Training Your Family to Respect Your Home Office Boundaries

While there are plenty of benefits to be gained from working out of your home, there are probably an equal number of challenges to deal with. Those of us who work from home probably like the fact that we can hang out in sweats all day without even the necessity of combing our hair or putting on makeup (women) should we choose not to. On the flip side, family members see you in your casual dress as you sit in front of your computer, and don't understand why you are not readily available and in your role of parent or spouse. You may have found how difficult it can be to set boundaries-then enforce them-which enable you to get your work done.

Work on Guidelines

First of all, you must consistently treat your business like a business if you want your family to take you seriously. If it is at all possible, set consistent business hours as well as a dedicated workspace. This lets your family more clearly understand that you are working during these hours and in this space. Of course if you are a writer, who works at home, one of the reasons you may enjoy your job is because you can work at odd hours but this can make it somewhat more difficult to enforce your work boundaries.

Some work-at-home folks have found that a sign hung in a prominent place which states you are working and should not be disturbed unless there is a (true) emergency works well, while others simply retreat to a room with a closed door and hope for the best. Remind your family of the benefits they reap because you work at home, then let them know that if they want to continue to take advantage of those benefits they will have to respect your work as though you were actually working at an outside job with regular hours. Make your "rules" specific, few, and clear and your family will be more likely to pay attention.


If you have a critical deadline coming up fast for a specific project, politely remind your family of the rules-then offer a bribe! Let them know how much you appreciate them giving you the time and space you need in order to meet your deadline, then promise something to look forward to as a family later on. Whatever you do, once you have negotiated this "deal" don't back down. If you allow yourself to cave to whining or guilt, you are inadvertently training your family to whine and apply guilt trips-because it works! Remind yourself as many times as it takes that the only way you can teach your family to respect your at-home work rules is to enforce them.

Taking Phone Calls

If your work-at-home job requires time on the phone with clients or other business calls, you will have to do some special training to teach your family to treat those calls with respect. If you happen to be in the middle of something with a family member and the phone rings, it is much better to let the answering machine pick up than to try to take a business call amidst chaos. A client may well lose respect for your business abilities if they hear a child having a tantrum or whining in the background. Once quiet is restored, you can return the call. It's a good idea to set blocks of time specifically for making and returning business calls.

While you have no control over when someone calls you, you do have more control over when you choose to return that call, and with all the high-technology gadgets available, there is no reason to answer an incoming call when the timing is terrible. Many experts advocate setting hours which are completely phone and e-mail free, giving you time to focus completely on your family.

Finally, align yourself with the fact that you can give only so many hours to your business and that you never want to reach the point where you must choose between excessive business hours and keeping your family intact. So, set some rules, stay strong, and your home business will flourish.