And Never the Twain Should Meet

by Elena Fawkner

For many people, working from home sounds like an ideal arrangement. You don't have to waste time commuting to and from the office, you can be there for your children when they come home from school, you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself and you can work the hours that suit you ... not your boss. All very well in theory. 

On the other side of the coin, though, are the challenges of working from home. "Working your own hours" all too easily can become "working all hours" if you don't set a workday schedule, while rowdy children can become an almighty challenge when you need to present a professional image to the prospective client you're speaking with on the telephone. 

The fundamental key to a successful transition to a home-based business is to keep your business and personal lives as separate as possible. Decide up front how many (and which) hours of the day you are going to allocate to your business and stick to this schedule. What you don't get done during today's business hours can and should wait until tomorrow. Don't succumb to the temptation of allowing your business to encroach on your personal and family time. One trick to keep your business and personal lives separate is to have separate areas of the house for each. If at all possible, allocate a room of your house or apartment exclusively as your business office. Make sure that all members of your family understand that when you are in that room, you are working and are not available except in an emergency. Likewise, don't use that room for any non-work activity such as a TV room. 

By strictly separating areas in this way, you will reinforce in your mind (and the minds of other family members) that your office is a place of business and is to be treated as such. Just as your family will learn to respect these boundaries, it will also help you to "switch off" at the end of your work day if you can literally shut the door of your office and return "home" to your family. 

One temptation that, if indulged, will blur the line between your business and personal lives, is attending to non-business tasks during the hours you have allocated to business. Avoid leaving your office to run a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, clean the bathroom or organize the kitchen cabinets ... any of the myriad of things that can assume an almost overwhelming urgency in the face of that business task you are putting off starting. These sorts of distractions will only serve to keep you in your office much longer than necessary. 

Another important tip for keeping your two worlds separate is to have separate business telephone, modem and fax lines. Do not allow your children to answer your business phone. Arrange for an answering service to take your business calls during your non-business hours. Similarly, when you are working, try to ensure your children are otherwise occupied when you make business calls. The last thing you need when trying to convince that prospective new client that you should win his account is a screaming five year old right next to you. 

If you have very young children, hire a sitter for the times of the day or week when you know you will be conducting business on the telephone. If you have older children, deputize one or more of them to occupy younger siblings. You might want to pay your 'deputy' for this service as a way for him or her to earn some income or pocket money. The money you spend on sitting services will be more than outweighed by the professional image you will be able to project to prospective and existing clients and customers. 

As important as it is to choose for your business something you love to do, don't allow your business to take you away from your family. After all, your family was likely one of the primary reasons you decided to work from home in the first place.

It is one thing to be present physically. It is quite another to be present mentally and emotionally. The more rounded you are as a person, the more you bring to the table ... both personally and professionally. The enjoyable activities you engage in in your non-business hours can energize your business life. So, instead of thinking about the work you could be doing on Sunday when you're at the beach with your spouse, think of the fun you have on that day as an investment in your business for the coming week. 

Give 100 percent of yourself to work during the time allocated to work. Then shut the door on it. Your family deserves 100 percent too.

Copyright 2000 by Elena Fawkner

Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning weekly ezine, A Home-Based Business Online, a down-to-earth publication containing practical home-based and online business ideas, telecommuting job listings, original articles, free e-books and much more. She also runs the A Home-Based Business Online website at at http://www.fawkner.com. You can subscribe to her newsletter at the site.