Thanks to the internet, working at home has become more prevalent over the past several years. In 2015, 38% of employed persons did some or all of their work remotely.
Our situation is somewhat unique, as we are both home, and our son is homeschooled. This means that we spend approximately 98% of our time at home together. Dan’s job does involve travel, and when he’s gone it’s usually weeks at a time (last year we had a 9 week stretch and a 15 week stretch, with some random weeks thrown in here and there) and then it’s just me and Patrick.
We’ve been doing this for about 18 months now, and we have figured out that there are some things that have to be prioritized if it’s going to work. I’ve condensed these into five main objectives for the sake of clarity. They are…
Set professional boundaries.
This one is at the top of the list for a reason. It’s been the most difficult one for me to adjust to, and I definitely think it’s the most important.
Dan has an actual office here in our home. When we lived in our rental, his “office” was in our spare bedroom, and when our daughter came home from university for the summer he moved into our bedroom. It was not an ideal situation, as there was no way for him to really set boundaries, either personal or space-wise.
Here at our new home, he has a dedicated office. This allows him to:
- Close the door at the end of the day and be done with work. I try not to pepper him with work questions when he is finished with his day–it makes it more difficult for him to disengage.
- Limit distractions when he needs to concentrate or is on a work call.
- Set up his space as an actual office instead of a temporary place where he lands and tries to work.
Set personal boundaries.
Setting personal boundaries is a bit trickier. Because he is at “home”, it’s easy for people (including me) to assume that he’s available any time. My sister-in-law and her husband also work from home and have incredibly stressful jobs. People have been known to ask questions like “So…you get to take a lot of naps during the day, right?” While it’s said jokingly, there is always an element of belief in what they are asking.
They also have to field random phone calls and texts from people who don’t realize that they are interrupting the workflow. Confession–I’ve been known to fire off texts to her without paying attention to the time. My brain takes a while to catch on sometimes. 🙁 I’m trying though.
While I’m not randomly texting Dan throughout the day, I do have the ability to walk into his office at any time. This interrupts his concentration and workflow. I have to make a conscious effort to put aside what I’m thinking until he comes out for lunch or is done with his day.
When I continually interrupt Dan, I am sending the message that his job isn’t that important. Whether he is in an office downtown or down the hall, the work that he is doing is vital to his employer and it’s my job as his wife to respect that.
I also try to respect his space. His office is not my space, and I need to make sure that I’m not crowding in there with my “stuff”. It’s actually really easy for me to “take over”. When he was on his 15-week deployment last year, I found myself dumping all of my craft stuff into the office instead of taking it back to the basement or putting it in the attic where it belongs.
When he returned, it took him an entire morning to clear things out and get settled again. He was gracious about it, but it was definitely not respectful on my part. I won’t do it again when he’s on the road.
Working from home requires accountability and a level of trust between employer and employee. A strong work ethic is a must if you’re going to successfully work at home. Dan doesn’t “clock in” and his boss is not directly supervising every minute of his day. It would be relatively easy for him to take his phone and go off and do his own thing. As long as he can be reached, no one would really know that he wasn’t at his desk.
He doesn’t do this, obviously. He holds himself accountable to his employer, making sure that he is doing his job well and going above and beyond what is expected, just as he would if he were in an office building with a boss in the next cubicle over.
My part of accountability is to not put pressure on him to help me with things throughout the day because he doesn’t “look” busy. The truth is, while I know certain aspects of his job, I don’t know all of it. Just because he doesn’t look busy to me doesn’t mean he’s not in the middle of an urgent project.
Working from home means that your job is always right there, accessible to you at any time. It’s easy to spend time in your office instead of engaging in family life, especially if you’re really busy. As with any job, special projects and assignments come up that require extra time. During those times I respect Dan’s judgment, knowing that things will slow down again and he’ll reengage with his family when he is able to.
Because he has such a strong work ethic, he is easily able to become “hyper-focused” on his job. Since he isn’t leaving an office to come home, but rather just walking outside the door, there is the possibility of excess. Sometimes I have to draw him out and remind him that his job will still be there tomorrow. He’s healthier physically and emotionally if he successfully balances work and home life.
These are just some of the ways that we are making our work-at-home situation successful. What things have you found either as the one working or the spouse that could be added to this list?