Working at Home: Setting Boundaries

Working from home can be liberating and fun, but it can also be a challenge. Finding time to complete your daily tasks is hard enough when you’re away from home, not having to constantly be faced with personal issues around the home that need to be dealt with. In addition, family members may not fully understand the importance of what you do when you get to do it sitting at your dining room table wearing your fuzzy robe and bunny slippers.

Whether you are an Independent Contractor for an offsite company, or you own and operate a full-fledged business from your garage, here are a few tips to keep the workload flowing smoothly and nuisances at bay.

Clearly state your boundaries – Let’s face it, our friends and family are not mind readers. Let others know when you can and can’t be interrupted from your work. If you do telephone work, you may consider a sign on your door so that a knock from the postal worker doesn’t end with a barking dog and a baby woken up from her nap.

Keep yourself accessible only to clients – If you have to be available by instant messaging, try a program that will allow you to appear hidden to friends who may think you are otherwise available to chat. Get a separate phone line only for clients, or screen your calls with Caller ID.

Stay on a schedule – Your clients and your personal contacts will know when it’s best to reach you if you have a set schedule. This works great if you have children at home. Write out your schedule, including short breaks, and show them what times you’ll be available. This will help them feel as if they aren’t abandoned while you’re behind the office door.

Learn to say no – If a friend calls up and asks to go shopping, or a neighbor calls and asks you to baby-sit, say no and mean it. Saying no, but then offering to help another day, will get the point across that you cannot be bothered during work hours. Simply state you are working, and you’d love to, but cannot. Most people won’t push the issue any further.

Remember, these are only guidelines to help you stay focused on your job. If you find them too restricting, loosen up a little! After all, I’m betting the reason you decided to work at home was so that you could have the flexibility to work when it was convenient for you. You are your own boss now, so go ahead and make the rules. Just make sure you stick to them, or you may find others trying to bend them as well.