’re freelancing part time, it shouldn’t even be an option.

If you’re seriously considering doing this remote work thing, then prepare ahead of time for the child care you’re going to need. The average annual cost for child care runs most families around $18,000.

There are benefits, however. The average person commutes four hours and 11 minutes every week (and some much more than that). By eliminating the drudge of the commute, working from home allows you the flexibility to pick up your kids from child care in a timeframe that works for your family. You may take a break when you need to. Not to mention the flexibility of being able to take them to doctors appointments, and attend school functions, when necessary.

The fact of the matter is, you’re going to need some help if you’re planning on remote work, so you should count the cost and consider your options.

When you’re in a pinch, here are a few cost saving tips to help you think of ways to get work done when you’ve got kids to take care of:

  • Grandparents to the rescue! If you’re lucky enough to live close to your parents, then they might be a great childcare option for you considering most grandparents won’t charge you to spend some time with the grandbabies.
  • Playdates. Here’s another nice way to let your kids get some energy out of their system while you have some time to crank out a bit of work during the week. Arrange a day during the week when your friends with kids can come take your kids on a playdate for a couple hours.
  • Ask the teenager next door. Let’s face it, every teenager is looking for a bit of extra cash, and won’t cost as much as a full fledged nanny.
  • Ask a new mom or dad looking to earn a bit of extra cash. Just about every single parent wants to find a way to make a bit of side income while being able to take care of their kids. If you have friends that have little kids, then offer to pay them a little bit for watching your kids while you work. It’s a win-win for everyone.

It’s important to remember that working remote does not mean also being the primary caregiver during those hours. Both your work and your quality time with your kids suffers when you are trying to accomplish both simultaneously.

Consider Working Away from Home

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As much as you love the idea of working from the comfort of home, sometimes it’s just not the ideal work environment.

For example, school breaks and early release mean more noise in the house and people needing your help. And of course, there are other distractions at home that can affect work on a day-to-day basis.

If you’ve found that being home during certain days cause too much disruption, then plan ahead. With remote work growing, many cities around the world have workspaces you can rent by the hour or month, and your company might even be willing to reimburse you for the cost.

Every avenue of work has its pros and cons, and working from home is no different. However, working remotely has many merits that parents can take advantage of to stay closer to home. Just remember the noise-canceling headphones.

 

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