The following is a guest post by Patricia Garza. If you would like to write for this blog, please check out the guidelines here.
If you’ve worked at home at any point in your life, then you are probably overly familiar with the your-friends-and-family-don’t-take-you-seriously phenomenon. It seems as though no matter how long I worked from home, nor how much money I made, my loved ones always thought I was somehow unemployed, a bum, and couldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, working from home and earning a comfortable income is still a rarity, but it is such a rarity that I can almost understand why it is looked down upon to not have a 9-to-5 fixed work schedule in an office. The worst part of your social circle not taking you seriously is that they won’t leave you alone. Here are a few ways to deal with problems with this phenomenon that I have just described:
1. Establish an Office-Looking Home Office
One reason that my family and friends did not take my job seriously was because I did not have an office space per se. My office was usually my bed or my couch, and when I decided to finally clear my tiny desk of soda cans and scraps of paper, I’d occasionally work there. The best thing I did for both my productivity and for my reputation among friends and family was to set up a separate room in my home that looked exactly an office in a real office building. I had the big swivel desk chair, the plant on my desk, a stack of business cards held by a card holder, and even a name plate on my desk. Of course, the name plate was more of a gag, but you get the picture.
2. Set Up an Answering Machine or Voicemail that Sounds Professional
Since you work from home, there will inevitably be times when you receive phone calls in your “office” that are not of a personal rather than a professional nature. I began by taking these calls, but eventually I stopped. If it were really important, they would leave a message on my voice mail, the recording of which was me in my most professional-sounding voice. If it isn’t an emergency, do not call back until your work is finished.
3. Set a Strict Lunch Hour
Long and erratic lunches are usually a luxury reserved for us work-at-homers. But when your friends and family find out this little secret, especially stay-at-home moms and retired folks, they will want to bug you for coffee and lunch dates throughout the day. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a nice break ever so often, but it is a better idea, for both your productivity and your sense of professionalism, that you set a lunch hour, say from 12 to 1, and you stick to it. If you go a little over or under, that’s fine, but if you leave yourself open to friends and family taking advantage of your work time, you can kiss your productivity goodbye.
4. Say No To Errands
Since most of the world does not work at home, these poor creatures do not have much time to run those pesky, afternoon errands until the weekend rolls around. While you can pick up your dry-cleaning whenever you feel like it, you can get that grocery shopping trip during low-traffic times, your office counterparts must rush home after work to get these tasks done, or else wait. Once your friends and family find out that you can run errands, believe me, you will become a veritable errand boy or girl. Although at first I was more than happy to help, after awhile I was not getting anything done. Now, I take others’ errands on a case-by-case basis. How long will it take? How important is it? Can it be accomplished before or after the hours I usually work. Of course, this means that you will have to learn to say no, which took me quite some time and effort.
Of course, this list may seem a bit harsh, considering you want to do spend as much time with loved ones as possible, and you want to be able to help them when you can. After all, that’s why many of us decided to ditch the office environment and work from home, right? At the same time, however, establishing flexible rules with your social circle will help enormously in so many aspects of your work and social life. Your friends might even begin thinking you have a real job.
About the Author:
Patricia Garza writes about gadget, technology, design, social media, and e-learning related articles at online university rankings.