Your family's spare room - home office or au pair room?
Should your family's extra room serve as a home office, as an au pair room, or what? We consider the alternatives together with you.
Over the past two years, the pandemic has kept many families closer to home than ever before. And in this time, all sorts of work activities have been pushed out of business offices and into the family home.
A routine we have come to know well
Going directly from the kitchen table to an important business meeting and never leaving the house (facilitated, of course, by the company laptop and your favourite video conferencing tool) has become an ordinary part of everyday home/business life for many of us. It felt special at first (can you remember?), but those days are long gone.
Making new space for the work at home
And over the past two years as we spent more and more time working on office tasks at home during diverse lockdowns, we looked for ways to manage work in this new situation more effectively. For many of us this involved finding a dedicated space at home for doing professional work that previously had taken place almost entirely in the office.
A difficult choice
And for some host families this then led to a difficult choice.
With only a single spare room to make use of, they were faced with the question:
Should these four walls be the space to accommodate an au pair - or should they provide a quiet space with a door that can be closed so that it's possible to do office tasks at home despite everyday family chaos?
A home office in the first phase of the pandemic
During the first phase of the pandemic with the whole family cooped up at home (including the kids for online school lessons), it seemed like every bit of home space needed to be used for the emergency situation.
Many would-be host families found it necessary to convert what had been a guest room or their au pair room into a dedicated home office space. Establishing a new home office made sense for lots of people, even for families that had a long track record of hosting au pairs. And if the au pair room had to be sacrificed for that purpose, then so be it.
As we know, times have changed.
Vaccines have substantially reduced the risks associated with Covid-19. In addition, the now dominant Omnicron variant is generally much less harmful than previous virus variants. Countries around the world are therefore changing their corona policies. Businesses and schools are open. Travel is less and less regulated. And more and more of us are returning to the office - though maybe not quite as much as in pre-pandemic times.
Your spare room at home
So what should you be doing with that extra room at home?
For sure, it's great to have a dedicated home office space. But if you do this and it precludes having an au pair, what are you missing out on?
- More scheduling flexibility
- More adults available to manage childcare tasks
- Beneficial cultural & educational effects for the kids
- Better work/family life balance in everyday life
The bottom line
If the point of the dedicated home office space is to get to a better place with the totality of work obligations and family management, it might be that finding a corner of the living room or of the parental bedroom for occasional work sessions in the new hybrid mix of remote work and in-office work can offer you the best advantages.
What one needs most of all for getting office tasks done successfully is a lack of competing distractions. The au pair can also be very helpful for this - taking the children outside for various activities as well as freeing you up from bringing and fetching obligations with the children's appointments.
Finally, each family will decide what should happen with their extra room on the basis of their evolving work obligations and the physical layout of their homes. Just how much time and space flexibility can come from having an au pair on your family team should not be forgotten as we move (hopefully) into a more relaxed phase of the corona story.