Last Updated: Feb 20, 2013
Working at home with young children under foot presents a unique set of challenges. Here are three things you can do keep your kids happy and your business running smoothly.
Ever worked in the regular corporate world and participated in “Bring Your Child to Work Day”? I have. It’s pretty nice to show your kids you work and have them sit in on meetings with you, etc. And, in reality, they usually end up playing most of the day – depending on their age – at some company organized group activities where they get t-shirts, etc. At least that’s the case from my past experiences with previous employers.
Fast forward now to where we are today. We’re working in our small business, meeting face to face with OUR customers, performing hands-on work directly for clients who put food on OUR table. We are the boss. It’s make or break every day, every week, every month, and every year. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing and sometimes it’s living client invoice payment to client invoice payment (replacing the old living check to check concept) and we’re barely getting by. That’s reality.
I realize that not every small business is run from home and in the midst of a family and possibly small kids running around. However, that is my reality and I’m guessing that’s the reality for some of our readers out there. So what if every day is “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” for you? How do you cope? How do have a productive day? How do you put on a professional face with your clients?
I’m an independent consultant, so I’m basically a sole proprietor and the business I have is me and my experience and what I can bring to the table each day. That’s probably the case for many of you as well. And for me, I have nine children, seven of them still at home. Two are in college, one is in high school (all three are currently doing coursework from home) and then four children who are four years old and younger.
If you’re in a situation where you are trying to run a small business in the midst of smaller children who aren’t yet in school or otherwise self-sufficient, here are my three key pieces of advice – things I put in practice just about every single day – in order to have more productive and successful work days.
Wear them out. If you have small ones at home you know they probably have more energy than you do every morning. First and foremost…wear them out. If they are going to be anywhere near your work environment, you don’t want them amped all day long while you try to wedge in work here and there or jump on calls with customers or potential clients. Start the day by getting them up very early, getting them all ready for the day, and then run them ragged. That’s what I do every day. I get all four up, get them ready and – after we have our family breakfast – I then take them to the park for 60-90 minutes. Running them hard at the park means they come back calmer – sometimes down right tired – and I’m ready by 9 or 10am to start a more productive workday with far fewer interruptions and background noises. My wife works out of our home as a photographer as well so it helps both of us to have far more productive days than would otherwise be possible.
Set up a structured oversight schedule. I’m writing this with the assumption that you have at least some help at home to watch the small ones while you accomplish your important tasks and serve your clients. Thankfully, I do in the form of my wife (the work-from-home photographer) and three older kids who are working on their education online from home. We are able to set up a staggered schedule so that someone is always supervising the smaller ones while everyone else can have productive work time. If you don’t have that type of arrangement, you may need to hire out some time, but you can be creative in order to keep costs down.
Timeshare with your spouse. Finally, whether your spouse is staying at home as a parent, is part of your business, has his or her own business from home (as mine does), or works outside the home, figure out some time sharing small kid oversight with your spouse. It may be part of each day, or it may be one day a week. Whatever you can work out will help you to be more productive and – in the case where you’ve had to hire out some childcare – it will help to reduce that overhead cost.
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Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author of A Real World Project Manager’s Guide to the Successful Project. He has over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at www.bradegeland.com.