When my husband told me that he would be working from home due to the COVID-19, I was excited. Although my husband’s commute is very short, it only allowed him, 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening with our daughter, 5 days out of the week. He really wanted to be more present with her during the day. So when he told me that he would be working from home, we couldn’t see any negatives. Well… 3 weeks in and it was not going well. He was finding it hard to work from home effectively with family present.
It was wonderful to have him present during the day, our daughter loved it. She would constantly be crawling or walking her walker towards his work area and calling for him. I wouldn’t even think twice and sometimes just start conversations with him. On several occasions, he had to tell me that he is working or that he was on a call. Surprisingly it was a hard adjustment for all of us.
Not only was it harder for my husband to get work done during the day but we also fought so much more. We just couldn’t understand why. We fought about nothing and everything.
So, how can you work from home more effectively when family is present?
1. Have a designated separate workspace.
Having a designated workspace is, of course, a requirement when working from home. This was something my husband had, however, his designated workspace was a small built-in desk area by our dining room. My daughter and I would be in the living room playing, I would be making food in the kitchen, I would feed our daughter in the dining room. We were a constant distraction, all day long.
Research says, there is no such thing as multi-tasking. The mind cannot multi-task. When you take on several tasks at one time, your brain is actually switching back and forth from one task to the other. This actually causes you to be more ineffective and increases your chance of making mistakes. In the cases of complicated tasks, it takes your brain more time to refocus on the task, killing more time.
This was essentially what my husband was doing.
So we set up my husband upstairs in the 3rd bedroom. This made a world of difference. The physical distance away from us helped him focus more on his work (his brain wasn’t switching back and forth from us to his work) and also discouraged us from calling on him because he was longer within our sight.
2. Communicate your schedule to your spouse.
Remember how I said we’ve been fighting a lot more? Well, I pinpointed the problem was our lack of communication regarding his schedule. One moment he might be taking a brief break to play with our daughter then the next second he was back at work while I needed some help with something. I was so confused about his schedule. One second he would be talking to me then he would take a phone call and having no idea I would be speaking to him while he’s on the phone.
When you’re at work, let’s be honest, you’re not working the full 8 hours. You take a break to get coffee, take your lunch, speak to a coworker, go to the bathroom, if you’re working in front of a computer, likely you’re getting up to stretch and move to prevent chronic pain and injuries. So the joy of working from home is that you can see and spend some time with your family (especially for my husband, with me being on maternity leave with our daughter) where you might be doing these things at work.
However, there are times when you need to really get down to business such as when you’ll be busy in a meeting or trying to meet a deadline. This is where your schedule should be communicated. As a wife, who is at home I make lunch for my husband and expected him to come spend some of his downtimes with us. When he let me know when he will be coming down for lunch or when he is having a meeting or reaching a deadline helps keep communication lines open and creates a much smoother day for everyone. Especially with young kids, it’s hard for them to understand sometimes why mom or dad is home but they can’t play with them or go to them.
3. Have boundaries.
When you’re working from home it is really important to maintain boundaries. Another reason my husband and I fought a lot was because there was no end to his workday. He would work after dinner, before bed because he can and because working from home initially caused some issues in efficiency.
It is important for you and your family to create boundaries. When is your work time and when is family time. This helps your spouse understand your schedule and also your children understand when they have your time. It’s beneficial for you also because you have a time frame in which work must be completed. Work time provides more direction and incentive to complete work effectively and efficiently. Plus you need time away from work and with your family or even just time to yourself. Working remotely while being confined to your home can be tough. Check out my post on How to Keep Your Sanity While Stuck at Home to help relieve some of the anxiety.
Creating boundaries with your work and with your family allows a greater understanding of the schedule and routines of the day.
Working from home is a great benefit during this time but I’m sure for many it is also a big change. It is likely to be harder with the “physical distancing” and many people being at home during work hours. Working from home has so many distractions and your family can be one of the best but also the biggest. So, how can you work from home efficiently with the family present? Set up for yourself a separate designated work area, communicate your schedule with your family and set boundaries so there’s a clear line between work time and family time or me-time.