The Biggest Working From Home “Experiment” In History

Reorganized home office

The Olympic Games are just hours away from starting in London, and it also marks the start of probably the largest working from home trends in history.

Workers in the UK capital are being encourage en-masse to work from home if at all possible. This is to help reduce congestion on the roads and public transport network as the city is invaded by tourists going to The Games.

It will be interesting to see the attitude to remote working after this period. Interesting because a lot of people are expecting an increase in productivity. I’m not so sure.

Normally productivity can increase when working from home due to less distractions and interruptions. But with the Olympics on, and people working in close proximity to their TVs, the temptation may be too much.

Working from home takes a fair amount of discipline, which may be somewhat lacking in this special case.

This could go either way: Companies see a great benefit, or they see none. My guess is that companies won’t see enough of a change to productivity over the 2 weeks to persuade them either way. Workers will still have to convince the powers that be that they’ll be better of working remotely once the whole circus leaves town.

The Value of a Dad

Last Sunday was Father’s Day in some parts of the world. The guys at were chatting about this in the office the other day, when a bit an argument broke out over just how much our dads do at home, and just what they’re worth (in purely monetary terms).

They asked their life insurance guys to look into this, and they used some data sourced by their partners at Legal and General to produce an infographic containing this data – and it turns out that  dads do about £24k ($37,150 AUD) worth of household work a year, as well as their day jobs!


Geek Dad Song

I love geek song writers, Jonathan Coulton has long been a favourite of mine. Tonight I found a new (to me at least) one. The above song by John Anealio about being a geek dad is so fun and catchy. I particularly like the line in the chorus “but my wife just thinks I’m absurd”

I’ll be keeping an eye on John’s work from now on 🙂

Taking the Home Office to Another Level

I’ve written about working from home before, but this guy has taken the home office to another level. This is a command centre style setup with 5 monitors all powered off the 1 computer, allowing him to spread out applications across a big area. I’ve been a long time multi-monitor person going back to days where big CRT screens filled the desk, but I’ve rarely used more than 3 at once.

How much effort has been put into your home office design?

Monitoring vs Filtering Kids On The Internet

Windows 8, the next version of the world’s most used operating system is due out later this year and it’s parental controls are looking different from the current options available in Windows 7.

The current set of parental controls focus more on Filtering what your children have access to on the internet. The new version focusses more on monitoring what they’re up to and reporting to you.

I’ve talked about filtering your home internet connection on this site before, and mentioned that in the end it probably comes down to educating your kids about what is appropriate and what isn’t.

The new features offered by Microsoft are taking a “Monitor First Approach”. Giving you a dashboard of information about your family’s computer habbits. Items include which websites each user has visited and the amount of time spent on the computer (helpful if you want to limit your kids to a certain amount of “screen time” per day).

We expect you’ll find activity reports a great tool for teaching your kids about responsible computer use. Of course, you can also easily add restrictions by just clicking a link in the activity report. With the simplicity of activity reports, we believe more parents will adopt Family Safety, resulting in a safer computing environment for children.

Baby Monitors – The Geek Way

So you’ve got a baby and you’ve probably got some sort of baby monitor right? It’s probably a boring audio only, plays one lullaby type? Here’s how the geeks do it:

The Problem

A lot of baby monitor on the market these days are using the 2.4GHz or 5.6Ghz unlicensed spectrum. What’s that you say? Well think of it this way, all wireless devices (including your mobile phone, free-to-air television, radio, 2-way radio etc…) use the same kind of technology: radio waves. The government leases the different frequencies to different groups based on what they want to use it for and how much money they pay.

That leaves the rest of us with our Cordless Phones, Home WiFi, Wireless Doorbells and you guessed it, Baby Monitors, with a small range of frequencies to use that don’t require a license. This means that many devices you buy are competing for the airwaves.

Many devices are now digital, so you won’t actually get much audible interference… perhaps the odd drop out or two, but you may notice that while using your microwave oven (this actually sends out static in the 2.4GHz range), talking on your cordless phone or listening in on your baby monitor etc… Things like your WiFi might slow down.

The Solution

So we want something like that fancy baby monitor that can send a picture to your TV, but not have it cause drop outs on your phone or slow your internet.

This is where WiFi enabled webcams come into play. These devices join your home WiFi network (just like your iPad or laptop) and you can connect to them using any web browser. This allows you to pull up a video stream of your baby’s nursery when ever and where ever you want.

Most devices come with software that allow you to connect via an iPhone or Android app, letting you tune in when you’re out. Great for checking up that your kids aren’t running amok when being babysat by the grandparents!

If you spend a little more, you can get versions that have powerful infra-red sensors letting you see the room while it’s in complete darkness. You can even get models that allow you to zoom and pan around the room.

The great thing is, these cameras aren’t any more expensive (sometimes a lot cheaper) than the standard video monitors you’re likely to find in a baby shop.


Why are Child Sleep Books So Extreme?

We’ve been having some sleep issues at home recently, so my wife borrowed a few sleep books from the library. One thing I have noticed is that they all seems so extreme! It’s basically all or nothing, with one book stating that you should leave your child to cry for up to 1 hour without comforting them.

We’re first time parents going through this with a 9 month old that has just learnt to stand in his cot, crawl everywhere and no doubt starting to get separation anxiety when put in his room alone. We don’t think that we need to be this extreme.

We plan on taking in some of the advice common to most books, such as a defined and repeated bed-time routine of dinner, bath, story, lullaby, bed. But we’re not prepared to just let our son cry himself to sleep, but taking him into his room and preparing for bed and allowing him to protest and cry about being there while being held, then once he understands that we’re not giving in he tends to calm down and give in.

Once we’ve got to this point we will lay him down in his cot and gently pat an reassure him until he’s almost asleep.

Are we doing this all wrong? Is the all or nothing approach of these books the only way to go? Are we too nice as parents?

I’d love to hear your real life experiences in the comments!

The Business of Kidults and Money

Last night on the Angela’s Business Mix show on Eagle Waves Radio, Peter Black (of Peter Black Coaching) gave some great advice about dealing with your adult children and older teens.

Some topics covered were preparing your kids for financial independence and the realities of the “Small Business of Life”. As usual Peter is full of fantastic advice, most of which I hope to implement in the years to come as our son (and any future kids) get older.

Follow the link in the tweet below to listen in. 

Top 10 Things to Keep Your Kid’s Birthday Party Running Smoothly

Planning a kid’s birthday party is something we’ll all have to do at least once a year. Here are some of the things that will help you keep that party running as smoothly as possible:

1. Give your camera to someone (and make sure they know how to use it)

No doubt you will want heaps of photos to remember the day by. Giving your camera to someone else will ensure that you appear in lots of the photos as well as your kid. Photos are great, but they’re even better when they include your whole family.

You will also want to make sure the person using your camera knows how to use it. Make sure the camera is on full auto mode so you have the best possible chance of having something to work with later on. There’s nothing worse than finding out that all your photos are out of focus or too dark!

2. Sort out the music

Make sure you’ve organised the music well in advance to the party. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having the kids all playing musical chairs and a song with explicit lyrics comes on! 

For games that involve stopping the music make sure that you know when the music might stop on it’s own. As adults we all understand that these games are rigged, so to make sure all the kids get a go try and setup you playlist to continually play by crossfading songs.

3. Make sure your gift bags are age appropriate

If you’re giving out gift bags to guests, make sure they are age appropriate with no small parts for young kids. Also, don’t put anything in there that may cause problems for kids with allergies.

4. Remember the healthy snacks

We all love lollies and chips and fairy bread, but remember to include some healthy snacks for the kids. This allows parents who are trying to limit their kid’s exposure to lollies by giving them alternatives.

5. If you don’t want it broken, don’t bring it out.

If your kids have a favourite toy that may be fragile, or you couldn’t stand to be broken then put it away for the day. One thing you can almost guarantee is that someone is going to break something, so don’t give them the chance!

6. Always have a plan B!

If your party is going to be outside, have a Plan B in case of rain (or extreme heat). Let people know in advance what that plan is so that if they turn up to your venue and you’re not there they know why and where you actually are.

7. Hand out actual invites

Facebook invites are all the rage these days, and they allow for communication with your guests after you invite them, but also give out a physical invite if you can.

When your guests are rushing out the door (because they’re 20 minutes late already – they do have kids!), a physical invite is easy to grab off the fridge or pinup board for last minute reminders of where you party is and what they should be bringing.

8. Bake a trial cake the week before

If you’re baking the cake for the party and it’s some sort of special shape (Thomas The Tank Engine anyone?), make sure you’ve tried it out before hand. Last minute stress over the cake will throw all of your plans into disarray. Knowing that you have done it before will keep you calm, or you may find out that it’s better to just buy a cake if the trial is a complete disaster.

9. If you’ve got a Piñata, make sure that the kids will be able to break it open

We’ve all been to parties where the kids spend a good half an hour trying to get in the piñata piñata Some home-made ones are a little too well made, so make sure there is a weak spot somewhere that will get the kids their fix of sweets.

10. Remember it’s just a party

Chances are you kid won’t remember much about their birthday in the years to come. So relax and have a good time. At the end of the day, as long as the kids had fun nothing else really matters. It will be messy, it will be loud, and that’s just the way kids like it!

If you’ve got any party tips share them in the comments.

Fathers Just as Likely to Suffer Postnatal Depression

A new Australian study published in the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology Journal has found that new fathers are just as likely to suffer Postnatal Depression (PND) as mothers.

Fathers are at risk of experiencing postnatal mental health difficulties, which may persist across the early childhood period for some fathers. The results suggest routine assessment of fathers’ wellbeing should be undertaken in the postnatal period with mental health interventions and support provided across the early childhood period.

Fathers are often the forgotten parent in many different areas, and this is probably one of the most important. The screening for PND generally focusses on the mother in this country, in my recent experiences I don’t recall any questions aimed at my mental state. Luckily I haven’t suffered, but I don’t doubt than many men do, especially after going back to work after the short time off (if you’re lucky) after the birth of the child.

So remember to ask a new dad how he’s going next time you pay them a visit.

Successfully working from home since 2003

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