Dealing with Neighbors and Family

When you run a business out of your home, the issue of dealing with your neighbors, your friends, and your family comes to mind almost immediately. A traditional work setting contains natural boundaries for the people in your personal life. However, when you work at home you will need to create these boundaries so that your business, as well as your personal life, can run smoothly and successfully.

What can you do to create these boundaries? Mentally separating "home" from "office" is the first step you should take. A part of setting up these boundaries is deciding how to deal with interruptions from neighbors, friends, and family while you are working at home. Another issue you may confront when you work at home is neighbors, friends, and family asking for business-related favors. It's important to be ready with a plan to confront these "boundary" issues when they occur if you want you and your home business to be taken seriously and to succeed.

Interruptions. As a person who works at home, you will be faced with an issue that people who work in a traditional business setting are not. When you work at home, you have the task of conveying to those closest to you, your family, friends, and neighbors, that when you are at home and working, this is your place of business. People who would never dream of just barging into your workplace in a traditional business setting may see things differently when you work at home. They may see the fact that you're working at home as an opportunity to ask you to do errands, baby-sit, call you, or stop by just to chat. In other words, if you're at home, you're not really working, at least in their mind.

Because the clear distinction between home and workplace does not exist when you work at home, you must create the distinction. How can you get neighbors, family, and friends to take you seriously when you tell them you're working and can't be disturbed?

Setting up a separate workspace helps, particularly if there's a door you can shut behind you. Even if this is possible, it probably isn't enough on its own.


Work Smart

When people try to interrupt you while you're working, whether it's in person or on the telephone, tactfully let them know that you can't be disturbed because you're working on something (tell them generally what it is), you're on a business call, you're with an employee, or you're in a meeting. Then let them know when you will be available and make sure it's outside your regular business hours. It may take some time, but your neighbors, friends, and family will learn to take your home business as seriously as you do!

Requests for business favors. When you work at home, you may find that neighbors, friends, and family feel free to ask you for discounts on your services and products or for free advice and merchandise. While someone close to you might not think of making this kind of request if you worked in a retail store or for a corporation, that same person feels that it's perfectly acceptable because your business is run from your home. What can you do? It doesn't hurt to remind those close to you that your livelihood (and in the case of your family, theirs as well!) depends on the success of your home business. The fact that your business is in your home doesn't make it any less of a business. Explain that if you give away your product or a service that you want others to pay for, you won't stay in business for very long.