Family Home Office Survival: Here Are 9 Ways to Make it Work

By Mark Rosen

My God, our house is loud and crazy. I am not sure whether it’s a home or a Chaos Containment System.

My wife and I have three boys, ages: 7, 9, and 11, and they share a bedroom — which I am convinced is the loudest place in my entire town. I think our neighbors have been installing acoustic tile on the outside of their houses. Our home life is loud and messy, the kids play and fight and love and jump and run every waking minute, and we are generally trying to talk over the noise level. It really is a sight to behold — that much energy and activity and sound and interaction that concentrated.

It’s like running wild rapids but there are three rivers and my wife and I are the rafts, getting thrown every which way by our boys. Add to that our occasional efforts at Actual Parenting generally at full volume — and yes, it is quite a scene.

It feels like it catches and squeezes you and does not stop; it just runs out of energy after a while.

I think this is how a home is supposed to be, but it is truly hard to take sometimes especially when I tried to get some work done. You see, I worked at home on my own business for nine years, before I sold the business.

Working from home was a lot of things: great, crazy, stressful, bizarre, convenient — but I can tell you one thing it was not: Productive.

I used to get up at 4 am BEFORE the kids and my wife if I had to do anything which required actual thought.  I would make phone calls from the car in the driveway. I would close my door and when that would not help — I would yell.  I would yell a lot. How can I get my work done in the midst of all the chaos?  Why can’t they just play quietly for a few minutes?

 I cannot tell you how many times I ignored my boys or used the screens (TV, video games, tablets, computers) to babysit them so I could get done what I needed to.

I was so stressed all the time in our home, and then my wife would get home from her work, exhausted from her day and then have to deal with my stress and the kids trying to get her attention all at once — totally overwhelmed.

It was so hard on my wife, it was hard on the kids, and it was hard on me. I knew this was not like my home growing up, but I could not figure out what was so different, and then I realized: My parents did not work (professionally) at home, my Dad worked at work and my Mom took care of us. When my Dad got home, he was away from work, with his family, relaxed, able to focus on my Mom and my sister and me.

Now I know the world is much different now than 40 years ago when I was a kid, but there has been a core shift in our Family Dynamics since work has entered our homes.  Our separate worlds overlap in ways that are not so healthy for our families.

So let me state the obvious: It’s pretty challenging to work effectively at home and it’s not so easy on the family.  Our families want and need our attention and our work also demands our attention. Splitting our attention tends to cause us to neglect BOTH our families and work.

The evolution of our homes to workplaces is actually a throwback to earlier times. Historically, families lived on the farm or in the back or second floor of a business. It is easy to imagine a peasant European family living in a small town or shtetl, the parents working and the kids underfoot or helping, everyone together. Now it is so much different, generally some (or all) of our work is of an electronic digital nature, the commodity we are selling is our time and attention, what we make with our brain — not our hands. The communication and computer technology which has transformed our lives is fantastic; we can just about do anything anywhere.  The convenience is mind boggling when compared to needing to go to the office to look at papers or answer a phone call.

But what is it doing to our homes?

Our work suffers a little bit, we are not as effective and less productive. We make up for it by working longer hours. The impact on our families is different; we all know what happens when our kids do not get our attention when they want it, they work harder at it.  Sometimes this is being louder, sometimes it’s being worse. Rarely, do we get mature understanding from our kids. Our spouses are different, when they do not get our attention they do not act out — they stop trying.

Over time, all we do is reinforce the idea that our families are not the most important things in our lives even in our homes.

We all work so hard to love and communicate and facilitate growth in our family relationships and we sabotage our efforts by attempting to work at home.

Here are some ideas and approaches based on years of working at home experience to MAKE IT BETTER for you and your family.

1)     Don’t work at home, find a place NEAR your home, which you can be productive.

2)     Find a low traffic area in your home (preferably with a door that closes), which is your permanent work area and only work there.

3)     Set and communicate to your family work at home hours and have the discipline to only work during that time.

4)     Set and communicate to your family NO work at home hours and have the discipline to not work during that time.

5)     Try and get out of the house each day, if even only for a short walk or some exercise — but get out of your house every day.

6)     Establish personal rituals which help define your work day, for example coffee at your computer starts the day, and a glass of wine while making dinner ends the day.

7)     Set a work schedule that makes you available when your family is at home and working when they are away and plan your most important work tasks for when they are NOT home.

8)     Plan into your day REAL face time with family such as walks to school, coffee with spouse.

9)     Schedule a stress relieving activity before your family gets home, even if it’s just a few minutes like reading a sports column or 10 minutes of yoga.

Home is a sacred place. It’s OUR sacred place.

It’s the place where we keep ourselves and our families and our treasures. While we may have to work there, it does not have to become take-your-family-to-work day every day.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Mark Rosen is a married father of 3 boys, whose mission in life is to thwart any meaningful work at home, and whose latest project is the PLUGIN workspace; a shared office concept with its first location in Highland Park IL. This is the hottest trend in working from home “survival”.  Check out his fab venture at:  www.PLUGINworkspace.com


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