Working From Home With A Special Needs Child

Recent events have brought the spotlight onto the world of working from home.   It seems the Covid-19 virus has a lot of people world-wide considering this type of lifestyle, or are at least they’re going to have to live it for a period of time.

As someone who has been working from home for some time, and as a father of a special needs child, I thought I’d share some tips to help you navigate this different lifestyle of earning income while at home:

Designate a Space

One of the challenges in working from home is the ability to mitigate distractions.  And as some my have discovered this past week, distractions are inevitable.  The goal is to minimize distractions so you can actually get the work your paid to do, done.

This begins by designating a space in your home where you’ll be distracted the least.  If you have a home-office, Great!  However, if you don’t, at least work in a room where the option to shutting a door is possible.  Having the ability to create a quiet and distraction free work environment is absolutely necessary. 

Closing the door allows you to separate yourself from others in the home, where out of sight out of mind comes into play.  By distancing yourself from others in the home, they may forget your still in the home working, and that could be all you need to eliminate most distractions.


Develop your Routine 

I want to express the difference between a schedule and routine here.  A schedule dictates a time and place – which is good.  We should all have a schedule to follow that points us to doing a specific task at a specific time.  However, following a schedule can become extremely frustrating when working from home as to when there are distractions.   Instead, develop a routine.  This is more of an order of events to accomplish the goal in question.  So, develop a routine that works best for your family dynamic.

I think many autism parents relate to developing routines for their kids, as we do this regularly.  This just means creating or adjusting one for yourself.

As a parent of an autistic child, my son’s sleep schedule is often thrown off course based on what is going on in his life.  This means that either my wife or I have to take point watching him at all hours of the night… or any other time of the day.  This doesn’t lend itself to having a ridged schedule, as exhaustion can set-in quickly and work peformance can dramatically decline.  

So, what do we do instead?  We created a routine.  Regardless of the time of morning we wake up, the routine remains relatively the same.  This provides a continuity in the day that helps alleviate stress and let’s others on the homefront know that if you’re doing work, not to disturb.  It also develops an understanding in our home that after I have breakfast and head upstairs to my office, I’m about to work.

As your routine becomes established, you’ll discover the best times of the day to have those video conference calls and other meetings.

Honor Your Family Time

It is easy to dive into work and the next thing you know it’s 8 pm.  I’ve done this many times over the past couple of years.  Because of this, my wife and I discussed that the work is necessary, but family time needs to be respected.  So the option for me to work up to a certain time is agreed upon, and expectations are set, met and understood.  The result of this agreement is that I don’t often feel rushed at the 5 pm hour to be done.  In reality, I’m able to take care of the majority of my work earlier, allowing me to address specific projects of clients on an as needed basis.  It also allows me to plan the next days work in advance so I can address that faster.  In short, I’ve become more productive with less stress.

We realized that with all of the work going on, we have to remind ourselves ‘WHY’ we do the work… the why in our life IS our family.

So, designate a cut-off time in the day where it doesn’t matter what’s going on work-wise… it’s family time!

For those that know me, I don’t do BUSINESS after 8 pm.  This means I am not to be on the phone, answer emails, or do any work related projects.  It’s meant to be family time.   There’s also a short time of day around when my son comes home from school where I don’t do work.   These are the times of day where I focus on family, not on work.  Doing this let’s them know you’re on their time and often they respect you more for it by not disturbing you as often.

There are times, however, where working during these family times may be needed, depending on your work situation.  But limit those times to an as needed basis and coordinate accordingly with your family.  

Spending time with family has allowed me not to miss those little moments that often go unseen while I was working a traditional office job.  Those little moments are priceless and go quickly.  I’ve found my presence alone has changed the home dynamic in a positive way, and I work to maintain that option as long as I can.

Be Flexible

There will be distractions, and from my experience this may mean the usual routine gets shifted dramatically.  This often means that after family time I may have to address a clients project late at night in order to make sure deadlines are met.  Or, I may have had to wake up really early to address family related things and have to start my routine early. Knowing you can be flexible due to the routine you set for yourself, you can adjust accordingly.

When being flexible, also be aware of when you answer emails.  With many people having push notifications on their phone related to work emails, you can often set a time as to when a response of an email is sent. Use these tools as necessary to make sure those you work with remotely don’t receive that 2:35 am ‘ding’ notification on their phone because you were working while your kids were asleep late at night.  I often recommend this feature to clients as their employees tell me they get email notifications at 1:20 am.  Respecting co-workers (in house or out of the house) helps to sponsor a positive working experience and can enhance whatever company culture you may have.

Take Care of Yourself

I often joke about how much coffee I drink.  It’s a common topic with other autism parents as well.  But all kidding aside, remember to take care of yourself.  Stretch, go for a walk, and make sure to get some exercise each day.  The flexibility you’ve created with your new routine now allows you to exercise something we special needs parents need in abundance – self-care.

It’s Worth It

You may have found you enjoy working from home. I know I do.  It does take hard work and self-determination.  There will be moments where you have to stick to your guns regarding getting the work done.  Over time these moments become less and less as those you live with understand why your doing it, and respect you for it as you respect the time you spend with them.

In regards to concerns with employers or clients and productivity, this is very simple…

Besides being professional and kind… just remember to do the work and to meet the deadlines given, and you could potentially keep this type of work long-term if you want.

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Are you currently working from home? I’m curious as to what working from home has been like for you?   What tips could you provide?  What challenges have you or are you facing? 

Leave a comment, I’d love to know!

 

 

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Joel Manzer
Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!
Joel Manzer

Joel Manzer

Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!

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