As you may already know, I do a lot of my work from home when I’m not traveling. (I used to do a lot of my work out of other people’s homes, but they eventually found out what I was doing and started calling the cops.) That is usually a beautiful thing, since my wife works in a building that isn’t our home, which means I can listen to music she hates as loud as I want and nobody complains about it. There is always the temptation to postpone my work for literally any other more interesting thing – going to the gym, cooking dinner, napping, thinking about napping, the list goes on – but over the years I’ve learned how to keep myself focused without anyone else around to guilt me into it.
What I haven’t learned so well is how to do all of that while other people are in the house, wandering around and watching TV and not working and completely invading my space. That’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last month. My wife is on maternity leave, her mother has been living with us since the birth of our son, and now her sister is here as well for a two-week visit. The three of them are in the next room right now, watching something on television and probably saying terrible things about me behind my back – or more accurately to my right side.
It’s been a bit of an adjustment to figure out how to maintain my routine with a house filled with people, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. So if you work from home and have to navigate the other people who are inconsiderate enough to want to live in it with you, here are a few things you might try:
I’ve vanished down into the basement for a few hours at a time when the noise around me was too much for me to concentrate (babies can be soooo inconsiderate), and I’ve also sat at the food court in the mall for an hour when even the basement wasn’t far enough away. I know people who literally tell their children “Goodbye!” for the day the way that office workers do in the morning, then lock themselves into their bedroom office for the next eight hours with a “Do Not Disturb” sign emblazoned on the door. You need to work, and you’ve gotten used to doing it without distractions. So don’t hesitate to get rid of whatever distractions you can.
This isn’t actually what you’ll be doing, but it’ll feel that way at first. The people in my house right now don’t have to work, and they are very polite when they suggest that I really probably don’t have to either. I get why they think that way – I mean, who wants to stare at the guy at his desk while you’re laughing and cooking and watching TV with family? – but that doesn’t change the fact that my ‘paternity leave’ isn’t quite as iron-clad as my wife’s is. Four or five conversations later, I think she understands, but I did have to be firm with her about my need to keep working. Fortunately, her near-constant level of exhaustion kept her from getting too upset about it. Yay for babies!
Change Your Hours
Remember why you work from home in the first place? Besides your crippling antisocialism, it’s because you like being able to set your own schedule. So do that again! I’ve worked while my wife takes a nap, while they’re out of the house running errands, and at 2am when I can’t sleep and I know I’ll be up changing a diaper in 45 minutes anyway. Your work just has to get done, but it rarely matters exactly when that happens.
So there you go! With any luck you’ll survive the next few days or weeks or even months until the deadbeats who keep being there all the time finally figure out something better to do. Good luck!