How to Balance Working at Home with Social Time
Working from home presents its own challenges. Sure, you get to work in your pajamas,
save money on gas, and stay home when everyone else is fighting traffic and weather
conditions. But there is a downside to this great opportunity, and if you have worked
from home for very long, you will know what I am talking about. For some reason, some
people seem to think that just because you are working from home that you are not
really working and therefore, are available whenever they want you and as long as
they want you. The concept they do not understand is that even though you are at home,
you have to maintain regular work hours or you lose out on income. Money that could
potentially help them as well in the long run.
You want to help your friends whenever you can, but you have to think of your finances
and your family first. You cannot just leave your work at the drop of a hat,
even though you are technically "at home". How can you set boundaries for yourself
to your friends and still have friends when you are done?
You have to be clear, first and foremost, that this is your job. This is your way
of earning income, and if you are not working, you will not make money. Working at
home is still work, and you must maintain regular hours or you will not be able to
justify this to your friends and family.
Once you are clear that this is your job and this is something you must do, you need
to make this clear to the people around you. You must be consistent with saying NO
during regular working hours. You are working and it is the same as if you had a job
outside of your home, only you are home. If you were working a "regular job", away
from home, you would not be available then either. Gently but firmly remind them of
this. If they are any kind of friend, they will respect this and not ask again. Should
they ask again, consistently remind them of your work and decline to help during your
work hours. Keep this up and they will eventually remember and get the message.
Next, share your hours with your family and friends. Tell them which hours you cannot
be bothered and hold firm to that schedule. You may get caught up in their "story"
that they have no other choice but to ask you and that it is an emergency. Aside
from a "911" type of emergency, chances are they have other options than to have you
step in and help. Tell them that you are busy and that you will be more than willing
to assist them after you are done for the day.
Of course, when you have small children at home and they need your attention, it's
a bit harder to do this. Because they are still small, they need your attention more
frequently and will require your time during working hours. Put them on a schedule,
and you will be able to work around their schedule.
An example: when my kids were small and I needed to get some work done, I attended
to their immediate needs in the morning, such as breakfast, toileting, dressing, etc.
Once they were fine and happily playing or watching cartoons, I started writing while
still keeping them in my sight. Lunchtime came and I would feed them and myself, then
it was back to work.
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to give small children, or even babies,
constant attention 24 hours a day. They can be fine on their own, supervised of course,
for a couple hours before you are with them again. This actually helps them to learn
how to entertain themselves and not be emotionally clingy. As long as you spend some
time with them and not leave them alone all the time, you can get away with at least
an hour or two per day to work on something.
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A word of caution: you may be tempted to shut everyone out all the time and work non-stop
from morning till night, but this is not recommended either. You have friends for
a reason, to socialize and not be alone. To exclude them
all the time will keep you from having friends, and what's the point of all work all
the time to the detriment of your need for others?
Even your family will get upset if you are working all the time without being able
to see you sometime. They may end up bugging you during working hours just to be able
to connect with you. Making your "work at home" time work involves creating a healthy
balance between work and down time. If you set regular hours, keep them and do not
work past your end time each day. By doing this, you can show your friends and family
that you respect their time, which in turn, will help them respect your time. And
that is what life is about, give and take.
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