Don’t let the joys of summer break wreak havoc on your work. Follow these tips to make this a good season for everyone.
Ah, yes, summer break. Warm breezes, dinners on the deck, and– more distractions than ever while you try to work from home. How will you possibly accomplish anything with the kids begging for attention, making messes, and running in and out of the house all day? And what about those neighbors who host cook-outs at every opportunity and insist you attend each one? Your chances of going crazy: 99.9%.
Sure, millions of people work while their kids are on school break and do just fine. But when you work from home it’s different. When other people leave for work, their home life stays behind. And when they return, their job stays at work. For remote workers, however, the line between work and home just gets more blurred than ever.
Create a smooth transition
Begin now by making arrangements for summer break. Set up a realistic summer work schedule with your boss, requesting as much flex-time as he/she can offer. Pass your new work schedule around to anyone who has frequent contact with you and ask them to respect your working times.
If need be, rearrange things in your home. Move your desk to a quieter location to avoid having to shush people whenever the phone rings. Set up “dump” sites in common rooms to make it easy for younger kids to keep the floors and furniture cleared of toys. Set up a self-serve meal station so your children can help themselves when they’re hungry, or if your work carries you into their usual mealtime.
Pencil in daily downtime
You are an important figure in many people’s lives. Your children, spouse, relatives, and neighbors want to spend time with you.
Schedule a time for each day when your kids know you are 100% theirs. Even on days with heavy projects at hand you can take one-half to one hour to just “be” with your kids.
The same applies to your spouse. Allow yourself a few hours each weekend to visit with relatives, friends and/or neighbors–especially those who have shown respect for your designated work times. Let me assure you that doing this is a win-win for everyone. The quality time you devote to others will be rewarded with support during emergencies or other times of need.
Take a vacation
You may think that with all the ruckus of summer break already interrupting your work the last thing you should do is take a vacation. Do it anyway. You don’t have to go on vacation, but you do need to take one. This is time to enjoy people or hobbies without having to watch the clock. However, if you can go, then go!
All year round you live and work from home. It is healthy to remove yourself to defrag and stimulate your brain. If money is tight, be creative. Set up a campsite in the back yard; take the family to the next town over and spend a night or two in a hotel; or take a road trip to visit a distant family member. All of these things will help you mentally make a clean cut from your work and recharge you.
Create an escape route
Downtime and vacations are important, but sometimes you will need to have some alone time. No family, no friends, and no work. Allow yourself to escape everything to do something for yourself. Go get a massage, take a walk, or spend an hour listening to your favorite motivational speaker on CD.
These “me times” should be pre-scheduled as much as possible. This will ensure your family is ready to be on their own for a little while and you can completely relax. Don’t wait until you are so fed up you want to run away. It will only upset your family and you will return home to worse chaos than what you tried to escape from.
Just because the children are home doesn’t mean you have to play gourmet chef all day. I can attest that my kids have never gotten sick from eating boxed cereal for breakfast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Let go of some of any pressure you feel to prepare perfectly balanced meals three times a day.
The same goes for what your kids wear or how clean their rooms are. Make life easier on yourself by allowing them to pick out their own clothing, no matter how mismatched it may be. Likewise, try not to fret over toys strewn about their rooms. You’ve got other work to do; and a little mess won’t hurt anyone.
One nice thing about having older children is they can fill in for you. Cleaning, simple meals, dog walking, and watching younger siblings are all activities they can handle so you can focus on your work. Even if they don’t do things the same way you would, the lessons they learn from helping out and the work you’re able to finish make delegating worthwhile.
Neighbors and extended family are also excellent resources if you’re running behind on a looming deadline. Never be afraid to ask.
Maintain contact with your team
Communicating with your boss and co-workers when you work remotely already has challenges. Add now the busy-ness of kids being home during your work hours and it becomes extra difficult. But maintaining regular contact with your team is critical.
Firstly, if summer break disrupts the continuity of your work or communication, it might cause your supervisor to rethink whether you should work at home during this time. Secondly, the feedback (and support) from your colleagues will help keep you balanced and focused. Without it, it’s easy to slip away from your work for longer periods of time each day.
Prior to your kids’ summer break, set up times in advance to touch base with your supervisor and colleagues. Mark these times in your planner so you can plan for someone to watch your kids on those days. The last thing you want is for a child to interrupt you while you’re on the phone with your supervisor.
Summer doesn’t have to mean a choice between family time or getting work done. Nor does it have to feel like a battle between the two. Planning ahead is the key to a smoother transition and an enjoyable season.
Your turn: What are your biggest challenges when it comes to working from home throughout a summer break?
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