Working for yourself is a balancing act on many levels: work/life balance, financial balance and isolation versus being swamped by loving family and friends. Today’s blog will deal with setting boundaries.
On the one hand, you have to be wary of becoming isolated and lonely, (as discussed in a previous blog), but also, it is important to set boundaries so that friends and relatives don’t just “drop in,” during work hours.
Both Sonya and myself have found that no matter how hard we try and explain what we do, family members struggle with the fact that, yes, it’s a “real” job, and yes, there are deadlines. Having a loved one appear without notice saying, “Well, surely you’ve got time for a cup of tea?” Or, “Well, you must have time for a quick break,” is hugely stressful if you’re busy, which we are.
Friends seem to grasp it better, but are still likely to call and, even when you say, “I can’t talk for long,” can end up chattering away for ages. Add this phone call to the unexpected visitor, plus maybe another call, and half your morning has disappeared.
We have found that it’s helpful to turn the tables and say, “When you were working at the bank/office/school, could I have just appeared and expected you to stop working and spend half an hour chatting?” Of course you couldn’t. The difference is we work at home, and therefore there’s no defined boundary. If someone came into a traditional workplace on a regular basis for a cup of tea and a chat, you would soon lose your job. Having people call in unexpectedly can mean you end up working late into the evening to catch up on missed time, when perhaps you had other plans.
To solve this dilemma, it’s important to set your hours, and set your boundaries. Don’t answer personal calls during work hours. Explain to family members that unless it’s an emergency, they can’t call or drop in during business hours.
Because we do have some flexibility with our work hours, try and allocate a lunch once a week, or a coffee, when it suits you to catch up with family and friends. This way everyone wins as you are relaxed and not clock-watching, and you also are giving your best self and all of your attention to the person you are with at that time.
Do not buy into feeling guilty about doing this. You are a business owner. You have clients that rely on you. You may have team members that are waiting for an answer to an email, or for you to allocate them work. You have exactly the same right to conduct your business as anyone in a more traditional setting, just because you are lucky enough to work from home doesn’t mean that what you are doing is any less “real”, or worthy.
So set your boundaries, clear the slate so you can get your work done when it suits you, and then you can spend that quality time away from your office.