All the Hats: Working from Home Chaos

When I talk to people about Automattic, remote work is often a topic of conversation. And along with that usually comes some version of my personal story: my kids are homeschooled, I work from home 100% of my time, we spend an insane number of months traveling in a motorhome, etc, etc. How *do*  you do it? As though it’s a feat of unparalleled amazingness.

Well, you know, far be it from me to deny my amazingness. The truth is, I don’t do all of those things. For starters, I have a partner in crime. He manages travel planning, kid wrangling, house wrangling, life wrangling, and stuff I can’t even think of.

It is chaos though. No arguing that. I can’t begin to draw a picture of what our home looks like with 6 bodies in it at all times. To call it lively is an understatement.

As a homeschooling family, there is just a lot of kid wrangling. When you are both parent and teacher, you get to do the wrangling a teacher would do at school every day and the wrangling you do as a parent. They are wonderful kids, but let’s just say, there’s a lot of motivating that needs to be done. Schoolwork and chores, to name a few.

In all of this madness, it’s a challenge to separate from the home and kid wrangling so that I can work effectively. As a stay at home mom, it all used to be *my* job before my husband and I switched roles and I started working full-time for Automattic. Hence, it’s difficult for me to not get involved when something’s going on with the kids. It can be a challenge to work effectively, stay on task, and then to detach from work at the end of the day. Many days I fail at all of it. The kids want to spend time with me, there are things I want to do around the house, my husband and I want to spend time together. Yet, lingers the question of whether or not I performed effectively at work all day.

So how do I manage? What works for one season doesn’t work for others and when not in the aforementioned motorhome, here’s how my day looks:

6 am: I wake up and get dressed and ready. I used to spend the first part of the day in my pjs as is my right as someone who works from home 🙂 The chaos level is a little higher in our house currently, so if I don’t get ready first thing, I am invariably scrambling to be presentable at some later point in the day.

After I’m cleaned up, I make my coffee and my breakfast. If I don’t eat immediately I’m a mess. While I eat and drink my coffee I catch up on social things or read a book. I’ve been reading a lot of Jane Austen fanfic lately and making a half hearted attempt to read some more serious stuff.

I have a series of alarms to keep me on track. I know this sounds super organized but really, it’s meant to keep me from falling back asleep. 6 am to wake up. 6:15 to make sure I’m awake. 6:30 is when I need to be in the kitchen. 6:45 is warning time, especially if I have an appointment right away at 7. And 7 is “Karen, you need to have your laptop open now” time.

7 am till 9am: From 7 till about 9 the house is quiet. The kids are slowly waking up. As homeschoolers we have the luxury of not having to be anywhere early unless we choose it and we’ve always let everyone sleep till they naturally awake (for the most part cough teenagers who want to sleep all day cough).

I’m usually at the dining room table until they roll out of bed, at which point, they turn on the TV to catch morning PBS shows. I have earbuds in and am listening to morning focus music and once the TV gets distracting I move to a standing desk in the garage just off the kitchen.

9 am to noon: This is my most difficult part of the day. My whole team is generally online and there’s a flurry of activity so that’s super fun. At the same time, the house has kicked into high gear. The kids are working through school and chores and it’s not always calm, in fact, it’s never calm. That picture you might have of homeschoolers sitting around a table diligently working? Yeah, that never happens. This is when I feel the most torn between what’s happening at home and what’s happening at work.

Lunchtime: I’ve been trying lately to take an actual lunch where I mark myself away from work and go to the kitchen to prep a salad and even sit at the table with whatever kid might be still sitting here working. There’s usually a slow quiet time at work at this point because the folks on my team that are in Europe and Asia are done for the day.

Afternoon: By afternoon the kids are done with chores and school (theoretically) and doing more quiet things. At this point, I can usually focus on reading and replying to internal conversations, reviewing applications and responding to any communications with candidates, and clearing my inbox and handling anything that pops up in there. The chaos level is definitely lower at this point.

I should theoretically be done by about 3, since I start my day so early, but there are always a few more things to do. Ideally, this is personal/family time. So if I am doing what I should be doing, I catch up on non-work life, make dinner, catch up on chores, exercise, and so on.

I might go online again, depending on how I feel the rest of the day went. If I stepped away for longer periods of time earlier, I might work on something later in the evening. And if one my colleagues who lives on the other side of the world wants to chat, this is their morning so it’s a good time for that as well.

It all sounds so organized when I write it down and of course when we are on the road it is completely different. Be that as it may, there you have it! My day not in a nutshell.

If the idea of a distributed work place like this appeals to you, we’re hiring.



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