Family life today has been affected by a culture change over the last 20 or 30 years which has meant more and more people are working away from home 4 or 5 days a week. Personally, I have had spells where I have worked almost completely at home but I am currently going through a spell where my job takes me to a location 250 miles away – and I have been doing this for nearly 8 months. If you have a young family this can be difficult to manage so here are my tips for keeping both yourself (and your family) sane:
- Make sure you keep in contact with home regularly. The phone is the obvious choice but my 8 year old daughter loves instant messaging (Google or MSN) especially when she gets home from school. It is more ‘instant’ than email. A webcam is also a good idea if you have the technology and are maybe stuck in a hotel room with only a laptop for company. This is a great way of keeping up to date with what is going on in your family so you are not playing catch-up at weekends.
- My 8 year old also loves a story at night. We have made up a character (Sophie) who has a magic bed. When she goes to sleep she can travel anywhere and we make up the story as we go along. Often Sophie travels to places we know, sometimes she visits characters off the TV or TV shows – either way my daughter loves the stories and it is always the last thing she does before she goes to bed.
- Set your boundaries at work. If you can, negotiate to work at home (or locally to your home) on a Friday and stick to it as much as you can. By and large, if you put the hours in Monday to Thursday then this will be respected. At the very least aim to leave the office Friday lunchtime so you have a full weekend available to you.l
- If you do work at home on a Friday make sure you bring home the work you need to do! (either electronically or physically!)
- Negotiate your time to be in the office on a Monday morning – there may not be any need to get up at 4am if you can agree a late morning start and make the hours up in the evening
- When you are staying in a hotel the evenings are a really good opportunity to put the hours in, catch up with work etc. If you adopt this approach and are prepared to stay late a couple of nights a week then it will strengthen your case to have Fridays at home and a later start on Mondays.
- Protect your weekends – if at all possible switch off the computer/phone and concentrate on your family
- Join a gym, or find something to occupy you at your work location. Many gyms you can pay monthly – or do an evening class, go to the local comedy club, or go to the cinema (you can get monthly passes very reasonably these days). Find things to occupy your time other than work and the hotel TV, even if it is going for a walk or run.
- Make sure that if there is a crisis at home you communicate well to your bosses and peers so they know exactly where they stand. If you have to stay at home for any reason or travel home unexpectedly – make sure they are fully aware – by and large they will understand as long as they know what is going on.
- Make sure you eat well, get exercise and sleep well while you are away. You want to be ‘there’ for your family at the weekend – not burnt out
- Use the time in the evenings to do a self study qualification – either work related (e.g. Accreditation training) or not (e.g. Learn French)
- Do your expenses in good time – they can build quickly and this will save the anger of your bosses and avoid any unnecessary build up of personal expense – Friday afternoon (assuming you are working at home not travelling) is ideal for admin.
It is not easy working away from home but often it is an essential part of family life today, but with close management and a little thought it can work out well for all concerned.
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