Many of us start businesses from home or your business might be based at your home on a permanent basis. You may have chosen to work from home for the flexibility it provides and working from home can certainly allow you to fit your work around your family or other commitments.
But when your office is in your home the boundaries between work and home can easily get blurred and your work and family lives may suffer. At times you need strong will, self-motivation and focus to get on with what you need to do. There are so many distractions at home and you’re not bound by rules like office hours or a boss watching what you’re doing.
So how can you manage your work-life balance when you work at home?
- Allocate work and personal time. On a weekly basis go through your calendar and decide when you’re going to work and when you’re going to do personal/family things based on what’s going on that week. Be realistic about how long activities take and don’t forget to include travel time.
- Prioritise your work tasks. Sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by your workload when the reality is some of it can wait. Identify what you need to do today and focus on achieving those things. Use your calendar to allocate other tasks to different days. Having a regular time/day each week to do regular tasks like shredding, filing or invoicing can be a good way of keeping on top of things.
- Schedule household chores. If you find yourself distracted by household chores or use them as an excuse to procrastinate, consider using your calendar to allocate time to doing laundry and cleaning etc. each week and stick to it. This might stop you from thinking, “I’ll just put the duster around before I make that phone call”.
- Work when you’re most productive. You aren’t bound by 9-5 office hours now so use that to your advantage. If you know that you work best in the morning plan to work in the morning and take the afternoon off to do other things. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do that now! If you take the afternoon off don’t feel guilty about it.
- Enjoy family/personal time. Turn off from work mentally and literally. Switch off the email and other alerts on your phone so you’re not distracted by pings during your non-work time. Close your laptop and tidy away work papers. If you’re distracted by work ideas and thoughts try keeping a notebook handy to capture things that come into your head.
- Have a work space that is your own. Keep household clutter out of this area and keep your work out of other areas of the house.
- Don’t work in your PJs. Getting dressed, having breakfast and then going to your work space will help you to separate your work from your personal life. Sitting on the sofa with your laptop half working, half watching your favourite programme might be ok sometimes but not as a regular habit. It’s bad for your posture and your neck and wrists won’t thank you for it. You’re also not completely relaxing and that quick piece of work you are doing will take a lot longer than it should.
- Book annual leave. Give yourself permission to take time off and book days off (or just a few hours at a time), just as you did when you worked for an employer.
- Other people in the house need to respect that you’re working. Being at home all day can blur the lines for your family/partner who might not appreciate your need to be left alone to work. Close the door to the room you’re in and shut yourself away if necessary. Making a big ‘Work in Progress!’ sign for your door might help as a visual reminder. Your family may also come home expecting you to have done all of the housework and prepared dinner during the day. You may need to remind them that you’ve been working! Get everyone in the house to contribute to the housework if they don’t already. Even small children can help tidy their toys and clear the table after dinner.
- Be realistic about your childcare needs. In theory working from home is great for being able to spend more time with your children, drop them off/collect them from school and you can easily take time off when they’re ill. But it’s very difficult to get work done and look after your children at the same time (especially young ones). Working from home means you can work while they’re in bed and take off time more flexibly but you will still need proper childcare arrangements. Make sure you have childcare in place for the times you have to work. It will allow you to work undistracted which is easier on you and fairer to your clients and children.
Mastermind groups are a great way to share your experiences with other women. Find out more here.