Working from Home with Teenagers (a.k.a. Competing with your Kids in the Home Office)

The following reflections are by Melissa Cramer, Regional Director of SwingSpace LLC. Melissa has been working out of her Virginia home with her husband Josh and two teenage sons.

When we moved into our house 13 years ago, with our infant and 3-year-old son, it never occurred to us that our home office, a.k.a. the first room in the front of the house, would be something we needed more than one of until COVID-19. 

Look, but do not enter. The Sanctity of our Home Office shines into our home’s lesser areas.

Our home office was a place for mail & boxes to be stashed, bills to be paid, and it served as a quiet place you could visit to finish up work in the evenings.  With two small children, the room was often in need of dusting and underutilized.  

As the years passed, our home office, evolved. We pay our bills on line, with the use of laptops and smart phones, finishing up work in the evening didn’t necessarily mean you had to be segregated from the family.  We became more efficient at multitasking while engaging with the family.  As teleworking became part of our vocabulary, we saw a shift in our home office usage. It would become the room, we used a few times a week instead of commuting into the office. Here is how casual Friday attire became simply our “comfy clothes” on any day of the week.   We would enter first thing in the morning, typically straight out of bed and emerge sometime in the late afternoon or evening hours.  Of course, there was the normal bathroom break and kitchen raid a few times of the day. However, the hours slipped by quickly and you would find yourself questions whether your attire was appropriate for a trip to the mail box and did you really brush your teeth that morning?

Door Envy, New Roles, and Workspaces

Fast forward to May 2020. The home office in general has seen a lot of action during the pandemic but not from me.  With two parents working from home, our home office was not designed to accommodate two working adults.  How could we have foreseen that we would have needed two home offices?   

In our new normal, my husband has gained the most luxury. It is called privacy. Yes, other than the bathroom and sometimes our bedroom, the home office has become a luxurious private room fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology but most importantly a door that LOCKS! He works quietly in the home office with satellite radio playing softly in the background or a news show on the TV and the door closed.

 I work with my two teenage boys in the open area of the house. Most people refer to this luxurious room as the kitchen. The kitchen is state of the art and fully equipped with a multifunctional flat surface that is utilized for office work, school work and eating.  Here we are surrounded by the soothing sounds of on-line video classes with teachers, memes the boys find funny, Tik Toks that are shared almost hourly, Apple music from multiple phones at the same time without earbuds, and FaceTime calls from friends in order to support our socializing efforts. The best attribute of this co-working office is the never-ending supply of snacks and the new team members: day porter, short order cook/chef, and sanitation worker.  I excited to say I have been promoted to these three new full time positions.  As a day porter, I have the opportunity to tidy up restrooms, pick up plates & utensils, food wrappers, crumbs, and glassware.  As the sanitation worker, I focus on trash because the team in place can’t remember where the trash can is located, since it changes location often in the kitchen. Lastly, as a short order cook/chef, I the pleasure of using my creativity to plan three meals a day, take food requests after the meals have been prepared, and ensure each meal suites each individual team members’ taste.  

Our shared multi-purpose workspace, a.k.a. the kitchen counter

I have transitioned from my own dedicated work space in and office environment, to sharing space with my offspring. My officemates have absolutely no organizational skills. Previously, they kept their workspace somewhat neatly enclosed in a backpack and moved their workspace from location to location, or classroom to classroom if you will. In their new workspace, instead of pulling out only what they need at the time, they have emptied their backpacks over the multifunction flat surface and added even more items to their work area.  

As each day passes, their workspace creeps closer and closer to mine. As we move into the second week of May, we have officially stopped eating in the kitchen completely. My officemates’ footprint has increased daily and my work area has become smaller and smaller. This is causing my “door envy” to grow larger and larger. 

The creeping footprint of my ‘workmates’

Silver Lining

Soon it will be summer. Classes will be over for the boys.  We will slowly begin to emerge from our homes to move back to working in our offices, and adapting to our new normal. Although I am looking forward to this time, I know I will also miss these past weeks and months as well. In a time in their lives, that typically teenagers are pulling away and looking for independence, mine are sitting next to me daily. We are eating three meals a day together, taking walk breaks together, and holding long conversations on an array of topics and enjoying each other’s unique personalities. I know it is a horrible time for many and finding the something positive in each day is a challenge. Only time will tell how this will all end but I know I will hold in my heart the laughs, love and new closeness we have achieved during this time.  It is what gets me up in the morning and allows me to work at all my jobs, even the ones I complain about.

 As they say, #WeAreAllInThisTogether

Melissa Cramer is Regional Director of SwingSpace LLC. For more tips on multitasking with 2 teenagers underfoot, contact her at: melissa@swingspace.com

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