Working from home can be really great, but it can also be incredibly distracting! This is especially true when you’re just starting out. When you’re first working from home, the daily upkeep takes on a whole new level of urgency. Almost every new home-based business owner has attempted to do laundry while on a conference all. And, of course, your family–over the moon to have you at home all the time–suddenly has dozens of new needs that must be addressed at that very moment. Wasn’t working from home supposed to reduce your stress level?
The reason a work-from-home setup usually starts out feeling chaotic is because many newbies buy wholeheartedly into the idea of working from the couch in their pajamas. It’s difficult to insist that you’re doing something important when your feet are up, your hair is unwashed and Ellen is dancing away on TV. This is why the first step toward finding your groove as a work at home parent, is to set up a home office.
If you are lucky enough to live in a house with a spare room or an attic, bedroom, or garage that you can convert into a home office, consider yourself blessed! Having a home office with a closeable door is the holy grail for many work-at-home parents.
More likely, you’ll have to carve out space in an already heavily trafficked room. The urge to simply put a cheap desk in the corner of the living room can be mighty tempting when you are facing having to rearrange your home to accommodate your business needs. Resist this temptation! A freestanding desk is more likely to become a catch-all for other members of your family–however well-meaning they may be in their support of your new workstyle.
Instead, try literally blocking off a corner of the room. Use hanging room dividers to create “walls” that separate your space. Having a physically separate space will reinforce the seriousness of your work to family members.
We’ve mentioned the desk already. The other important pieces of the home office puzzle are a filing cabinet (or a box or drawer) in which to keep your files organized, space to store office supplies, a dedicated laptop or desktop computer, and a printer/scanner. That doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? But guess what? These pieces are all you need to set up a fully functional office.
How is this possible? Well, nobody faxes anymore, so that’s out–in the rare occasion that someone does require a fax, there are apps that you can use to fax scanned documents via your laptop. You can use Google Voice or Skype for your business phone number and take calls over the web. In the beginning, you likely won’t have many files to track so a file drawer in your desk or a file box that you tuck nearby should be sufficient.
Training Your Family
This is the most important part of working from home and it is one of the reasons why you need a physically separate space in which to work. Separating your business from your home physically helps your family take your work seriously. It is also incredibly helpful in setting and reinforcing boundaries.
For example, you can make it a house rule that if you are in your office space, your family needs to leave you alone. You can make a rule that if the door is closed, they aren’t even allowed to knock or check in to see how you’re doing. If you have a separate room, you can set up a small couch or table on which they can read or do their own work, but they aren’t allowed to use your work equipment for school or personal projects.
If you share a space, you might try setting up definite and non-negotiable “quiet hours” for that room or ask your family to steer clear of it. This way you don’t have to worry that your kids will decide they have to watch a certain program on TV while you’re trying to have a professional call with a client or demanding your help with a project when you’re on a deadline.
Of course, the flip side of this is that you have to respect those boundaries too. Leave your workspace when your quiet/working hours are over. Open the door to your home office if you don’t really need your family to leave your alone (even if you’d prefer it).
It will take some time, but eventually–once you get your home office “built,”–everybody will adjust to your working from home being a serious thing that deserves respect. We promise!