Monday, September 27, 2010

Work-Life Balance: But I Work at Home

You get to work at home. Good for you. And yes, working from home has its special challenges. From the annals of my practice these include, but are probably not limited to those that follow. The particular solutions are different for everyone but a few basic principles help.

Routines, time and scheduling. One of the joys of working from home is that you often don’t have to adhere to a strict routine. Wonderful, if that works for you. If you have trouble with the amount of time you’re spending, difficulty getting started, or trouble stopping when you need to, a routine may be in order. Some people need to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast (just want to make sure you’re paying attention; everyone should be eating breakfast) at the same time daily in order to feel ready to work. Scheduling breaks, snacks and the time you’ll end are also necessary if doing these things doesn’t come naturally.

Non-work activities. Doing housework, chores and eating are the typical things that bleed into work time at home. You wouldn’t have an opportunity to do housework at the office, so sticking to that limit when you work from home makes sense. Running out to get the dry cleaning and eating fall in the same category; if you worked from an office you’d have to do these things during breaks.

Housemates and work time/space. Kids come in while you’re working for help with homework and partners expect you to handle every emergency because you’re not in the office. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. It’s fine to handle the occasional emergency because you can, but setting the expectations that you cannot be available for every single repair person is necessary, unless this is part of your deal with your partner. If your kids are home during part of your work time, you need a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. You do have a door right?

Workspace. You’ve got to have a comfortable, private workspace. Think about what helps you feel comfortable and facilitates concentration. Windows? Fish? Family photos? Good phone and computer set-up? Lava lamp? Take the time and money to set up your space. No door? Get a screen and deem it a door.

Intellectual stimulation. You can get stuck in your thinking or feel out of touch because you work alone. Schedule lunches, coffee breaks or Skype meetings regularly with people who help you stretch and challenge your ideas. Attend conferences or other professional meetings if you don’t have an office to connect with.

Try a few things that seem workable for you and be creative. Savor your freedom.

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