5 Things Thursday: Working From Home (NOT) Alone
Updated: Apr 3
Children come with a built-in talent that seems to fully manifest itself when we’re trying to be responsible work-from-home adults. As soon as an important call comes in or a deadline is eminent, this talent blossoms into its full glorious existence, triggering any number of antics to interrupt, frustrate and generally hinder any ability on our part to be productive and professional. I know I’m not the only one with such brilliant children; this guy couldn’t even get through a video interview with BBC...he has very talented children!
Enter Covid-19 with its entirely new breed of chaos. This new normal we are all adjusting means many of us are trying desperately to work from home with school-less children, aimless teenagers and work-from-home spouses close to hand. This is not an easy situation for anyone – not you, not your spouse, not your children. Everyone’s world has been turned upside down and it is impossible to think you can close a door and enter your own private world for 8 hours a day while your children calmly play or do schoolwork or just exist on their own in another room without you.
But we still need to work! So how do we make our work-at-home days productive while juggling the demands of those who cohabitate with us? There are definitely all sorts of psychology-approved ways to handle it. Alas, a psychologist I am not. However, from a design perspective there are several things we can do to help ease the tension and the chaos that inevitably will result when – like it or not - your kids just need to be in the same room as you during business hours.
1. OPEN THE DOOR. This may seem counter-intuitive, but trust me here. Although there will be times you really need to close the door - to have that conference call or to really focus hard on a particular task - keep the door open as much as possible. Sometimes kids just need to see what you’re doing. If they can’t see what you’re up to…well, how many knocks does it take to drive you loony?
2. FACE TO THE DOOR:This has some feng shui roots to it, but it’s also very practical. Not only will you see what’s coming your way, you will also be able to monitor what’s happening in the world beyond. (At times when it gets too distracting, you can always close the door.) If this arrangement puts your back to the wall, then you have the added benefit of now having a stationary background should video calls be a normal part of your routine. Learn from the man in the video!
(For a little more desk feng shui-ing, check out this site from Feng Shui Designer Amanda Gates)
3. GIVE THEM SOME SPACE:In your office, that is. Make a little space for them in your work world that is welcoming and inviting and gives them a place to curl up and read a book, play with some (quiet) toys, be creative. It doesn’t take much. A small box of their toys tucked into an empty space in a corner or a small bookshelf of their own (like these from Drakestone Designs). A magnet or chalk board. Add a comfy chair if you have the space. How about a small area on your desk or a little table where they can crack open a coloring book? Add some of their favorite books to yours. Yes, you might have to read one to them before sending them off to find a snack, but how wonderful is that?!?! It doesn’t take much. And when they feel included in your world, they become far less demanding about being let into it.
4. ZONE OUT: Similar to #3 above, if you have the space, create several different zones that can serve double duty for work and for visitors. You have your desk to work at, of course. What about adding a sofa you can work at with your laptop or that your kids or spouse can work at with theirs.Maybe a cozy chair that faces out a window for those long phone calls or that kids can read a book in or play a game. Again, maybe a small table kids could work at creatively.
5. ORGANIZE THYSELF! Make sure everything has a place, and ideally a place that can be closed up when work is over or when things are not needed. Curious minds will wander and the last thing you need are those electronics, spreadsheets and reports that you left all over your desk now to end up all over the floor in a gooey crumpled mess. At the end of the day, remove all items that do not belong in your workspace, including things brought in by little visitors.
And there you have your Thursday 5! Hopefully one or two of these can help you find some small measure of increased peace in your work world. I’m know there are 100 other great ideas and I would love to hear how you’re handling kids in your workspace!