One big challenge of running a business out of your home is balancing work and family. If you’re serious about succeeding, then it’s up to you to set up ground rules for your family to abide by.
Here are 10 tips for setting the ground rules that will allow you to run a successful home-based business and keep a happy home.
- Establish a routine and stick with it. Families, and especially children, thrive on routines. If you set up specific times for both work and family, you’ll be more productive.
- Carve out a workspace. Establishing a bona fide home office sets clear boundaries for family members. Keeping your work confined to your office will keep your business from intruding on your personal life. It will also protect important business information from falling prey to children’s spills, negligence, or well-inteneded but inappropriate participation.
- Keep separate quarters. If possible, locate your office in a detached section of your home: garage, attic, furnished basement, or another location away from the main house. At the very least, make sure you have an office door that can be closed to give you some privacy.
- Soundproof your office. Do what you can to keep your office quiet. Make sure that the family noises from the houses — dog barking, kids yelling — don’t distract you or intrude on your business phone calls.
- Schedule quality family time. Make sure your children and significant other are an integral part of your daily routine. Set up sacred rituals — bedtime, family dinner together — and devote yourself entirely to your family during these times.
- Explain flex time. One of the great perks of running a home-based business is it allows you a certain amount of flexible work hours. You can run midday errands and attend the occasional school function in the middle of the day. But explain to your family members that you may not always be in a position to be with them during the workday, that projects and clients might be the priority at a particular time in the day. Otherwise you risk disappointing them when you can’t make it to a school function or take care of a family issue.
- Hire help. Hiring a housekeeper or a nanny to take up some of the slack can allow you to focus on your business and be more productive. Consider this part of the cost of doing business effectively.
- Assign household chores. Negotiate ahead of time what chores need to be done and by whom. Let your family members know that you are depending on them to help you out, and that you expect and appreciate their help in making your business a success.
- Establish telephone protocol. If possible, establish separate work and family phone lines and email addresses. It is also important to teach your children and your spouse that, if they happen to pick up your work phone, they should answer it professionally. They should identify the business and take a detailed message so you can return the call.
- Create signals. Create a signal that makes it clear when you do not want to be disturbed. This could be something as simple as closing your office door when you are hard at work or even holding up a “Do Not Disturb” sign when on the phone.