Welcome to the Home Office23/04/2020
..of the Payne Family
We are in the very lucky position that my husband, our 2 kids and myself are always at home together. Well, some might argue that this is exactly the problem with the self-isolation. However we are coping, because we are used to it. I am not saying that it is always easy. But for us it still is the most suitable way of living. Here is how is our experience as a Home Office family.
Home Office Pro
My husband John is working for an international company with clients and business partners all over the world. He has to adapt his working hours to different time zones. Sometimes he is starting around noon and not finishing until midnight. Or the other way around. Needing to be flexible makes home office the only viable option. For the past 3 years working from home has proven to be the perfect solution for all of us.
Self-Isolation doesn’t change our Routine
As long as John has been working from home I have been a stay-at-home mom. Neither of our two kids go into childcare. All together we make a great team. The Corona crisis might shake things up a bit, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on our domestic routine.
What a Way to start the Day
When the kids wake up in the morning the four of us are having a bit of family time together. John and I are sipping our coffees while our almost 3-year old is munching his muesli. Meanwhile our daughter is practicing crawling before she is joining the rest of us in bed for cuddles. We prefer that over a formal sit-down breakfast. No hasty getting ready in the morning or rushing anywhere. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Home Office for Future
One reason we get to do that is because John saves about 3 hours commute every day by working from his home office in Wicklow. Not everybody has the privilege to work from home. But when the Corona crisis is over there will be more Home Office workers for sure.
It can be hard to never see any co-workers, but there are a lot of upsides from a family perspective. Instead of being stuck in rush hour traffic day in day out John gets to see the kids a lot and has had a great bond with them right from the start. Despite me being the main child carer during the day, we both rank equally as parents from our kids’ perspective.
Family Rules for Working from Home
Instead of stating the more or less obvious Home Office pros and cons I put together some simple family rules that make working from home run smoothly for us.
Do not enter!
The home office is off limits for playing. Especially when John is working obviously. As soon as he closes the door, he turns from the jokey cuddly family daddy into a tough business man. Not for us, but for everyone else who is dealing with him in there (ouch!)
Of course this is hard to explain to a toddler. And some days it is harder to follow this rule than others. John knows that I am doing my best, but am not able to keep the noise down all the time. On the other hand, I am aware that especially during important phone calls I have to put all the effort in to keep the kids quiet. With the increase in people working from home during the Corona crisis we have encountered an even higher level of understanding from John’s business partners and clients though.
Beware of the Cuddle Zone!
The same way the door functions as ‘teleporting machine’ in Rule #1 when John enters the office, it works the other way around when he comes out. So the minute John sticks his nose out the door, he is likely to be ‘attacked’ by the little cuddle monsters. In our house every door creeks differently. So no silently sneaking in or out of the office. Nevertheless John crosses lines quite frequently during the day to the delight of the kids which leads us to Rule #3.
Work Schedule before Family Routine.
This might sound negative. But what it basically means is that we drop everything whenever John has an unexpected break or a cancelled meeting. The kids are delighted when he throws in an extra round of rough play even if it is just for 5 minutes. Especially now with the great weather we all take the opportunity to hang out together in the garden for a bit before everybody resumes what they were doing beforehand.
Leave the Work behind.
A big downside of working from home is that the workplace is just around the corner at all times. So why not quickly nip into the Home Office to answer an email. Or even worse, do it at the dinner table. Therefore this rule is very important to me. I would rather miss out on a family dinner to make sure John gets to finish his work and doesn’t look at his phone or computer for the rest of the day.
Everybody needs a break.
John doesn’t take regular breaks throughout the day. If he was commuting he would at least have the chance to wind down a bit which doesn’t normally happen after a day in the Home Office. For a long time Rule #2 caused him to jump into his daddy job straight away. That is why we invented downtime for John after work unless hell is breaking loose.
If hell is breaking loose, even during the day, I ask John for help provided his work permits it. Occasionally he has to rock the baby during a phone conference or our toddler gets to wear the big ‘Mickey-Mouse’ headset to say hello to the CEO (Editor’s note: the ‘person’ on the screen in the picture is not the CEO!).
Last but not least, Exceptions to the Rule.
Whilst above rules have proven themselves to be working for us, there are certainly days when not everything is going according to plan.
On such days the office might turn into a playground with the office chair as a merry-go-round. Or our toddler storms in mid-meeting asking John for a face to be painted on his plaster*. Quietly playing in the hallway turns into a full-on soccer match. And instead of a peaceful break for John at the end of the day we all settle for some episodes of Peppa Pig together and cuddles on the couch. (*When I ask our son what daddy does for work he says that he has a phone, a computer and pens.)
‘Love in Times of Corona’
I can definitely say that our 3-years home office experience is a huge advantage for successfully dealing with this exceptional situation during the self-isolation. Whilst we also feel an impact of the lockdown, especially on our mental health, we don’t see it as a challenge on our family life. On the contrary, it brings us even closer together. Hopefully people who are Home Office Beginners will see the upsides to it and manage to cope in a similar positive way.
I cannot help it but say it once more how grateful I am for the way of life we chose, meaning me being a stay-at-home mam and John the sole breadwinner. It might not be (possible) for everyone, but for us it is the perfect solution which gives us another advantage with the current situation too.
Instead of juggling Home Schooling and Home Office (which I consider to be extremely difficult) or disappointment because kids can’t go to crèche, nothing has changed for us and everybody is happy at home.
How I keep the children happy at home without big effort or too much screen time, I share in my next blog post. Stay safe until then and make the most of working from home.