Making it work ~ Telecommuting with a Spouse

Couple Working Together at Home Just before 2012 went out in style (and escaped the dreaded Mayan end of the world apocolypse) my husband took a new job. We were both very happy with this move. It was very rewarding professional, looked like a great fit both travel wise and financially, and it was a home based position when we wasn’t on the road.
When I began to mention to people that he would be working from home alongside me now I received a lot of split reviews. There were the “Oh no” group who gasped wondering how we were going to get anything done for our respective positions. There was the “that’s awesome, now he can take the kids to school” group who, like me, immediately saw how our parenting workload might shift. And there was the “I’d never get anything done” group, who probably aren’t cut out to be telecommuters anyway.
From the start it’s been great, but there were definitely a few things that were key to our success in both working from home.

1. We new we would each need our own space. Several months back we remade our dining room over into my office (in a way that still allowed the room to serve its purpose during entertaining events). Check out the design and before and after pictures! Since my space was located downstairs we quickly determined that his “office” was going to have to fit into either the upstairs family room or our bedroom. Since my husband travels a good deal I wanted his office to be able to dissappear when he was on the road.

A few quick Pinterest searches later and I was on the hunt for one of these Armoire Style desks. I would be able to shut the doors and it would by bye bye office, hello bedroom every day at 5.

Isn't this awesome?

Isn’t this awesome?

I happened to be in our super nice Salvation Army about three days later and couldn’t believe it when there one sat!  It was in good shape, even had an L-table drop down for extra office space. I was good and waited semi-patiently until Hubs returned from that weeks travel and then promptly drug him to the store. Bada bing, bada bam…Hubs had a new office. Now I’ll be the first to admit my spacious spread and his awesome armoire are not equal but it works. We each have our own space, own office supplies, own phone lines, own printers, etc.

2. Office hours are a must. I learned this one the hard way years ago when I first became a telecommuter. I needed to shut the computer, switch off the work cellphone and walk away from work just as I had in physcially leaving an office. It is way to easy to walk by a computer, see mail sitting in your inbox and lose an hour on something that would have just as easily been tackled the next morning.  I’m a minority in my company since I still haven’t synced up my phone with the email servers and don’t work on weekends and vacations, but it helps me keep the balance between work and life.  This is something that Hubs, who is new to telecommuting is working on. I’ll occasionally search the house for him and find him hiding in his armoire checking email.

3. Find a routine that works for you. I work early in the morning, take a break to get the kids ready and off to school and then finish up by the time to pick them up. Fitting in daily exercise is something I need to work hard on this year but my routine allows me to focus on where I truly want to be, when I want to be there, in my case available for my kids after school hours. With Hubs joining me in telecommuting we’ve been able to improve on our routine, splitting up who takes and picks up each kid to allow both of us to spend some one on one time with each kid each day.

4. keepcalmandgotostarbucksA coffee frother, the gym, and Pandora…yeah I know these don’t make a lick of sense in the same sentence, but they are all vital to making telecommuting work for me. I’m a coffee fanatic and a loyal Starbucks customer through and through. Only problem is now it would mean a special trip out of the house, just for coffee to get my morning fix. I stumbled on a coffee frother at Bed Bath and Beyond one day and haven’t looked back! Each morning I mix up my own latte at home and Starbucks has become more of a treat than a daily vice.  The gym is Hubs escape. At the end of a day working from home, eating at home and not leaving other than to pick up the kids, he escapes to the neighborhood gym for a workout and some socialization.  Last but not lease, Pandora = Productivity for me. A good jamming playlist, a quiet house and a long to do list that gets knocked out quickly is a daily ritual for me.

5. Calendar blocks are also essential. When I have tasks to do that are not meetings with others or travel, I schedule them as meetings on my calendar. For instance if I need to do expense reports, work on my to do list, send a block of emails or draft a powerpoint, I make a point to put a block of time on my calendar, marked as busy to work on those objectives. The hardest part for my peers when I moved to working from home was not having the visual that I was busy. I ended up with a lot of random, last minute requests that kept me from completing my tasks. Scheduling my tasks on my calendar gave them back that visual and kept me from being overloaded with last minute piddly items.

I could go on and on but these are some of the key items that made telecommuting work for me and that I’ve shared to help Hubs be successful in his new endeavor.

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To Volunteer or Not to Volunteer

I have a school age kid now and with that apparently comes great responsibility to volunteer!  (Did you hear that in the same Spiderman voice over that I did?)  When my son switched schools in October with the school year already underway I knew it was going to take me reaching out to get plugged in and involved at his new school. I happened to run into several moms on our first day and walked up to ask what they thought of the school, any advice and it they knew how I could get plugged in. Little did I know I had run into the very group that was at the core of anything and everything that happened at our new school. This group of woman are amazing and I quickly knew that friendships were coming fast and furious! I told them laughingly that I loved to help out and they hadn’t seen the last of me.

A few weeks later I attended my first PTO meeting where I heard some complaints voiced about the lack of communication from the school and PTO that was leaving parents with questions but no recourse for answers. I offered to jump in where another parent had left off and create the PTO website. A few meetings and weekends later and it was off and running. Fast forward a few weeks and I had gone from flying under the radar offering advice to front and center jack of all trades volunteer with an honorary position on the board.

Then came my personal Waterloo! International Fest…an amazing event intended to open the eyes and minds of children and teachers at our school and allow them to embrace the diversity and culture that our charter school represents. My planning expertise landed me at logistics coordinator and we were off. Over the last several months we have had conference calls, meetings, craft sessions, shopping trips, commercial production, promotions creation and production, you name it!  It’s going to be great…I know it is, but it has brought up a big question for me.

To Volunteer or Not to Volunteer…it’s an eternal question.  When you volunteer your efforts benefit your child and a slew of others, the school, the teachers and other parents. Your time is given over benefit the collective, but what does that do on a small-scale to your family.  While I know that volunteering does benefit my kid, does he? For my five-year old the activities I do for him, for his school, his class, his soccer team, I do them all for him, but in his eyes it’s all just one more thing (more realistically a dozen more things) Mom has to do before she can play.

I’m adding Volunteering to my list of jobs. First and foremost I’m a Mom, it takes priority over everything else. Second I’m an employee of a great company and work set hours to get that work done. That leaves a little time for job numero tres, Volunteering where I need to split time between soccer team mom, home room mom and school volunteer.  Moving forward I realize that I need to be a bit more structured, allocate some hours and plan my volunteer time instead of agreeing to tasks without taking into account the hours I’m giving over and where they’re being taken from.

On that note I bring you this week’s

TELECOMMUTING TIP!

Check out www.slimtimer.com if you are trying to juggle the hours you spend on any activity. Whether you freelance, are a telecommuter or just need a handle on those volunteer hours www.slimtimer.com allows you to create tasks that fit your life. When you click on a task it starts a stopwatch. Click again to stop it. Then on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis you can run reports on how many hours you spend on each task. It’s a great way to track time and stay on top of whatever schedule you set for yourself.  I’ve been using it for years and recommend it far and wide when I encounter a situation where someone is trying to get a handle on where their time is spent!

Working from home with a sick kid

Is there anything tougher than knowing work won’t wait when your child is sick?  As a telecommuting, work from home mom, I can honestly say no.  When I was in an office and stayed home sick I was out of sight out of mind, but now my co-workers see no difference on the days when I’m out either caring for a sick kid or home sick myself.  What ends up happening is we pull double duty trying to please everyone.  How many of you have ended up more exhausted than your sick kid by running back and forth between caring for your kid and checking email.

All I can say is Thank Goodness for the mute button! I’ve had a sick, cranky kid home all week. Between teething and the horrible allergies she is overtired, wants nothing more than an around the clock supply of juice and Wonder Pets (side note: I want to know how to call that can phone so they come rescue me from this tiny tyrant ;)). I’ve held two live webinars and more than 7 conference calls this week and although they all went well there were some nerve wracking moments. 

My advice if you are home with a sick kid- don’t even open the computer, but if you don’t have a choice, plan ahead. I hold off on the WonderPets until right before a meeting, we eat lunch early and get in a good nap so I can power through some pressing work and I work early or late so I can take time when she needs me to just sit and cuddle on the couch.

Today it’s The Traveling Tyrant

Let me start this by saying that 5 am is a ridiculously early time to get up. I know there are some amazing/crazy people who get up at this hour every day to workout and do all kinds of good stuff, but since the onset of Moody Tyrant and Tiny Tyrant, the little people that run my life, there is never enough sleep. However today I was up bright and early at 4:45 am to catch a 7 am plane to the wintry northern lands of Detroit.

Generally I love to travel. I love the break from my routine chaos, love the adult time where conversation doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of every superhero every made, their superpowers and who’s nemesis is whose. However this has been a tricky trip from the beginning. I got late notice, booked a super expensive flight, only to realize that Mr. Dictator was also traveling. So starts the scramble for a sitter for my kids who is willing to pull a 36 hour shift.

Sitters are never in short supply but I always feel a bit Machiavellian booking anyone for an overnight. My kids are not solid sleepers, nope not one bit. Matter of fact, Tiny Tyrant who is definitely showing significant signs of being another High Sensitivity Child (HSC) woke up with a blood curdling scream at 10:05pm last night just as I was getting into bed and for the next hour rivaled Paris Hilton with her dramatics. She screamed, she flung herself around, she demanded food and beverage befitting her tyrant state and then flung every offering away as unacceptable. All of this while tears pour down her face, she breaks out in a face rash from the screaming and refuses to be held and comforted, but also refuses to be put down. (this results in a series of back bends out of my arms so that she can be both in my arms and as far away from me as possible at the same moment)

Let me just tell you that there is nothing that will break your heart more than a child whose emotions are so overpowering to them that they are lost at sea and can’t even recognize Mom as a safe harbor. Both of my kids handle the ups and downs that life dishes out with screams, tears and extreme joy. Every moment is an up or down and our life is a runaway roller coaster. Learning to accept this as normal for us, learning to brush off the judgmental among us and learning to accept my kids for who they are instead of who I pictured they would be.

This post is a bit rambling but hopefully you’ll forgive me since this was written by a sleep deprived, caffeinated traveler!