Organizing, Redesign & Staging

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Have a Home Office?

I wouldn't say that I have a separate 'home office', but I do work out of my home and it can, at times, present a challenge. (Like the time I was on the phone with a potential client, when my son was crying and then threw up on me while I was still talking on the phone. I cleaned him and I up, consoled him, and continued to finish the call). It is hard with little ones at home, but I have learned to keep kids and work separate as best as I can most of the time.

Here are some other home office tips (#1-4 are adapted from

  1. Set office hours & stick to them. Post this list where your family can see it & remind yourself to close up shop at the appointed hour. Focus on work during office hours & then transition into parent and/or spouse mode at the end of your day. Performing a simple ritual such as straightening your desk or making tomorrow's to-do list will help you move from worker to family member in a simple but effective way, even if your commute home is just from the desk or across the kitchen. (I wish my husband would have home 'office hrs' and stick to them -- it is hard when you have so much work to just stop, though).
  2. Close the door & walk away, or put up a decorative folding screen to block the view of works in progress. If you walk by your home office or desk piled high with reports, it's hard to focus on what your family needs from you. Although many of us can & do multi-task quite well, it's fairly impossible to concentrate on everything equally well. Mentally hang a CLOSED sign on your office door & resist the urge to reopen for "just one more thing."

  3. Establish boundaries including phone rules: create a "do not touch" pile or "do not enter" zone in your work area. Be sure to instruct children in the use of your office, such as what is usable & what is not allowed so that there are no misunderstandings. If you do not want anyone in your work area under any circumstances, then tell your family your wishes up front. Communicate rules such as: ‘no talking allowed…’, ‘use an inside voice…’, or ‘whisper… when mom is on the phone’, and screen calls during meltdowns or family time.

  4. Work with, not against, your kids' schedule by utilizing naptimes or when they are in school. If your children are young, work when they are napping or after they go to sleep at night. As they grow older, you can do a little work when they are having a snack at the table or occupied with a video. You will just get frustrated telling kids that “Mommy has to work!” when they really don’t understand the mode you need to be in.

  5. Use the same filing tips for your household paperwork as your business paperwork. Keep your files in a separate filing drawer or area to keep them separate from personal/home.

  6. Use a circle pattern to consider the ‘flow’ of papers/projects around the office/desk area. You move the work flow around its natural stages using a corner of a room or desk & shelves. For ex., the first “incoming” area could be orders being worked on or not finalized, people to call, incoming calls – so in this section you need the phone, blank notes, catalogs, customer list, anything you use to get orders. Then moving around, have an area of “To Order” section and the items you’d need for that, and then an “on order” section & an organizer for that. Set up an area for finished orders/parties and you’re back by your desk for a “completed” file.