If you are self employed and have always worked from your house or apartment, you may be inclined to continue to do so when you have kids. It is also possible you have a family already, and you are starting up a home office. There can be difficulties with having a home office while raising children, but it has been done by many with success and joy, and you can do it too.
The Perfect Live-Work House
We lived in a townhouse with a perfect office on the ground floor. However, we realized that our perfect work from home townhouse would not work when we had kids, since it had long flights of stairs which were awkward to climb up and down with a baby, and it had no doors separating the floors. Also, even though it had an ample and beautiful office, it did not have a bedroom for the baby. That was when the home office situation changed from a perfect scenario to a serious issue we had to resolve.
We moved into a traditional house with all the bedrooms upstairs. When the baby came, Greg continued to use one of the bedrooms as his office. This was easier said than done, and if you have kids, you know. If you are planning on having kids while working from a home office, start preparing ahead of time. The worst thing to do is to wait until the baby arrives.
Spare Bedroom Home Office
If you have kids running around the house, your spare bedroom home office will get noisy. The interruptions will be endless, whether the kids are well-behaved or not. They will run around having fun, barge in asking for help, and eventually disturb your work no matter what precautions you take. If you don’t mind some interruptions but still want to keep a level of sanity, there are some precautions to take.
Not all headphones and earphones are created equal, and definitely not all noise-cancelling headphones are created equal. If you are going to be coding, writing, or engaging in any kind of work activity that requires dedicated concentration and focus, noise-cancelling headphones are great because you can listen to music and focus on production. Granted, this does nothing for a loud pounding on the door, or a sudden burst into your office, but if you play your cards right you can get several hours of quiet, uninterrupted work. For tips on the right headphones to choose, see our Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review (link).
Consider Soundproofing your Home Office
The most difficult issues with having a home office and kids are the noise and interruptions. If you have to be on the phone with clients, any noise or barging in can destroy your workflow and be incredibly embarrassing. If you have convinced your employer to let you work from home, and they can hear noisy kids in the background during a phone call or video conference, it can be very detrimental. Not only could it disrupt work, but it could decrease your reputation in the eyes of clients or your employer. For tips on keeping the office quiet, see How to Noise Proof Your Home Office
Lock the Door to your Home Office
This is necessary for every home office owner, though it can backfire. For our child, who was infatuated with her dad, all she could think about was how to get through that door. One time for a split-second, she saw me use a coin to get a door open, so she figured out as a toddler how to pick the lock on her dad’s door “with a money.” Door locks have been obsolete ever since.
On a more serious note, locking the door during important meetings is a must. It should be noted that while being productive at home is vital to justify a home office, ignoring your children too much can have drastic consequences long-term if they do not understand. It is important to communicate with them that you have to work in a loving way.
Take Breaks to Interact with the Family
They know you are in there! Manage their expectations by making yourself available every few hours. Have lunch with them, and take a couple of 10- or 15-minute breaks to acknowledge your family. If you come out to them they will not attempt to seek you out. As much.
Once you have made sure that your family knows you appreciate them, things can certainly go much smoother both while you are working and when you are not. Taking those short breaks, and reminding your children that you have to get back to work when it is time, will lead to a great family relationship at home during your work-from-home life.
Where to Put your Home Office
Choose a spot in the house for your office that is more private. For example, when we moved into our new house, the obvious place for the home office was the extra bedroom. However, that bedroom is in the middle of the house, on the same hallway as the bathroom and our daughter’s bedroom, next to the TV room and the play area. In short, it was the worst possible place to work. In fact, that office was short-lived. A better spot was the master bedroom in terms of privacy because it was on the other end of the house, large enough so that the desk could live in a far corner of the house, and with a locking door and in-suite bathroom.
We ended up deciding that it would make more sense to rent an office. We still wanted to keep our expenses to the minimum so that meant not having to buy a second car. Luckily, there were some office spaces available close enough to our house that Greg could walk there or simply bring the car back if we needed it. If you are considering this line to get the most productivity out of your home business, check out our article on the Pros and Cons of Renting a Private Office.
Other Interesting Ideas from People with Home Offices
1. Install a light decal – We had a neighbor who had a button that let people know if he was on the phone or not to be interrupted! When he pressed this button a light on a box outside his door would turn red for “absolutely no interruptions.”
2. Work during odd hours – There are people who, in an effort to get work done, get up a few hours before the kids to make sure they get in some uninterrupted quiet work time. If you need to make phone calls overseas, this is a great time to do so.
3. We decided to homeschool our daughter! That meant that not only would she be home on and off during the day, but there would be countless play-dates and kids hanging out at our house on an almost daily basis. The fun never ended, and so dad was slowly pushed out, first into a rental office.
Then after a year stint in a dark corner of the master bedroom, we decided to build a detached garden office. (Link) This is working out great and we’d like to relate to you all about our experience in our article on How Much Does It Cost to Build a Detached Home Office (link).
Having kids can interfere with your work from your home office, though from their perspective, your work may be interfering with your time with them. It is important to make time for both, and be clear about what you have to do. You may find over time that they are somewhat interested in your work, and maybe there will be a budding family business in that home after all.