When I met my first wife, I was completely unprepared for having our son Wyatt exploring my workspace. We met when Wyatt was 22 months old. At that age, everything requires investigation.
In my office he grabbed for the tape dispenser on the desk. He pounded on the keyboard. He tugged at the cord connected to my mouse. My monitor was suddenly covered in little fingerprints. Most of his interactions with the office space in my apartment seemed amusing, but harmless. When he wadded up an important contract I left on the desk, I realized my office needed a serious overhaul.
By the time our daughter, Geneva, came along several years later, I was more prepared, but she introduced some new challenges. Her approach to testing boundaries was very different from her brother’s. Once again, I was challenged to figure out how to adapt my work environment to another curious little being.
Working from home is one of the most liberating career moves you can make. The benefits are huge with virtually no downside. A home office provides freedom to wear what you want while you work. Eliminating the two hours commuting to and from the office reduces one of the biggest stresses of the standard work day (not to mention all the money saved on fuel or mass transit). Enjoying a particularly sunny afternoon without fearing the boss will find out the coffee break lasted 25 minutes (instead of 15) provides decadent satisfaction. All these advantages of remote work, whether you telecommute or have a home-based business, are also appealing because it translates to more time with our kids.
Aside from the obvious benefit of seeing kids more, a whole host of other child-related benefits make working from home desirable. A home office means lower child care costs because the kids don’t need to be shipped off to daycare before school starts. With some planning, work fits around your children’s schedule, instead of fitting kids in around work. Working at home puts career expectations on more equal footing with other aspects of life, allowing work to be scheduled into your life, instead of scheduling your life around work. Establishing a home office means watching the kids grow up, instead of hearing about the latest developmental accomplishments from the babysitter. Your kids win because they get more of your attention. You win because you spend more time with the kids by eliminating some of the workplace stresses.
Having a home office isn’t without some inherent risks. Some remote workers find it harder to leave work because email and projects are always right there. Instead of taking away from family time, this often translates to sleepless nights. Careful office planning keeps the home office from being all consuming. Closing the office door when you aren’t working sends a clear message, reminding you that opening the door means you are on your way to the office. Keeping a flexible schedule of work hours eliminates some of the confusion, making sure the work day doesn’t spill too far into the night.
The biggest obstacle in establishing a functional home office is the new risks to children caused by the addition of potential safety hazards. Office supplies and computer equipment look interesting to curious youngsters. With proper tools and careful decision making, a home office becomes the place where you are most efficient, while providing a kid-friendly environment where kids can co-exist with your office space and you can still feel comfortable working.
My career as a home-based worker accounts for over half of my adult working life. During that time I’ve acquired a number of skills designed to make working at home the best decision I ever made. Admittedly, I still have room for improvement. Historically, my physical office and my on-screen desktop both look similar–stacks of papers (or icons) strewn everywhere. There’s method to my madness, but a casual observer would assume I’m working in a disaster area. I’m continually maintaining several simultaneous projects. I like to keep necessary materials close at hand, so I can work on them when I’m ready.
Hopefully you will find the recommendations in this guide useful in your own childproofing efforts. I went through a number of refinements before I figured out a system that worked for each of my two kids. There’s no “wrong way” to set yourself up for remote work success, as long as you keep in mind the need to co-exist with your kids while also maintaining a level of productivity that works for you and your career.
Read the rest of the Child Proof Home Office:
- Childproofing Basics
- Maintaining Your Home Office Power Grid with Children
- Choosing a Child Safe Desk
- Ergonomics, Chairs, and Children
- Protecting Your Computer Desktop from Children
- Children and Computer Parts Don’t Mix
- Reducing Wires Eliminates Child Temptations
- Consumer Electronics Child Safety
- Keeping Watch on Children From Your Office
- Childproof Your Trash
- Hidden Costs in Childproofing a Home Office
- Create a Child Friendly YES Environment