Whether you work from home because you run your own business or because your employer as well as your role within the company allow you to telecommute, there are several challenges to working from home. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, recently banned employees from working at home because of some of these challenges saying that it was “critical that we are all present in our offices.”
Despite the difficulties, there are plenty of advantages and the number of people working from home is growing. Census data from 2010 shows that 9.5 percent of American workers work full- or part-time from home and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that around 25 percent of employed Americans work from home at least some hours each week.
We found that working from home is even more prevalent among our host families than the national average. In a recent poll of Cultural Care host families, 26% indicated that they or their spouse worked regularly from home and an additional 48% said that at least one parent worked from home for a portion of the work week. Why do more parents with au pairs work from home? Using au pair childcare makes working from home not only possible, but also highly productive by helping to overcome some of the challenges of working from home.
Creating a schedule
The first suggestion that experienced work-at-home parents offer, even though working from home provides a great deal of flexibility, is to establish a set schedule for the work day. This allows you to remain focused and on task and can start with setting your au pair’s schedule. The flexibility of the au pair program permits you to create a schedule that allows for time differences in other countries or parts of the U.S., busy times in the office and personal peak working hours.
And remember, an au pair’s work hours don’t have to correspond to when you are in your home office. You au pair can continue to help once your work day is over. One of our host mothers shared, “When I stop working, my au pair is usually scheduled for another hour or two and she helps with baths and preparing lunches for the next day.” Another said, “I do have to go out in the evenings sometimes, so having the flexibility in her schedule is key to our choice for an au pair.”
Another major challenge of working from home is setting boundaries. This means establishing limitations for others – children, neighbors, family – as to when you are available and when you are working. An au pair can help with this and play the role of gatekeeper. One host mother commented on our work-from-home survey, “When I am working from home, the au pair is in charge and the kids know to go to her and not me.”
This can also mean setting boundaries for you, not allowing yourself to work too many hours. Although they can work a flexible schedule, au pairs are only allowed to work up to 10 hours per day. Host parents find that they are motivated to stay focused on work during the au pair’s working hours, so they can enjoy focused and attentive time with the kids when she is off duty.
Lack of “interactions and experiences”, or face time, is one of the reasons Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is calling for a ban on working from home. Face time can be achieved in a number of ways – through on-line meetings, in person meetings, and social interactions. Having an au pair allows you to have some virtual face time and get on teleconference calls without interruption. It also gives you the flexibility to go into the office for an important meeting, a touch-base with your manager or lunch with colleagues.
Working from home, you may find yourself trying to fit “life maintenance” activities into the time that you should be working – laundry, cooking, cleaning, and driving kids to activities or appointments. Having an au pair means that you can spend the day in your home office, knowing that the breakfast dishes will be put away, the kids’ laundry will be done, the carpool responsibilities are taken care of and dinner is started.
According to AllBusiness, feeling isolated and alone can be one of the greatest challenges of working from home. You lose the chance to have connectivity in the office as well as having social interaction throughout the day. Not only can an au pair offer conversation when you take a break and check in with her, but having her there at home means you can go out and meet a friend for breakfast or attend a networking lunch.
School’s out for summer
Work at home parents without childcare look forward to the last day of school with anxiety. The productive serenity of their home from 8:00 to 2:30 will soon be filled with kids needing attention and rides to camps and activities. An au pair can keep them fully entertained all day throughout the summer months.
Sick child? Your au pair can provide the extra attention your little one needs while you keep working. Last minute meeting at the office? No need to scramble for childcare. Snow day? You stay productive while your au pair builds snowmen and takes the kids sledding. Your house loses power or internet? Bringing your laptop to Starbucks to do your work may not be ideal, but it would be impossible with a toddler in tow.
Your children may have been a factor in your decision to work from home, but that doesn’t necessarily make juggling work and kids any easier. There are unique challenges associated with working from home and, for many parents, having au pair makes work, and life, a whole lot easier.