Depending on who’s counting, there are between 18 million and 38 million home-based business operating in the United States. In fact, over 52% of all small businesses are home-based. And the phenomenon is growing. Clearly, more and more people are discovering the satisfaction and financial reward of business ownership and the advantages of working from home.
However, along with these advantages come a number of potential problems. One of the most persistent issues for home-based workers is the simple fact that they are conducting a professional activity from their home. The ideal situation is to create a good balance between your work life and your home life even when the commute has been reduced to walking from one room to another.
Get dressed for work
It’s great to spend the day working in your bathrobe but many people say that when they are dressed for leisure, their attitude, voice presence on the telephone and work habits become leisurely as well.
Get a separate phone line
It’s hard to project a professional image when your voicemail says, “Hi, you’ve reached GJT Catering and also the home of Gail, John, Timmy and Scout (woof, woof). Please leave a message.” Potential clients may worry that their message will be received by Timmy, not Gail or John, or whoever is actually the business owner. Plus, on a shared line, you may miss calls when the line is tied up with family issues.
Keep regular hours
Keep regular business hours or at least say that you do, even if you’re more likely to produce those corporate communications at odd hours of the night. Clients like to know how they can reach a business owner and are often uncomfortable calling in the evening when they know it’s a home business. (Of course, there are also those clients who believe that because it’s a home business, you are available 24/7.)
The second big reason is, especially if you’re a mom, working from home can translate to other people as “available during the day” for PTO activities, child pickup and snow day babysitting while “working moms” go off to their places of employment. Of course, it may be that part of the reason you work from home is precisely to be available for these activities. If so, just be sure that you have defined the parameters by advertising your “work hours” then adjusting at your own discretion.
Keeping regular hours is also a good way to tell yourself it’s time to quit and get in some personal or family time.
Maintain a barrier between your work space and your home space
Even though your client may say they understand, no business person really wants to have a telephone conversation with someone whose child is audible in the background. This very typical scenario will lead your client to wonder if you can really pay attention to what they are saying when there are clearly family issues going on at the same time. The ability to shut a door and limit the sounds of home life will lend a much more professional tone to your business.
On the other hand, a door or some other barrier allows you to walk away from the job when it’s time to re-enter family life without being tormented by the piles on your desk or the lure of the computer screen.
Get some exercise and stay out of the fridge
Some people who begin to work from home find that they can better schedule exercise because their time is their own. However, for many, they are no longer walking up the stairs to the office, taking a stroll through the park at lunch or stopping by the gym on the way home. Moreover, the fridge is available, the food is free and no one’s looking. The stress of being a business owner combined with the change in lifestyle can create a less healthy lifestyle. Do yourself a favor and make exercise and healthy food a part of your home office routine.
Take advantage of the advantages
It’s great to be able to take a break from your work, pay a few bills, put a chicken in the oven and take a minute to check in with your teen when he gets home after school. Take advantage of these perks without guilt you deserve to enjoy your work-at-home life.