When people ask me if it’s possible to run a successful, 6-figure business completely online from my own home, my answer is always:
I mean, who doesn’t want to work in their PJ’s every morning, and hustle from their home office? No makeup and commute required: can I get a hallelujah?
But working from home also has its downsides, and all too often, the work-home-family balance line is blurred. Some days, it will be impossible to hold a discovery call with an important client, because your 2 year old is home from daycare and smearing Nutella all over the computer. Or you’re annoyingly unfocused because of the huge pile of laundry staring angrily at you from the basket.
My core team consists of 3 amazing women who all work remotely from their homes, and all three have very different challenges finding their ideal balance. When I first started my online business, my desk was 100% in my bedroom. I had to hold evening meetings with clients on my patio in the middle of winter to keep from waking up my kids.
So how do you learn to establish that elusive work-life balance when you work where you eat, sleep, foster family life, and drink wine at the end of a cray day?
Work happens upstairs, and life happens downstairs
Now that we’ve upgraded to a bigger, family-sized house, my home office is on the upper level of our house which makes it easier for me to draw a physical line between work and life. Work happens upstairs, and life happens downstairs. But sometimes, it’s creating that mental barrier between work and life that’s more important than dedicated office space.
Since I spend so much time at my desk during work hours, I’ve found the only planner that works for me is my trusty Google Calendar. And I don’t just use it to organize client meetings. I use it to schedule afternoons off with my kids, lunches with friends, and other personal appointments. When I spend time with my kids, I commit to being 100% present and engaged. I often feel pangs of guilt when I’m not available to my clients, but being completely present when I spend time with my kids nips those feelings in the bud.
Working from home is often a question of adaptation
For Emily, coming directly from a fast-paced office environment, it was a question of adaptation when she first started working from home. Adaptation within her own state of mind, and interestingly, adaptation for her husband too! They were both used to arriving home from the office around the same time every evening — it was clear that work was over for the day, and they could kick back immediately. But once she started working from home, the end of her work day varied heavily and she was often still working when he arrived home.
In his mind, she was home. In her mind, she was still at work. Expectations changed and they both needed to adapt to Emily’s new status. It was only through compromise that they made it work, and they both enjoy the fact that her commute from the office to their dinner table is literally three seconds long!
Strict work-from-home ground rules are essential
Galia is a student studying for her MBA as well as working as an online business manager from home. Galia’s office is her computer, which goes everywhere with her –but it became a distraction during class. She would regularly check her client’s Facebook ads, grinning over how many conversions they got, when she realized she was totally losing focus in class.
Now Galia has set some strict ground rules for herself and makes sure that when she’s in class, she only checks into her “office” during breaks, and when she is working, she ensures her homework gets done beforehand. And if there’s a time she has to be offline and studying the entire day, she prepares ahead. Galia assigns tasks to other team members and delegates so that work on client projects keeps moving while she’s away.
Flexibility to work around unforeseeable situations
Jo juggles two small children with her work, which presents its own challenges as she finds it too easy to get sucked into their lives rather than putting aside time for herself to work in peace and without distractions. By marking off four solid work hours in the morning, Jo knows during that time, the house is quiet, the kids are in daycare or school, and she can both enjoy a hot cup of coffee – and the space to give her full attention to work. Jo says the very best thing about working from home is having flexibility to work around unforeseeable situations.
So, if a kid is home sick in the morning, she waits until the evening to get her work done – and with real-time communication platforms and clear, designated tasks, Jo can easily be in touch with the rest of the team so they know what’s what.
Now over to you: What are your strategies for maintaining a healthy work-from-home balance? How do you ensure you get the quiet space (both physically and mentally) to focus without an external office or team around you?
Sarah Noked is an MBA graduate, Certified Online Business Manager and Digital Marketing Strategist with more than 10 years’ business experience. Sarah and her OBM team help clients stay on track through project, team, and launch management. In turn, her clients gain the much needed time to focus on their big picture, revenue-generating ideas. When Sarah’s not working on her own OBM business she is working with other OBMs and VAs looking to scale and grow profitable teams and businesses. As a Certified OBM Trainer, Sarah trains and certifies her fellow OBMs in the online business industry. Connect with @SarahNoked on Twitter.