Electronics have almost become the heartbeat of the home, possibly surpassing the kitchen. Businesses are thriving beyond the front door and all members of the family have the skills and interests that bring them to the computer desk. With such a humming environment, how can it still be the place we all want to come home to? Here are some ways to keep everybody happy and productive in the home office.
- Respect for work: Mom’s a writer; dad’s an accountant. Yes, they are just steps away, but everyone in the family has to understand that needless interruptions are costly. So it’s a good “business” plan to set limits. Surely no one wants draconian rules, but maybe a family meeting with agreed upon ways to keep working at home even more productive than “at the office.”
- Respect for family: The other side of the coin is not getting cranky when interruptions happen. If rules are too strict, resentments will bubble up. Maybe having a time when there is an office “recess;” such as when the kids get home from school and it’s time for a break. One of the advantages of working at home is staying in the heart of the family. To keep it that way, treating family members with the same courtesy you’d treat an office mate is a good plan. Understand the dynamics of your home, and keep the “door” to the office open when need be.
- Who needs quiet? Lots of productive work gets done in the midst of mayhem–just think of a newspaper office. But where you set up shop at home can have a lot to do with how well your office functions. Today there are many options for home office furniture that allow you to be almost anywhere in the house. So if you need real concentration, think about the setup that fosters this. And if you have an entire room for a professional operation, the door can have some signal–like recording studios have–when coming and going is fine and when it’s not. This is just a friendly reminder for other members of the family.
- Sharing the facilities: If there is sophisticated equipment in the home office, there will be times that members of the family might want to share it. Again, this has to be done with understanding of the operations and courtesy. Perhaps the best plan of action is to have other places for as much of this as possible. Kids can have their own “office” setup in their rooms–and the same goes for other “stations” around the house that are not essentially for professional use. It’s a great way to avoid glass rings or jam stains on that report that has to go out tomorrow.
- Office hours: Work schedules may have to be adjusted beyond the nine-to-five mentality. If there are young children in the family or a member with special needs, work time can accommodate them and avoid stress and tension in the family. Starting earlier or saving intense reading, for example, in the after-dinner time might be the solution. If there are two home workers, then schedules can be adjusted so that both accomplish tasks by a time-share kind of arrangement. This can even work with people who work both in and outside the home.
- Getting the job done: Family members may be more apt to respect the work being done at home if they are brought into the process when appropriate. Just think–you have office assistants in the bedrooms down the hall. Your kids will appreciate what you do and be happy to help if their efforts are respected–and perhaps compensated!
Summary: Every home is unique. And the solutions you come up with for your home office etiquette will be too. However, making it as professional as you can in the spirit of home and family will have dividends in more than one way. And just think you won’t have to hear Ted’s old jokes over coffee or Emma’s boyfriend troubles.