Home Sweet Work: Work-Life Balance in a Home-Based Business
25th October 2016 | Starting Up
There are many compelling reasons for setting up a home-based business. Being your own boss, setting your own hours, avoiding the commute to work, not being burdened with expensive office rentals – no wonder more and more self-employed entrepreneurs are working from home.
Thanks to the wonders of digital technology – readily available computing hardware, cheap global communications and, of course, the internet – running a successful and professional operation from your bedroom or kitchen table is a realistic possibility for millions of people.
But working from home is not without its pitfalls. Although it clearly offers more opportunity to spend time with the family than going out to work, drawing a clear line between work and home life can become difficult. Routines can be hard to establish and stick to, and home life can be distracting.
Ultimately, the challenge for the home-based entrepreneur is making sure that ‘home’ and ‘work’ can co-exist under the same roof so that everyone gets the best of both.
Managing Time Flexibly
Flexibility is one of the watchwords of why people opt for a home-based business. Especially where children are involved, fixed office hours can clash badly with the natural desire to spend more time with the family. Being there for the school run, to share a family meal or even read a story at bedtime is much easier when you work from home.
However, running a business demands your time as much as having a happy family life. Knowing where to draw the lines and ensure you are putting the time you need into your business can be difficult. It can be nice having children pop in to play, but when does that become an unwelcome distraction?
Flexibility has to be embraced fully when working from home, not just in how you arrange family time, but when you work too. Have a set number of hours to work each day or week, and stick to it. You may well find yourself working at unusual times, for example in the late evening when children have gone to bed. But avoid creeping over your allocated numbers of hours, otherwise you will find yourself spending less time with your family than you wished for.
Communicate with your Stakeholders
Even if not exactly ‘colleagues’ in your business, your family are stakeholders, and should be treated as such. Communication can be key to striking the right work-life balance at home. How do you make young children understand that you need some time to do some important work? Tell them, and make sure arrangements are made so they are looked after and entertained while you work.
Sharing a calendar with your family is a great idea, the way you would with any business team. Pencil in times when you need to make an important phone call or have a conference meeting. Your partner is also your partner in your home business – discuss with them how to make arrangements so you can have the time you need.
Create a Space
Even if your commute to work is a matter of a few paces, having a dedicated work space to go to can make all the difference in striking the right work-life balance in your home business. Communicate clearly with your family that when you are here, it is work time – some distractions are ok, but let’s keep them special.
On the flipside, stick to your resolutions about working hours. Don’t disappear into your home office from dawn until dusk without ever emerging to see your family. You might as well be out at work, except it risks creating even more tension because there will be the feeling they should be seeing more of you.
Put Yourself in Work Mode
Okay, you’ve successfully fended off family distractions, agreed working hours, and set aside a work space. Now you just need to deal with one more barrier – you.
Many of us are easily distracted by being in a home environment and may find valuable working time is being eaten into by self-inflicted interruptions. Try these techniques for getting in the right frame of mind.
- Get dressed for work. Being in pyjamas or your cosy onesie may not be the best way to have a productive day. Even if you won’t be seen by anyone outside the home then dressing smart can help you feel smart.
- Commute to work. A brisk 10-15 minute morning walk to work – home and back again – can get the heart rate up, and fresh air helps you to feel awake, and be ready to face the day. A take-away coffee treat en route may encourage you to make this part of your morning routine.
- Leave the domestic duties. Be self-disciplined and make it a rule not to do anything in the house that isn’t planned or essential. Doing that little bit of washing up, dealing with some laundry, or tidying away the kids’ Lego gets your mind off your business and nibbles away at your valuable work time.
- Improve work skills. If you find it hard to focus and stay on task, consider a self-improvement course. Being self-employed it is often easy to overlook the need for your own training and development. A course, book, or app to help with, for example, time management or mindfulness, can be a great boost to productivity.
- Be healthy. Being home-based it is easy to slip into habits like snacking on sugary treats, skipping exercise, or working late and not getting enough sleep. Now more than ever you need to be treating your body like the temple it deserves.
Being self-employed in a home-based business can be hugely rewarding personally. To make this happen and achieve the work-life balance you were seeking, it is essential that you actively manage your work arrangements. With self-discipline and focus you will be able to enjoy the extra family and personal advantages that “wage slaves” can only dream about.