As kids are getting ready to go back to school or as you think about another year of day care, you might be thinking about whether or not you could work from home.
Georgetown entrepreneur Ryan Levesque and author of the business book “Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy … Create a Mass of Raving Fans … and Take Any Business to the Next Level,” is a prime example of a person who has figured out how to maximize his time working in his home office while having more time with their families.
He asks parents to visualize: What would it look like to work while your children are around? — to make the kids part of the work week?
He believes more parents could have the kind of life he and his family — wife Tylene and sons 3-year-old Henry and 10-month-old Bradley — now have.
Levesque and his wife work out of the first story of their Georgetown home and raise the family upstairs. One parent is always with the children, but sometimes that means that Levesque is answering emails while Henry is playing on the floor by his desk. Or holding a sleeping baby while making phone calls.
The work week is much more concentrated for him. He generally works 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but there are breaks to have lunch with the kids or to play with them. Nap time is a golden time for getting stuff done. Concentrated family time happens from 4 p.m. until the kids go to sleep and then he gets another hour or two of work done at night.
Henry goes to preschool part-time and they do hire a part-time nanny for those concentrated hours when they both have to work or for an extra hand.
The advantage, he says, is they get a lot of personal things done during off-peak hours. For instance, they can go to grocery stores at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday instead of having to fight the crowds on the weekend. Their children will also be able to do after-school activities or have doctors appointments without worry about which parent is going to leave work.
The commute is also a time-saver, too: 45 seconds to throw on some clothes and head downstairs, versus the three hours he was commuting one way when he worked on the East Coast.
He also notices that he’s much more focused on the work when he’s at his desk at home instead of spending time wandering around a corporate office talking to co-workers or getting interrupted by co-workers who just want to gossip instead of work.
“It’s not without it’s challenges, though,” Levesque says. For example, his company does a lot of work by webinars. If he’s making a formal presentation and Henry walks in and says, “Daddy, I need to go potty,” that could be a deal breaker.
You have to take an honest look at your schedule, he says. “What times do I absolutely need to be fully present?”
Levesque tries to schedule important work events when Henry is at preschool or when the nanny is there. On Mondays he does all his important calls with his team. Tuesday is an open day with no appointments, but strategic thinking time. Wednesday and Thursday are appointment days and Fridays are open with no appointments.
“It requires a little bit of creativity,” he says.
Levesque and his wife are not the only ones in his company working from home with children. All of the 20 employees in his marketing and consulting firm work from home and many of them have children at home. His assistant bundles all of her calls during the times when her infant son is napping. The rest of the time, she attends to emails or less-focused tasks.
He sets the ground rules that at a weekly conference call employees have to be able to attend and not be distracted by children. That might mean that his employees schedule a weekly baby-sitter or friend to come over during that time.
Working at home with the kids there, too, hasn’t worked for all of his employees. One dad had trouble making meetings without two kids screaming in the background. That wasn’t the only reason it didn’t work out, but it was a factor.
Levesque, who has been working from home since 2008, tried for six months to work out of an office, but he missed the flexibility of being able to pop in to see the family or pop back into work during nap time or after bedtime. He also struggled working from home in their old house, which was a one-story in which his office was by the baby’s room.
If people are considering going to a work-at-home solution or a partial work-at home solution, Levesque has this advice:
Instead of thinking your boss will never let you do it, try floating the idea.
Before you do that, he says, you have to be an all-star. “First and foremost, you need to be super-valued,” he says. “If you’re not doing a great job, it won’t work.”
Present the idea as an experiment. “Here’s what I was hoping we might try out. I’d love it if I might be able to one or two days a week work from home.”
Pitch that you would do a better job because you would be more focused and more present at work, but also that you could be the supportive person your household needs you to be.
Try it for a couple of weeks and if it doesn’t work out, you can go back to an office-only schedule.
If it does work, then maybe you can add an additional day.
“Sometimes, it’s just not an option,” he says, “But usually there’s some sort of compromise.”