HB.COM - Home Business info and guide 


Separating Business from Family Life

When running a home business, it's all too easy for work and home life to be blurred. It can feel like one is working all the time, or one can be distracted by all the various interruptions that arise from family. It's difficult to multitask effectively. Instead one often ends up doing each simultaneous task worse than if one focused on each, keeping them separate. By creating distinct boundaries between work and home life, you can be more productive, maintain a more professional image, and be less stressed. Some ways to achieve this include:

  1. Dress for Success: It's very tempting to stay in your pajamas all day when working from home. While that's very comfortable, it might send a message (even subconsciously to yourself) that you're not a "real" business, but that you're just engaged in a hobby. Superman, Spider-Man, police, doctors, and lawyers all have one thing in common, namely that they put on a uniform when they go to work. For Superman, that uniform includes a cape and a big "S" on his chest. For a doctor, it is a white coat. For a lawyer, it will typically be a business suit or something even more formal in court, and so on for every other profession. As a professional, decide upon what your uniform will be, and wear it when you are at work, even if the location of your business is within the home. It can even be a special pair of pajamas, as long as it's distinct from the pair one wears the rest of the time at home. Subconsciously, once the uniform is on, one can say to oneself "I'm now working."
  2. Location, Location, Location: Keep a separate location within the home for work activities, and equip it accordingly. This might be a spare room, an attic, a basement or even a corner of the living room. Just like the uniform, one can say to oneself (and the rest of your family) "I'm at work." There might be tax advantages to doing this (consult your accountant to be sure), as the tax authorities often let one expense reasonable home expenses (electricity, heating, etc.) in proportion to the physical space of the home office (so, a 150 square foot home office in a 1000 square foot home might allow 15% of expenses to be deducted). If there's not enough space for a distinct home office, it's ok to repurpose a kitchen or dining room table. However, when "work" is done everything should go into a box or other storage, so that you can clearly separate work from home life.
  3. Structure the Day with a Timetable: An unstructured day means that you are simply reacting to the events and world around you. Instead, you want to have a plan, to set the agenda for what you want to achieve each and every day. When one was in school or working for someone else, that timetable was set by a higher power. As the boss, one has to set a timetable for oneself. One should stick to a disciplined schedule (e.g. 9 to 5), although one can and should leave time for breaks or to handle household tasks.
  4. Communication: You should separate personal communication from business communications. This means a different email address for work, preferably on your own domain name. It should also mean a different telephone number, so that you can separate personal calls from business-related ones. This can be accomplished either through an additional phone line, or by adding a separate phone number to an existing line that rings distinctively (in Canada, Bell offers "Ident-A-Call", and other phone providers like Skype, Vonage, etc. have a similar feature under different names). A P.O. Box for business mail might also be appropriate, depending on the volume of mail you expect to receive. An answering machine or voicemail for business calls means you can go on with your personal life when outside of "business hours", and allow the caller to simply leave you a message.