Ask an expert: Working from home

  • Updated: February 21, 2010 - 4:35 PM

Q I have a small business in my home; I also have three young children. While it may seem to many that working from home is a perfect balance for the work-life issue, I find it to be much harder than it seems. What are the best recommendations for keeping a work-life balance without having it seem as if you're working around the clock?

CAMI ZIMMER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PPI

A Working from home with small children seems like the ultimate in work-life balance only to those who haven't tried it!

There are as many answers to your question as there are people working from home. Some people swear by "normal work hours" whereas others blend work activities throughout the day.

Regardless of overall approach, most people do better when they designate specific work times. One recent work-at-home day for me, for example, was 7 to 9 a.m., 10 to 11 a.m., noon to 3 p.m., and 7 to 11 p.m., for a total of 10 hours that day.

During working time, focus on work with minimal distraction. You may have to re-train yourself and loved ones to honor your work hours on an emergency-only basis. And no dusting or laundry!

Similarly, during your off hours, don't "sneak a peek" at your work e-mails, or you will feel as if you're never off-duty.

In your case, this will require some form of child care, whether it's paid or unpaid, at home or elsewhere, provided by your partner, a child care professional, or another friend or relative, during your work hours.

Of course, there will be occasional intrusions from one domain to the other, just as there are for those not working from home. What works for you will depend on your preferences, needs, personality, values, workspace and business.

Research has shown that flexibility and support are important factors in successfully managing the work-family balancing act.

The more of each you have in each domain, the easier it will be to manage, and the more you will find yourself fully enjoying and thriving in each domain.

TERESA J. ROTHASEN-VANGE

PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT,

UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

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