Working From Home and Setting Boundaries


For many people who work from home, one of the biggest challenges is setting boundaries to separate ‘work time’ from ‘personal time’. I’m sure many of you can relate to this, but there seems to be a perception out there that if you work from home, you are automatically available 24/7 to your clients, friends and family. Whilst working from home certainly provides the ultimate flexibility to work the hours that suit your lifestyle, it’s difficult to create boundaries.

Here’s a typical scenario: You’ve put aside the morning to work on an important project. The kids are at school/daycare, there’s nothing urgent on the home front that needs attention and you’re completely “in the zone” and ready to get started. There’s a knock at the door, it’s one of your favourite friends who thought they’d visit for a quick coffee. What do you do?

If your first reaction is to crack open the Tim Tams, consider the possible consequences. Firstly, you may have just created the impression with your friend that your work isn’t important. Secondly, you have now lost the opportunity to finish off that project which means that tomorrow you’ll have to work twice as hard or you’ll need to work tonight to finish it off. Sound familiar? Try working like this for a few months and you’ll soon be a walking example of premature aging as the stress takes its toll on you.

So how do you fix it? There’s a few things you can do to help create boundaries with your family and friends so you can be more productive.

Track your time religiously

For 2 weeks, track everything you do; time spent on emails, time on the phone, client work and down time. Over a few weeks, you’ll have a good understanding of the hours and days that are the most productive for income producing work. Tracking will also give you a good idea of how many hours a week you actually need to work. When you consider all of the extra time you spend running your business this may surprise you!

Allocate “work hours” for yourself.

Whatever suits you. Just make a decision on what your core hours will be, allocate this time in your diary and schedule in your projects. By work hours, I mean the times that you will actually do your work, not necessarily the times that you are available for contact. If you know in advance when you are scheduled to work, you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate turnaround times with your clients before you get swamped! Tell your friends and family what your work hours are and make sure you actually work them! (if you don’t have client work to do, use the time for other work related activities like your accounts, business planning, whatever!). This will show that you are serious and it will help to establish a routine.

Be firm and deal with interruptions assertively and diplomatically.

If your friends want to catch up for coffee when you’re working, politely let them know that you’re tied up with work for a few hours and arrange to meet them another time. You’ll enjoy catching up with them even more if you are not feeling pressured with looming deadlines and unfinished work.

Be upfront with your clients.

Let them know that you can be contacted via email or phone during the day and give a time frame for how long you will take to respond to messages and emails when you’re not available. Create clear expectations with your clients early in the relationship so you can avoid changing bad working habits later on.

Of course the key to success in balancing your work and personal time is to be flexible and use your common sense. Life happens, and things don’t always go to plan, but once you have some boundaries in place, you’ll be in a better state of mind to manage the unexpected. If something’s not quite working, do what you can to change it and don’t be afraid to let clients/friends/family know what you need.

Melinda Dunlop is an online marketing specialist who helps small and solo business owners to increase their visibility online, grow their social media community, attract an ideal clients and automate their lead generation online.

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