Managing Working from Home During School Vacations
The good news is that summer is almost here. The bad news is the same.
For the home worker who’s also a parent, summer break means the pitter-patter of little feet is about to invade your office. The noise is the least of your concern, as feelings of guilt could permeate your work hours. “It’s summer, I should be spending time with the kids!”
Here are our tips on dealing with all of that, plus dealing with clients around vacation time and why you do, in fact, deserve time off.
First, the kids.
The most important thing is the set expectations, both for yourself and for the kids. Be honest about the fact that you won’t be able to work for seven uninterrupted hours anymore. Additionally, explain to the kids (depending on their ages) that you need some time away to work. I recommend working in “kid breaks” to spend time with them, as well as adjusting your work day into smaller chunks of time. I like to get out of bed an hour or two before they do to work on my most important tasks for the day.
If you really need extended quiet time for work, consider a co-working space. Desks Near Me and Share Desk can help you find a clean, professional co-working space close by. There’s often a fee associated with these, but it’s much lower than the cost of renting an office and, for many, worth the investment in quiet productivity.
Something else to consider is the family vacation. For as long as I’ve worked from home, I’ve experienced what I call the three levels of vacation. Each has you traveling while adjusting how and when you work.
A Level One vacation is really just a change of scenery. Perhaps you’re in a novel city, state, or country, but your work schedule remains intact. You’ll rise from bed when you typically do, put in a full work day and stop at quitting time. When the day is done, you’re free to explore your new environment. Some would call this a “working vacation” but that term is entirely too depressing to me. Stick with Level One. Which brings us to the next step up.
Level Two features an abridged work day in a new setting. Perhaps you’ll put in four hours instead of a full eight, and use the extra free time for leisurely pursuits.
Finally, a Level Three vacation features no work at all. You’re offline, off the grid and enjoying time away from the grind. It’s a rare, coveted arrangement that many home workers, especially freelancers, can’t pull off without proper planning. It’s difficult but not impossible.
Addressing client needs
First, let clients know you’ll be taking time off. It’s easier said than done. It’s natural to want to be seen as that person they can always rely on or reach out to. The problem with setting that precedent is they might take you up on it. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to get time away as that client expects your accessibility to remain consistent. Set expectations well ahead of time.
Depending on the client, note that you’ll be traveling and have limited (or no) availability between certain dates. Start this conversation weeks ahead of time. That way, when you get that “urgent” email about the update that must be in place within the next 24 hours or the world will cease to exist, you can remind that person that you won’t be around, as described earlier. Also, you should have a Plan B person waiting in the wings.
Years ago, I was doing copy editing on the side and had collected several clients. I also knew a few other copy editors with whom I’d swap war stories over a beer, including a guy we’ll call Chris. Chris was talented and efficient, and he became my go-to guy when I was unavailable. If that civilization-threatening emergency did come up, I could let Chris know, confident that he’d handle it, and receive a little pay from me in the meantime.
When choosing a Plan B person, consider that their work will reflect on you. Identify someone who’s trustworthy and good at what they do. You don’t want to return from a week of fun in the sun to discover that you’ve got to undo some damage. Additionally, be willing to reciprocate when your Plan B person wants some time off.
Next, create a budget and stick to it. One downside of being a freelancer is the lack of paid vacation time. When you aren’t working, you probably aren’t earning. Crunch the numbers and determine exactly how much you’ll lose and save accordingly. This planning also informs how much you can safely spend while you’re away.
Should you take time off?
Now let’s consider: when you work from home, do you really need a vacation? Don’t be fooled by the fact that you work from the comfort of your own home. You’re still working after all, and your batteries (for lack of a better term) drain just as quickly as the cubicle-bound. In short, you need and deserve time off.
Here’s a bit of fun for the person who can’t bring themselves to abandon email entirely: create a secret vacation-only email address. Give it to that small handful of mission-critical contacts. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something will remaining in contact with important folks ALL while avoiding the vast majority of messages you typically receive.
Yes, summer is coming and that’s a good thing. Take some time to manage your expectations and those of the kids. Take frequent kid breaks to recharge your batteries and to let them know they’re on your mind. If you do take a vacation, clearly define how and if you’ll work while away and finally, find a co-working space if quiet productivity is of the utmost importance. Have a great summer.
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