It’s the school holidays and my parents have been visiting. It honestly is great to be able to spend time with them, but my brain does that background nagging thing because I know I should be getting more work done.
Juggling working at home with house guests isn’t a hurdle I’d ever given much thought to when I was setting up my business, but it’s definitely one of the trickiest. Sometimes it just isn’t as simple as taking time off – I mean, if we all took time off every time someone else was on holiday, would anything ever get done?
So, in the interest of being a productive business owner AND an angel of a daughter, I decided to trawl the internet for tips and tricks for balancing productivity with guests, plus asked other work-from-home business owners, “How the heck do you do it??”.
What does the internet suggest are the key strategies?
Give them a heads up!
Lifestyle Blog Thavin & Marcob points out that if the guest doesn’t understand, they’re likely to assume you’re available just because you’re at home!
BEFORE your house guest pays a visit, make sure that you explain that you work from home and so will still need to get work done. Provide an overview of your schedule during their visit so that there is a clear understanding and activities can be planned around it!
The schedule may not necessarily be your standard one – balance means compromise and practicality on both sides. Allow enough time, at least, for work essentials to be done and to have time with your guests.
Stick to the schedule you have set to maximise productivity and, during those working hours, encourage your guest to get out and enjoy themselves!
Establish ground rules and designated work spaces.
Small business authors Paul and Sarah Edwards advise that you need set ground rules, including out of bounds work areas for the guests.
There are plenty of work-at-home business owners that run their business from their dining table. You do what you can with what you’ve got to make it work!
This might not necessarily work as well when there are house guests, though. Having clear boundaries can reinforce the understanding that you need to get work done. You may need to set up a work area somewhere outside the main area of your home as a temporary measure – even if it’s a small table and chair in your bedroom!
It’s not always going to be convenient, but chances are you’ll get more done than you would when surrounded by other people who are keen to socialise!
Plan and be organised.
Scheduling might sound like it might take the fun out of holidays but The Work At Home Woman says planning and organising is key to making this situation work..
You don’t need to plan every tiny detail of a day. Rather than wrestle with the unknown, work your schedule into the KNOWN variables of the visit:
- If they can’t reschedule their visit to better suit your own calendar, start planning your time early and prepare customers for any upcoming downtime;
- Schedule work for times when your guests are most likely to sleep, rest and have downtime;
- Be prepared and maximise your time – before the visit, plan meals and buy all the groceries you need. The more time you spend dashing out for groceries, the less time is available to divide between work and guests;
- Grab pamphlets from the information centre for your guests to give them ideas for things to do during your working hours;
- Make books, movies, board games and other activities readily available to your guests so they’ll always have something to do.
Know when to say no.
We rarely want to say no to a visitor and sometimes we just don’t have the luxury anyway, but practicality needs to prevail where it can.
If your guests give you a chance to have input into the date of their visit, take the opportunity to offer alternative dates or a list of “dates to avoid”, where you absolutely cannot make time for guests.
Your business, whether it’s in a multi-million-dollar skyscraper or at your four seater dining table, is a REAL business and often your main source of income. Your guests need to respect and understand that sometimes, just as they can’t take time off work, neither can you.
So, how do small business owners do it, then?
I chatted to a bunch of Australian small business owners about how they handle visitors when they are working from home and was delighted to find that their experiences and tips agree with advice:
- Plan and organise your time;
- Develop your strategy;
- Know when to say no!
Here are some of their tips, strategies, and tales:
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