Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Setting Boundaries a Crucial Step for the Work at Home Mom

Guest Post by Michelle Jamison

It’s not surprising to know that among the self-employed in Canada, women are more likely to work from home than men.* It’s also not surprising that a number of self-employed women work from home due to family related reasons. Those reasons include caring for children, caring for other family members or other family responsibilities.

As one such self-employed woman, this is the primary reason why I began working from home and establishing a service based business. The idea of being available to my children, while still contributing to the household income was the ideal scenario for me.

Although the ideal scenario, picture perfect it is not. Working from my virtual office at home and catering to the needs of my children is often like walking the fine line of a tightrope. One wrong step, and the balancing act comes to an abrupt end.

Along with the tight schedules, client phone calls and an array of projects comes preparing meals, getting children dressed and planning daily activities to keep my child occupied for a few hours to ensure my day is productive.

It’s not an easy feat, but over the past 12 years of working from home I’ve been relentless on finding ways to co-exist, and manage the balancing act of family vs. work demands. I now teach others how they too can manage their virtual office.

A vital component to the balancing act is awareness. It’s about understanding that in order to be successful in a virtual office, you need to make good decisions, set boundaries, be passionate about what you do and take very good care of yourself. It’s not only understanding this but being aware of how each of these relate to you as a virtual office worker.

One of the most important elements for any virtual office (and the sanity of the virtual office worker) is to establish boundaries. Boundaries are the limits we set and define what is acceptable and unacceptable in our personal and professional lives.

Setting boundaries for the virtual office encompasses:

Individual Boundaries. The division between ourselves and the individuals we live with (family, friends) and work with (clients, colleagues).

Physical Boundaries. The physical separation of home and work space.

Time Boundaries. The time commitment to work, family and yourself.

Each of these will need to be addressed in order to ensure you continue to steadily walk that tightrope. Without boundaries it becomes much more difficult to find the balance needed in the virtual office.

Keeping in mind that setting boundaries will not work solely on its own, you must also communicate and enforce those boundaries in order for them to be successful.

Boundaries are just one consideration of many when working from home. It is, however, one step you can implement right away to ensure a happy co-existence between work vs. family demands.

After all, we made the choice to work from home for a reason. Let’s make it a successful one.

[*Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue no.11-008-X, Canadian Social Trends, Working at Home: an update, Dec. 7, 2010]

About the Author: Michelle Jamison is a Virtual Assistant, Coach, Speaker, College Instructor, and Author. Her latest book, Virtu@l Office Essentials, provides virtual office workers with solid strategies to ensure a successful virtual work environment. http://www.virtual-office-essentials.com

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