The holiday season brings many gifts including lots of special time with friends and family. How could there possibly be a downside to this? While some businesses close over the break, most stay open and for many this season is one of the most prosperous times of the year. A business that can find itself especially challenged during the holiday season is the home-based businesses. As the kids return home ready for a two-week party-palooza, many home-based entrepreneurs and telecommuters are faced with the sudden loss of their once-quiet work environment.
I know this firsthand as I am one of the estimated 50 million in the US who works from home at least part of the time. I am also the father of four kids ranging in age from 4 to 11 so it gets a bit louder than usual when all are here during the work day. No one wants to be a Grinch at this special time of year but as a mustachioed sage once said, sometimes you have to “make the donuts.” How do you stay productive with the kids at home and without too much humbug? Here’s my holiday break survival guide that keeps everyone at my home-office sane during this most wonderful time of the year.
Have the Talk
It’s always a good idea to start with a simple talk explaining why your work situation is a little different. It has a lot of pros in that you are around and available a bit more but ultimately you are at work. It’s hard for kids to understand, remember that going in. If this basic tactic doesn’t work you could lay-in a light layer of guilt — I mean, er … understanding — to help them realize that the money you spend on their gifts is a result of that lame working thing you do. If all else fails, tell them that Santa home offices like your mom and/or dad, so he puts kids that disturb home-officing parents on the Naughty List automatically!
Implement Office Hours
Scheduling is key on both sides. The family needs to understand your work schedule. Likewise, you need to understand that you have some new obstacles to schedule around. Maybe it would be better to set up that conference call during nap time rather than during an all-neighborhood playdate at you house. I’ve even thought of getting ‘OPEN’ and ‘CLOSED’ signs for my door at the office supply store to help everyone in the vicinity know my current status and availability.
Set Your Own Expectations
I can’t take credit for this tip. My wife is usually the one that reminds me to temper my own expectations when everyone is around during the work day. It’s an amazingly simple tip and yet one that can easily be overlooked. If you accept that it’s going to be a bit more hectic and noisy from the git-go it keeps your yelling to a minimum and your blood pressure at a baseline. I also recommend switching from your regular dose of coffee to a cup of Tension Tamer tea.
Evacuate the Premises
I know that retreating is seen as the last resort but in this case it might make the most sense. Have you been thinking about trying out that new coffee shop near by? Now would be a perfect time to give it a shot for a few concentrated hours. I would, however, stay away from any coffee shop or Panera attached to a mall at this time of year as you’ll find it’s no less noisy than your home over break.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Let’s face it, you work from home because your job is somewhat flexible in nature. When faced with the sudden loss of your once quiet work environment, ask yourself if you really need to be working as much over the holiday break. Are your clients around? Do you have deliverables due? If not, then take a snow day (or two) yourself and take the fam to a matinee or simply roll around and have some fun of your own. If you have something due, maybe you can get to it later. (Note: As I write this post, it’s night and I’ve come back to my home office to wrap up some other work I had to ‘shift’ to a different time of day.)
Above All, Don’t Lose It
This too is a hard one to remember but above all, no one wins when you lose your temper. It often takes a big step back but you need to understand that this is a temporary thing. Holiday break doesn’t last forever (thank goodness) and, most of all, your kids won’t be young forever.
Those are my tips and tricks for home-office sanity. What do you do to keep the season — and your productivity — bright during winter break?