Make More Room For The Life Part of Your Work-Life Balance
At Edge, we put family first. We have incredible flexibility and are so grateful for the opportunity to approach work-life balance in this way.
What this means to me in the day-to-day of working from home is that we've had to develop a more flexible or fluid approach to our work-life balance.
One of the primary reasons we started Edge was so that we could work from home and have a lifestyle that supported family.
Changing pace to make room for real life
In my previous career, I saw my stressed-out friends trying to pass their sick kids through to daycare so that they didn’t miss work at their office.
For one newly-minted dad on parental leave, I saw my boss dramatically exclaim, “Is he EVER coming back to work?!”
We had yet to start a family, but I saw a pretty clear picture of what life would be like with a one-hour commute each way and the pressure mounting to not put family first.
What is a flexible work-life approach?
A flexible work-life approach might mean I start the workday earlier and end it later, often putting a few hours in before kids are awake in the morning and after the kids are asleep at night.
This allows for the normal "disruptions" I encounter everyday with kid-related interruptions, errands, refereeing and the like.
This is just one approach and it might not be for every family, but for ours it has kept this work-from-home family going strong for 20 years.
8 Tips for building more flexibility into your work life
1) Get an early and consistent start
Get up at the same time every day. At our house, we call this hour: Early-Dark-30, but you might call it 6am.
2) Their Nap Time Is Your Work Time
If you have young children, take advantage of their nap time to work. Save the tasks that require more concentrated brain power for this time.
But…have a back up plan because, as every parent knows, nap time is not guaranteed.
3) Take Meaningful Breaks
Give yourself permission to take meaningful breaks and engage with your kids in short spurts, because losing productivity and creative focus to guilt is real.
15-30 minutes of intentional time is better than the 15-30 minutes you’ll waste telling them to stop interrupting you. They will be more content and you will be more productive.
4) Make "Sign Off" or "Start Up" Notes
Have a clear picture of where you’re going to start the next day before “signing off” for the night.
Leave a "start up" note or an ordered task list on your desk.
I find that 15 minutes of prep before I shut my laptop for the day helps me jump in quicker the next day.
It can also help you rest at night. Now you can clear your mind as your fall asleep rather than run through a restless checklist.
5) Hold Walking Meetings
I would do this with my husband every day at 10:30 a.m. We’d walk a mile with our dog and talk business.
Now, I can walk on the treadmill and do a conference call or watch a training video while also getting some exercise. So many good ideas and solutions come when I take my mind off a problem and instead take it for a walk.
I know one team member uses exercise as a sort of punctuation. Between tasks he'll do push ups, jumping jacks or just walk around his property a few times.
Take advantage of the fact that your co-workers can't see you doing crunches to celebrate that epic email campaign you just launched.
6) Beds Are For Two Things
I'll let you imagine what those two things are, but working isn't one of them. Don't steal your rest and confuse your body by treating your bed as a lay-to-sit desk.
Instead, as stated above, set your office times and have a designated space where you can concentrate and signal to yourself and everyone else in your home that it's (quite literally) business time.
7) Make Your Home Office Smarter
Make your home smart and have it do some work for you. Our home has smart switches, lights, Alexa and security cameras in key areas so that we can monitor what’s going on from our desks.
We set up routines with these smart home features to help our kids stay on track during key tipping points: wake up, nap and bedtime.
We can also drop in on our kids' rooms or make household announcements intercom-style.
8) Let Your Kids Lead
Get your kids engaged in activities that don’t involve you leading them.
We used educational TV programs and apps such as MEL Science, KiwiCrates and Let’s Make Art subscriptions (depending on age).
For older kids, have them make their own daily schedules. This way they can't blame you if they get bored.
9) Play Parental Tag
Coordinate with your partner when you have an important meeting that takes you out of your home office - or a conference call that requires quiet and concentration.
Don't be afraid to conduct important calls from the quietest room in your home, even if it's the master bedroom closet or, as I rebranded mine, the Executive TeleCloset.
When both parents work from home, you can toss the “main parental control” back and forth as needed.
Scheduling work and family - a real life example
There is no doubt that having young children (4 and under) at home is difficult if you’re also trying to work from home and do not have childcare available.
For two working adults, dividing time between the two of you and stretching your 8-hour workday over 12 hours (or more) has worked for our family. Having a laptop is essential.
Here's an example multi-tasking schedule that's worked for us:
|6 - 8 a.m.||Work||2 hours worked|
|8 - 10 a.m.||Get kids up, fed and engaged in an activity (during this time, laptop is out and you’re multitasking with emails and research)||45 minutes worked|
|10 a.m. - 12 p.m.||Active playtime, inside or out for the kids. Work from your laptop while you supervise them. Then transition to an educational TV program for the kids.||1 hour worked|
|12 - 2 p.m.||Prep lunch, serve, clean up – send the kids to their rooms for quiet activities before naptime - or reading/rest time.||1 hour worked|
|3 - 4:30 p.m.||Reading/rest time ends, time for 90 minutes of fun TV and a snack – this is a great time to put on a movie and get yourself back to more focused work||1 hour 30 minutes worked|
|4:30 - 6 p.m.||Get the kids doing some chores and start your own early dinner prep – multitask while fixing dinner – answer or draft a few emails.||30 minutes worked|
|6 - 8 p.m.||Eat dinner and enjoy some family time and playtime. Avoid TV, prep for the next day (dishes, clean up, baths, etc). We typically do not watch TV during the workweek because our kids get enough screen time during the day when we are working.|
|8 - 9:30 p.m.||All our kids are in their rooms. Youngest watch a short PBS show for 20 minutes with lights out at 8:30, older kids read in their rooms with lights out at 9. This is an opportunity to do one last hour or so at work.||1 hour 15 minutes worked|
There’s your 8-hour flex family work day spread across 15 and a half hours.
During times of peak projects and deadlines, those evening hours can stretch on to midnight.
Not saying it's always easy, but doable: yes. Worth it? For sure.
And remember, building in more meaningful breaks can help incorporate rest into your day to help you go the distance…even if you never step out the door.