Last Updated March 27th, 2019

Combining Office And Playroom – Is It A Good Idea?

Combining Office And Playroom - Is It A Good Idea?

When you work at home with small children, one big consideration is how you deal with the kids while you’re working. Smaller children need a lot more attention, and it’s not always easy to figure out how to make it all work. Combining office and playroom is hugely tempting. But is it a good idea?

That depends on a few factors. We’ll start with the problems with adding a play area.

Disadvantages Of Combining Office And Playroom

Not All Employers Allow It

You may not always be able to combine office and playroom. Many work at home employers do not allow distractions in the same room. If you work a lot on the phone, they probably especially do not allow background noise.

And we all know how good little kids are at making background noises.

Don’t risk your job just to keep your kids nearby while you work. If it’s a problem for your employer, find another way to keep your kids busy while you work. Trade babysitting, work hours when your spouse or someone else can care for your kids… whatever it takes, find a solution.

Kids Are Distracting

Let’s say you work for yourself or background noises aren’t a problem for your employer. Having kids in your home office can still be a problem.

Kids at play are distracting. Possibly less distracting than wondering what they’re up to in the other room, but still distracting.

Distractions mean you work more slowly and get less done. Odds are that it means you earn less money if you’re paid on productivity or by project, or that eventually, your employer will realize you aren’t as productive as you should be.

That’s a problem. A big one.

If you can’t cope with the distractions, don’t let your kids into your home office.

Tax Issues

Adding a play area for your kids may mess with your ability to take a home office deduction. If you aren’t taking that deduction, obviously this is not an issue, but it’s something to consider and bring up with a tax professional if you want the deduction. I can’t tell you for certain how it works if they only play while your work, but if the kids use your office for a play area or homework at other times, it’s absolutely not going to work. A home office must meet an exclusive use requirement, and letting the kids play in there is going to mess with that.

Child Safety

There are risks to having your child play in your home office too. Odds are there are a lot of power outlets with cords coming out, your chair may have wheels that can roll over small fingers or feet, kids may knock things down. If you want your kids in your home office, make sure you look at how you can make it safe for their age.

Advantages Of Combining Office And Playroom

play area

Kids Are Right There

This can be a huge advantage with small children, if they let you work. No worries about what they’re getting into. They’re in easy reach if they need you. They get to spend time with you even though they aren’t your main focus when you’re working.

An infant, for example, only needs a crib or playpen much of the day. If you’re into baby wearing, you may be able to do some work that way, so long as noise and speed don’t matter.

When my kids were toddlers, I used a combination of baby gates at the doors and play yard panels to keep them near and safe. I did medical transcription at the time, so I could generally respond quickly to their needs.

You’re Setting an Example

I believe that work at home parents can set a very good example for their kids. You’re showing them how to make work a part of their lives, how you help support your family. I like making sure my kids know that there’s more to life than being a mother, even when I’m prioritizing motherhood.

They Will Grow Out Of It

Your kids will only need to play in your home office for a relatively short time. Soon enough, they will be old enough to play in their bedrooms or other parts of the house without leaving you to worry about what they’re up to. Then there’s school, friends and all kinds of other reasons why they don’t want to be limited to the home office playroom anymore.

My kids almost never come into my home office anymore unless they need help with homework. It’s a lot quieter in there now than when my kids were little… although it helps that this is the first home we’ve been in where I have a door to close.

On the other hand, that door means that my home office is also the guest room. Sometimes there’s just no way to keep a space all to yourself. At least it’s mostly mine.

How To Make A Combined Home Office And Playroom Happen

If you really want your combined office and playroom to work well, you need to play it out. Don’t just throw a few toys around and call it good. The room has to work for both of you.

mom office desk

Set Up The Home Office First

The first function of your home office space must be as an office. What do you need to set up your work space?

Even if you have a laptop computer, I recommend having a desk and chair. These give you a defined place to work.

When the kids were little, I liked having a big enough desk that I could give them a little space on the desk too. This allowed them to pretend they were working too. But consider your work needs before you do this – for some jobs, it may be too much to have your kids right at your desk.

Consider what else you will need in your home office. Do you need a place to store your supplies? Do you need a printer?

Make the space as comfortable and productive a workspace as possible. Combining office and playroom creates enough challenges as is – consider your work needs before your child’s play needs, or this isn’t going to work.

Childproof

The next thing you want to do is make your office as safe as possible for your child. Exactly what this means depends on your child.

A child young enough to mostly be worn or limited to a play area won’t need a lot of childproofing. One who can wander the entire room but is still young enough to get into things will take more work.

As I said above, I used play yard panels to keep my toddlers out of the way. I wrapped them around my desk, so my toddlers had plenty of room to play and I didn’t have to worry about rolling over little fingers.

In general, you want to keep cords out of reach and make sure kids can’t punch the power button on your computer. There was a time when I had to cover the power button on my desktop computer with cardboard because the pretty, shiny light was too attractive to my kids. Toddler-induced shutdowns are a bad thing!

Get anything else you don’t want the kids to reach in a safe place too.

Make It Fun

Once everything is productive for you and safe for your kids, make it fun for them. The more fun your kids can have, the more they’ll let you work.

Pick out special toys that your kids love but are just for when you need to work. I always liked to include an old keyboard when my kids liked to pretend they were working too. Young enough kids never notice that it isn’t attached to anything – in fact, we removed the cord too.

If you need quiet in your workspace, think carefully about how you set your child up. It will be hard enough to have quiet with them in there – don’t make it impossible with noisy toys.

Art supplies are a great choice once the kids are old enough. Set up an easel or small table with protection for the floor, and let your kids go at their favorite art supplies.

A chalkboard wall is another fun idea. Then your kids will have a space where they can draw on the wall.

A cardboard box playhouse can also be a great idea, and free, if you can find a large enough box. We’ve built them out of appliance boxes and boxes we had saved for us at home improvement stores. Cut some doors and windows, and kids have a great place to play and draw.

Don’t Forget A Spot For Naps

Young children fall asleep at the most random times. Make sure they can do that in your office too – you might just get some extra quiet work time you weren’t expecting.

A blanket and some pillows can help with this. Kids don’t mind sleeping on the floor, but you can add some cushions for them to curl up on if you want.

The blankets may also be good for making a blanket fort, which all children enjoy.

Make The Most Of Storage Space

Just because the kids play in there doesn’t mean your home office needs to fall into chaos. It’s okay if things get messy when the kids are actually playing, but you don’t want a mess all of the time. Set up enough storage space to put your things away as well as the kids’ toys.

Storage bins are great for children’s toys. They can handle odd shapes easily. Have a little fun with color to make the room more interesting for the kids.

Bookshelves and file cabinets can be a help too.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t allow clutter to mess up your workspace. If a clutter problem develops, find a way to control it. Add more storage space if necessary and possible.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 14th, 2018

10 Ways To Make Working at Home More Fun

10 Ways To Make Working at Home More Fun

What do you think about when you think about your work at home day? Is it all of the things you need to get done? Do you worry about finishing your to do list? Do you ever think about ways to make working at home more fun?

Most of the people who hear that you work at home won’t think you need to have more fun. After all, you just sit around and watch TV, and some piddly amount of money just appears with no effort on your part, right? Lots of people don’t take what you do seriously and assume you can’t make all that much money from home.

Don’t know about you, but none of that’s true for me. I work hard, watch very little TV (and I’m generally working at the same time), and the money’s pretty darn good most of the time, with some ups and downs. The downs are painful, but the ups are such a delight.

Some days it’s just so hard to get going. Your day just kind of drags, or maybe you’re frustrated that things seem to be staying in one place. Whatever the reason, sometimes you need to spice things up a little to help motivate yourself when you work at home. You need to make working at home more fun so that you can be more consistent. Here are some ideas that may help.

Work Someplace Else

If you have a laptop, work in the backyard, take the kids to the playground, just start working someplace you don’t usually. If you don’t have a laptop computer, think of some of your other work that could possibly be done away from your desk. Even if it’s nothing but brainstorming ideas, getting out of your home office can be a lot of fun and actually help your productivity.

There are lots of places you can work when you work at home unless the job has specific restrictions. Customer service jobs, for example, require that there be no background noise. Other jobs may require that you adhere to strict privacy standards, which includes keeping your work in a closed office.

Play Some Music!

No, not the kids’ favorite CDs, something you want to hear. Although there may be something to be said for the right children’s music – I know people who don’t mind singing along to certain Disney movies, for example.

Some people find music with lyrics too distracting. I know my oldest gets quite distracted anytime something from Hamilton comes up on her playlist. If you find this to be a problem for you, go for instrumental music. Spotify has lots of playlists you can enjoy, for just about any musical taste.

play music while you work at home

Take Time For You

If you’re feeling burnt out, taking a break can actually help you to get more work done. Take a walk. Play a game online. Watch a favorite show – nothing too long, but enough to give yourself a break.

You can also work on a hobby. Painting, reading, making jewelry, building things, whatever suits you. Doing something just for yourself can make your work at home day better.

Learn Something New

Come on, what have you been considering learning but haven’t found the time for? Maybe it relates to your work at home job or business or maybe it’s about a hobby, but learning can give you a fresh perspective even if you aren’t learning something specific to your work.

There are all kinds of courses online, through sites such as Udemy and other places. You could also take courses in your local area. Local classes are especially good if you want a little social time or you’re making something with your hands.

Try Something New

What have you always wanted to do with your home business? Give it a try, even if it’s kind of scary. The change will make your day more interesting, even if it’s a complete failure.

If you can’t do something new, change up your routine. Don’t do the same thing day in and day out. If you run a blog, for example, write blog posts one day, work on social media the next, work on other promotion ideas for your site the next, and so on.

work at home fun with kids

Make Time For Your Kids To Make Working At Home More Fun

Young children do much better if you play with them more often. They’ll try harder for your attention if they feel that they haven’t had much lately. Have a little fun with them and they’ll be happier to play on their own later. Hopefully.

Kids require different things from you as they get older. At some ages, they’ll need more help with homework. At other ages, they’ll resist spending time with you except those unpredictable times when they open up. You have to find a balance between your work needs and what your kids need from you when you work at home. Fortunately, it generally makes for a much nicer day when you do so.

Involve Your Kids

They’ll have a lot of fun helping you and you’re making your work more real to them. It’s a great example for your children to learn that there are more possibilities out there than a traditional job.

At some ages, this is more pretend than anything. When my kids were little, I would give them a keyboard to pound on. They thought it was great. To a very young child, pounding on a keyboard looks very much like working on a computer.

As kids get older, they may be able to help you more. Talk out some of your ideas with them. They may give you new ideas in return. They’ll probably also give you some fun nonsense.

When your kids are old enough, you may even want to teach them how to work directly in your home business. They can help schedule social media postings, for example, or take pictures for blog posts.

Make Your Home Office More Comfortable

How comfortable is your home office or workspace? Do you like the decorations? Is your furniture comfortable?

Find things that will make your home office or workspace more comfortable. Have some fun with the decorations. Get some brainstorming tools, whether that’s a whiteboard on the wall or notebook on your desk.

Rearrange your office for comfort. Do you want to face the wall, or would you be happier facing the door or a window? It’s your space; make it work for you.

You may also want to consider a sit-stand desk. That’s what I have. It’s wonderful being able to change position during my workday. Possibly it’s healthier too, but there are all kinds of arguments about what’s best.

Enjoy Your Pets

You may sometimes need to distract your cats when you work at home. The same goes for dogs. But other times they’ll provide you with much needed distractions. So long as the cat stays off your keyboard and doesn’t mess with your cords, you may be able to put up with them in your home office. Some will even play fetch with a favorite toy.

Taking your dog for a walk is another way to make working at home more fun. You get outside, get some fresh air and exercise, maybe play with the dog a little, then get back to work. Can your day really be all that bad after having fun with a dog? Sometimes, yes, still that bad, but most times it will make your day at least a little better. Taking advantage of the ability to interact with your pets certainly makes working at home more fun.

Find A Water Cooler

Loneliness is one of the huge problems many people have working at home. It’s really hard to cope when you rarely interact with other adults.

Fortunately, there are tools such as Slack to help you find people to chat with. Seek out Slack communities to join, and you’ll have people to chat with. You can also consider Facebook groups and discussion boards. These can be great places to have those discussions with other people that you might have had at the water cooler in an office.

Don’t let these chats completely ruin your productivity, of course. Consider these sessions a break just as you would take at any other job. They shouldn’t occupy your entire day or keep you from getting your work done. They should give you that mental break of chatting with other adults, even if it’s about work.

Anyone who has worked at home for a significant time knows that working at home isn’t the cakewalk some think it is. You can revive yourself by changing your habits, even if it’s just for a day or two a month. You’re working at home – even in the most routine job, you should be able to find some way to make working at home more fun once in a while.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 30th, 2017

Important Factors You Should Consider In A Remote Job

Important Factors You Should Consider In A Remote Job

When you want to find a remote job, it’s easy to forget the other things you should consider. There are a lot of things that go into making a job the right match. The ability to work at home should not be the only thing you think about. Here are some other factors you should consider in a remote job.

Salary

How much do you need to earn from your job? You won’t want to stick with a job if it doesn’t pay enough for you to live on. There are times when you will need to accept a job at a lower salary than you would like, but for the long run, salary is important.

Employee or Contractor?

Many companies prefer to hire remote workers as independent contractors rather than employees. This has tax implications for you. Your employer does not withhold taxes if you are an independent contractor.

Benefits

What kind of benefits does the company offer? If the job is part time, there may be few to none. A full time remote job, on the other hand, may offer benefits. You may be able to get health insurance, paid vacation, 401k and more. Some even offer gym memberships.

I have also seen companies offer remote workers a budget for renting a coworking space. This gives them a more professional space where they can interact with other people.

Do You Ever Go To The Office?

Not all remote jobs are done entirely away from the office. Some require you to go to the office in person. How often you go in varies quite a bit from employer to employer. Some will want to see you every week, while others may only need your presence once a year or so.

How Strict Are Work Hours?

Just because you have a remote job doesn’t mean you can choose your work hours. Many employers want their remote workers to work some standard hours. This makes collaboration easier. It’s very hard to plan meetings or discuss a project with coworkers if you all work your own hours.

How Do You Keep In Contact?

There are a lot of ways to keep in contact with remote workers. Slack is a popular option for keeping in contact. It allows teams to chat, share files, and more. Apps such as Dropbox and Trello are also popular choices. It helps if you are familiar with these.

Company Culture

You aren’t in the office, but company culture may still have an impact on you. Consider the number of hours you’re expected to work. What time of day are you required to work? Is this flexible or not? How much interaction will you have on a regular basis with coworkers? Will you work more as an individual or as part of a team?

Even when you’re remote, you will find that a small company is very different to work for than a huge one. Small companies may be more flexible, not just in the times they expect you to be available, but in considering new ideas. A bigger company, on the other hand, may offer more security.

Growth Opportunities

Just because you aren’t in an office doesn’t mean you aren’t interested in career growth. Find out what opportunities may be available to you. This includes job training, help with college tuition fees and professional certifications. Even if you don’t want to go into management someday, any help your employer gives to keep your skills up to date will be important.

Home Office Requirements

Depending on the kind of remote job you get, you may have to provide your own equipment. You will need a reasonably recent computer for most jobs. Your internet connection may need to be wired rather than wireless. If you are going to be on the phone a lot, they may require that you have an office with a door. You may need a noise cancelling telephone headset.

Some employers will give you a budget to buy equipment to suit their needs, while others may ship equipment to you, rather than depending on you to provide your own.

Work-Life Balance

One of the challenges many remote employees face is keeping a good work-life balance. It’s easy to spend too much time at work when your work is at home with you.

If a company expects a lot of on call time or overtime, it may be very difficult to maintain that work-life balance. Look for jobs that understand that when you close your home office door, your work day is over – unless you don’t mind the lack of balance.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 15th, 2017

What To Do When Your Kids Don’t Stay Out Of Your Work At Home Space

By now you’ve probably seen the video of Professor Robert Kelly being interviewed remotely by a BBC reporter getting interrupted by his kids dashing into his home office while he was in the middle of an interview. It’s pretty cute, but it was also a significant problem for him. There are lessons there to be learned by any work at home parent.

Lock The Door!

When you have an office door and cannot be interrupted, lock the door. That’s the simplest step that would have prevented the entire problem. He apparently usually does this, but a long day made it easy to forget this once. His daughter saw him live on TV, and decided to go find him. Adorable. It was also her birthday, so suffice it to say calm behavior wasn’t going to happen.

An office door lock can be anything from a basic indoor lock to unlock it to a key lock like you’d have on your front door. Which you get depends on how badly you need to keep people out and whether they know how to pop a simple lock from the outside.

Warn Them Ahead Of Time

You should also tell people in your home when you absolutely cannot be disturbed in your home office. Closing the door should be established as a warning to leave you to your work, but if it’s particularly important that you be left alone, say so!

Have rules for when you can be interrupted. We all want to know if the house catches fire.

Get Help

Make sure you have enough help to keep young kids out of your home office. I know that the professor’s wife was trying to keep them out, but sometimes kids get away. These things happen, but they can be minimized. His wife moved pretty fast when she realized the kids had gotten away, which is what you need when these things happen. Hopefully they have a better plan for next time.

Plan For Mistakes

Kids will be kids, and sometimes they will make mistakes and not obey the rules. Plan how you’re going to handle them.

If you’re going to be on video, such as happened here with Professor Kelly, think about how you will handle an interruption. I’ve seen a lot of people criticize him for pushing his daughter away. Some have gone so far as to call it abusive, which I disagree with. He wasn’t rough. It was perhaps not ideal, but I think it was a natural enough reaction in the moment.

Others have said he should have taken her onto his lap or given her a hug and sent her away. I disagree with that.

When you’re faced with this kind of situation, you need to have a plan for how you will appear. In an interview like this one, you would need to look professional. That’s hard to do when your little girl comes dancing in. You need to think about what you want people to see of you.

For some, the loving parent may be what you want others to see of you. Hugging the child or taking the child onto your lap may be the right move for the image you want to project.

For others, the ability to look professional even when parenthood interrupts you matters more. He wasn’t being interviewed about being a parent. He was talking about South Korea. He was discussing it as a professional. His abilities as a father were irrelevant at that time.

Talk to The Kids After

Even when the kids are little, you can talk to them after they interrupt you at work. Explain the rules you need them to follow again. The older child in this video is probably old enough to start getting the idea, although she’s not likely to obey the rules perfectly for some time. That’s why you need the door locked. But if you explain the rules even when you know they won’t obey, eventually they will get it.

Don’t Reward The Misbehavior

I’ve seen some people say the professor should have taken more time with his daughter, hugged her rather than push her away, but I understand why he reacted as he did. He needed to be professional during the high profile interview, and that doesn’t mean you prioritize the child instead. Hugs can happen later, off camera. There are times that parents need to be shown as taking their jobs seriously. Sitting a fidgety child on your lap won’t improve your professional image. Kids can learn that there’s a right time and a wrong time to demand a parent’s attention.

You can be nicer about things if you have the time. If you need the child away quickly, do what is appropriate to handle the problem. You can talk about the why of it all later. No hitting or anything like that, of course. A gentle push is not something I would consider a problem.

The big thing to remember is that it takes time for kids to learn to stay out of your work at home space. Kids get in the way sometimes when you work at home, and that’s just a part of the life you’ve chosen. Kids as young as the ones in this video won’t always understand the rules, and it is on you to make it easier for them to stay out of your space.

At least this professor had an office with a door he could close. It’s much harder to keep the kids out of your work space when you don’t even have that much. How well I remember!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 30th, 2008

Be Prepared to Work at Home

If you’re working at home, one of your concerns is probably how you’re going to make it all work. It’s tough. Getting the cooperation and support from family that you need can be a challenge.

1. Consider the space you need and the space your home can spare.

If your business is purely online you may not need a lot of space as such, but having an office door you can close can be a big help when you really want to get things done. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the kitchen table, but other places may be more effective for you.

2. Have someone who can help watch the kids.

No, not a babysitter, unless you need them gone for that many hours. I’ve had a neighbor girl come over and just play with my kids while I work. I’ve had other parents take my kids to their homes to play with their kids.

If it’s something where you can trade with another parent and get your kids out of the house for free in a fun way, so much the better! And if you don’t need quiet, even letting your kids have friends over to play can let you get some work done, so long as they don’t argue a lot.

3. Expect to be taken seriously.

It’s easy for people to think that working at home is a hobby. Even when I had a work at home job as a medical transcriptionist I had people not take it seriously. Do your best to show that you are serious and professional.

Set up working hours, for example. If friends or family call on you, do not lightly break into your working hours. You wouldn’t do that outside the home, so don’t let others force you to do things during your work times just because you’re at home.

4. Take breaks.

Just like you would in a job outside the home, take breaks when you need them, every few hours at least. It can be very refreshing and may help your productivity rather than hinder it. Walk around a little, play with the kids, just do something that isn’t at your desk.

5. Email is more convenient than phone calls.

While sometimes a conversation is the only way to get things going, email can be much easier on your schedule. You can control how often you check it (really, you can!), and it only interrupts your day when you allow it to.

Email can also allow you to think through the things you need to say. The disadvantage is that there’s no tone of voice, so jokes may not go over well, but it’s great for passing along information.

6. Don’t work all afternoon and evening.

Especially when the kids are in school you don’t want to take up all the time that they’re home trying to get work don. Same for when your spouse is home. Make time for your family every day.

For young, impatient children a timer can be a big help. They may not understand when you say you need to work for just a few more minutes. But saying you can come play when the timer goes off gives them something they can deal with… so long as the time is not excessive.

My own best times are when the kids are asleep in the later parts of the evening into the night. Much less guilt and fewer interruptions although there still has to be some time for my husband!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.