Space to Live and Space to Work: The Challenges of a Home Office

There are many advantages to working at home…and a few disadvantages. A basic problem is the fact that the same territory has to double as workplace and home. This can cause issues when one family member (usually a parent) is treating it as a workspace and another (often a child) is treating it as a home. How can you make the ground rules for your home office, and how can you make them work?

Where?

Somehow or other, you need a distinct space in which to work. It needs to be conducive to a working atmosphere, and sufficiently distinct for everyone (including you) to know that when you are in your working space you are working.

If you have a separate room, you have the ideal arrangement, but not everyone has that luxury so you may have to create a space within the normal living areas of your home. Wherever you choose, devise some sort of physical barrier to make it discrete – a bookcase or sofa back, for instance. Position your work area where there is as much natural light as possible, without stealing light from the family.

What?

The equipment that you put into your working area needs to carry the same message of separateness.

As well as having a business-like desk and chair that you can work at comfortably, you need to keep your equipment separate from items used in the household, for privacy, and for safety

Even if you use a laptop in preference to a desktop computer, you will want a decent screen and keyboard to work at. If you have small children, be sure that the whole area is safely toddler-proof. Your computer and other sensitive equipment should be completely protected from little fingers, ideally with a desktop enclosure like these from RS Components. If possible, use a separate computer for work and home use.

Ideally, have a separate phone line. Apart from managing your expenses, this will avoid customers having confusing conversations with your 3-year-old or interrupting your meal times.

When?

Disciplined time-keeping is even more important at home than in an office. You and your family need to know when you are free to attend to domestic matters and when you are not. Stick to your timetable and don’t, if you can avoid it, carry work across from your desk to the kitchen table.

If you are also caring for children during your work time, you have to be flexible about their demands for your attention, and break your working time into much smaller sections. One tip is to set them up with their own “offices” where they can play with suitable office materials while you are playing with yours.

Home Sweet Home

Working from home is a blessing and a challenge. There is much to be said for setting your own structures and your own goals. There are also many hazards along the way, especially when you share the space with a family. For most people, making clear distinctions about time and space is the only way to manage the conflicting demands.

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