Working from home offers substantial benefits, but can also make it more difficult to successfully balance work and home life. Launching a startup puts incredible demands on your time and tends to be very stressful. It is important to take time away from the work to maintain your mental health as well as to ensure that other aspects of your life are not neglected.
Separate Your Work Spaces
Separating your work and personal space can be crucial for some entrepreneurs. The best option is to establish a dedicated work space, preferably behind a door. This way, your work time can be focused purely on work, and your personal time can be protected from the distraction of a full inbox. If the space is available to separate your work space, be sure to completely empty the space of personal items. Don’t even pay the household bills from the office, if possible. It is far easier to focus on the difficult and boring parts of a startup if there is nothing lying around to distract you.
Consider purchasing a separate phone line for the business as well. Whether you choose a landline or cellular service, a separate phone line will allow you to keep a professional image from home. Having your kids singing on the answering machine message is less charming to other professionals than you might think…and can cause you to lose sales. Also, a separate line lets you walk away from the startup when you need to. If contacts or suppliers are calling your personal cell phone, you are much more likely to answer in the middle of a Little League game. Startups are difficult and time-consuming, but there is no reason not to maintain the integrity of your personal life in the process.
Time and Task Management
Balancing work and home requires excellent time- and task-management skills. Develop a habit of working on a set schedule. Dedicate blocks of time to work on your startup during which you are not to be disturbed (unless someone is on fire or bleeding out the ears). This is one area where having an office with a door really helps! Also schedule time for family and friends, household chores, and the like so that you are not inclined to neglect one for the other. If you know you have time scheduled to vacuum the house later, you won’t be as tempted to avoid working on your startup financial statements in favor of trivial chores.
If you are partnering with your spouse in the startup, the pressure to separate work and personal time is even more critical. Each of you should establish schedules that fit your personalities. If one is more productive at night and the other a morning person, that’s OK. Coordinate your calendars so that there is sufficient time to cover the work that needs to be done and separate the tasks by the strengths and skills of each partner. Schedule daily business meetings — where only business is discussed — to keep each other on track and provide moral support. If necessary, schedule separate meeting times to discuss family issues, but don’t mix the two. And, never let issues from one part of your relationship taint the other. Easier said than done, but it is important to maintain professionalism between the partners during work hours…running a business on emotions is ineffective and dangerous, running a relationship without emotion is impossible. Set ground rules before you start working together about how disagreements in work and in your relationship will be resolved, and when. Working with your spouse, once you get into a productive rhythm, is very rewarding.
Get Out of the House
The final and most important piece of advice for making your startup work from home is to get out of the house. Schedule time each day to just leave…whether to go to the gym, get a cup of coffee, or walk around the neighborhood. Set up networking meetings with other home-business owners and join a couple of networking groups. There are many Chambers of Commerce and Toastmasters Clubs that meet over the lunch hour, and even a short break from the office and home can rejuvenate you enough to increase your productivity.
Working from home can be a great option. It not only saves money on your startup, but the commute is completely painless. Some people have trouble adjusting to the absolute freedom that comes from working for yourself, by yourself, but a little organization and commitment to sticking to a schedule go a long way in making the transition smooth and productive.