The obstacle at the breakfast table

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to working from home is the fact that you’re at home.

Sure, it’s important to have support from your manager and the necessary equipment, but for telework to succeed, it’s also vital for your spouse, children, neighbors and parents to be supportive. If you’re working from home and a family member assumes that means you can drop what you’re doing to go to the store or take the kids to soccer practice, you’re in trouble.

A veteran of years of teleworking said it took some time to train family members on what to expect.

“I have had to disappoint my children a number of times when they've come charging into my work area with a request for my time (after all, I'm home, aren't I?), only to have to tell them that I'm working and can't give them what they want,” the reader told us. “Early on, that resulted in some battles, especially with my teenage daughter, who would just barge in in the middle of a conference call. But eventually the boundaries got established as inviolable. So now she lives next door but wouldn't dare bring my granddaughter over for me to watch for a couple of hours just because I'm home.”

A reader named Lee said the family’s needs are part of the telework equation.

“Working from home, where home includes spouse and kids, is a huge challenge, particularly in the summertime,” Lee wrote. “It's just not fair to expect the family to morph their behavior eight hours a day because you are working. Perhaps tax incentives to soundproof an existing office or build out a basement office would help? I love the privilege of working from home, but my family sure doesn't.”

Another reader, Jessica, suggested taking advantage of laptop PCs’ portability. “Even if you tell your family members that you're busy, they still have the concept that you're just in front of the computer doing nothing,” she wrote. “Sometimes when I'm really busy, I would just go to a coffee shop. I could work better that way.”

“Discipline is the key to successful work, whether at home or in the office,” another reader wrote. “The ability to say no goes a long way to curing distraction issues but is so frowned upon in the ‘go along to get along’ team player mentality that you find in most federal bureaucracies that most successful government employees just can't say no.”

“In informal discussions with co-workers, all admit — even the boss — that they do other tasks while teleworking — from kids to neighbors to walks with the dogs that exceed the 30 minutes of leave they put in for,” another reader said. “It is possible to put more discipline in the telework by having webcams or videoconferencing or always-on instant messaging. And is there anything really wrong with that in exchange for the commute?”

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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