Organizing, Redesign & Staging

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Managing Office Time at Home

In this day and age when family members are working from home, being their own boss, or families are incorporating less traditional work situations into their home life, it is helpful to examine home office dynamics. It can be tough balancing work from home -- I often find it a challenge to make client phone calls when I have two little ones who may burst on the scene at any moment. My husband, who also does work at home, finds it hard when his mindset is on job-related tasks but kids, laundry, phone calls and the like are buzzing all around.

Here are some tips to manage office time and effectively limit interruptions (adapted from

1. Set office hours and stick to them. Post this list on your fridge or bulletin board where your family can see it and remind yourself to close up shop at the appointed hour. Focus on work during office hours and 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.

2. Close the door and 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 and 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 and 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.