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Creating a Family Friendly Home Office Environment

Lets face it, one of the primary reasons the work at home option is so appealing to many of us is that it puts us closer to our family. It allows us to have our cake and eat it too. We get to spend time with family while pursuing a career. The all-too-frequent reality, however, is that we often end up feeling like we're shortchanging both the family and the career. It is difficult to juggle both roles simultaneously. Below are a few time-tested tips on successfully managing the transition to a home-based career.

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Set realistic expectations.

Be realistic enough to realize from the start that there will be trade-offs. That is part of what you are signing up for when you make the decision to work from home - particularly if you have small children. If you cannot get comfortable with these trade-offs then perhaps you need to question whether a work-at-home arrangement is right for you. For most people the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifices. However, getting used to these new tradeoffs will likely require a period of adjustment. Be patient, in the long run most people feel that the small sacrifices are well worth it.

Save your work frequently.

You never know when a well-meaning child will inadvertently push a button, step on a footpedal, or play with your keyboard. It is a well known fact that all kids have a morbid fascination with the delete key - they are drawn to it by some strange and irresistable force. There are few things more frustrating than to have it cost you $40-$50 every time you make a quick trip to the bathroom. You will inevitably return just in time to see the last page of your morning's work being erased from the screen by your two year old. Save your work frequently - especially right before getting up from your work station. If you are going to be away for a while (like over lunch) you would be better served to save your work and close the file or perhaps even the word processing application.

Develop a backup sitting arrangement.

In order to minimize stress and ensure consistent productivity you should plan for those occasions when you will require a sitter to watch your kids while you conduct important meetings. For example, you may occaasionally schedule meetings with clients, or need to call on a prospective customer. You may need to spend an afternoon conducting interviews or engaging in other activities that are not conducive to interruptions. By developing a formal sitting arrangement in advance, you will have one less thing to worry about as you make preparations for these events. It may be possible to find a neighbor or friend that wouldn't mind watching the kids in exchange for pay. Many day care centers provide short-notice drop-in service for a slightly higher fee. With a little planning you will be able to meet your commitments and feel that your kids are also being adequately cared for.

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Create a secure storage area for important files and documents.

Relieve yourself up-front of the burden of worrying about lost, misplaced or damaged files by investing in a lockable secure storage cabinet. Kids are naturally curious and are liable to rummage through important documents (usually with sticky fingers) at unexpected times. This is a fact of life. So to avoid expensive rework (not to mention the damage to your fragile emotional psyche) you should take necessary precautions to ensure that your important files are secure. The same thing goes for fragile and expensive equipment and desk accessories. It's o.k. to own them, just keep them safely out of reach. Take the time to babyproof cupboards, electrical outlets, and the like so that you can remove these worries from your mind.

Put your kids on a schedule.

Set a schedule for your kids and then synchronize (as best you can) your work schedule with theirs. This may require that you be firm with them at first. Let your kids know that you have chosen to spend more time with them at home, but that in order for the arrangement to work they too will have to make some sacrifices. Let them know that you expect them to to learn to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Take breaks with the kids and do something physical or creative.

Run, play, take a walk, read a story, draw a picture, do a puzzle­ you get the idea. Take an interest in what they are doing and make them feel happy to have the time to spend with you. Take advantage of this unique opportunity. And remember, they grow up fast.

Organize toys and activities for the kids in advance.

Take the time to structure some activities that will keep the kids occupied and maintain their attention while you work. Organize books, puzzles, coloring books and toys so that they have easy access to them. This will allow them to serve themselves with a minimum of oversight and supervision on your part. If possible, set up a small table and chairs in a location that will allow you to monitor their activities while still attending to your work demands. Take full advantage of nap time, video time and other quiet times to maximize your output.

Take a nice lunch break together.

Get your kids involved in fixing lunch, setting the table, and cleaning up afterward. This allows you to spend time together while you work and provides a great opportunity for positive verbal interaction that is too often lacking in today's harried environment. Take the time to really get to know them over lunch. Find out what is on their minds and let them get to know you too.

Keep snacks and water cups within easy reach.

You may want to consider subscribing to a water service (complete with disposable paper cups) to enable your kids to get their own drinks throughout the day. Keeping snacks close at hand will also simplify your life by enabling you to fulfill requests quickly and efficiently. A little organization here will save you countless trips to the kitchen for snacks and drinks.

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