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February 24, 2011
Work-Life Balance for the Home Office
 
Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. At TEDxSydney, Marsh talked about an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time, and productivity. This delicate equilibrium is such a difficult task that working from home has become a popular choice—one that I have made. Being able to maximize my family time was a strong incentive for me, as I was looking to feel fulfilled by my loved ones AND my career. Working from home can spell failure, however. You need to be able to walk a fine line to ensure that you have time for your family alongside running a successful business in your home.
 
Everyone I asked about balancing work and family says that they make family the number-one priority for established times of the day (and, of course, for emergencies). This is true for work-from-home folks as well as those who go into the office. Just as you would schedule an appointment with a client, you must set aside time for your family. When you work in an office you’re already doing this. You "schedule" in your family for the hours of the day you’re not at work. The same should be true when you work from home. Now, this is tremendously easier when the kids are at school most of the day, but it can become almost impossible when they’re home. When your family sees you at home, they naturally assume you’re available for whatever they might need. I’ve been interrupted four times already since I started writing this article.
 
The other extreme is also true, though. When a project is due, you’ll sometimes have to work all hours and cut into your family time. You just have to make sure that “sometimes” doesn’t turn into “often.” You need your family and they need you.
 
Carving eight uninterrupted hours of work time out of your busy household schedule is pretty impossible when you work from home. I do well with sectioning out the day in blocks of work, housework, and family time—throughout the WHOLE day. I find that I can’t get much done until I do some housework to clear my head. My OCD really just takes over in that case. I also enlist help from hubby and the kids.
 
I had to sit down with my children to discuss why I started working from home, emphasizing the importance of being able to get my work done—I was providing food, a roof over their heads, toys! I tried to explain to them the benefits to them of my working at home. For instance, if I am home when they return from school, I have more time to spend with them because I don’t have to commute, and I’m available to go to many of their school functions. My oldest would prefer to have to ride the bus and go to after-school care; hopefully she’ll be grateful when she grows up!
 
Achieving work-life balance is not easy whether your office is in the home or an hour away. A supportive family (or circle of friends) helps either way, and you CAN get close to achieving equilibrium on most days.

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Larissa Harris is a graphic designer, Web developer, and social media marketer. Read her blog, LarissaHarris.com; "like" her Facebook page; or follow her on Twitter
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