At least you have the dog for company…Working from home full-time is mostly terrific. Until summer holidays arrive and extra noise, distractions, kids, and annoying animals create home-business hell. Knowing how to navigate the silly season and combine work and life is critical.
Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t swap working from home for an office life. And a house full of people and neighbours having parties over summer is hardly the worst problem. Also, plenty of office workers have to adjust their schedule for school holidays.
Still, it’s always hard for home-business owners when everybody else seems to be on holiday. We could join them, of course, but that’s not always possible for contractors and consultants who are often busiest in the lead-up to Christmas as they help short-staffed clients. And who only get paid when they work.
Heading into my ninth year as a home-business owner, I’ve learned there are ways to maintain productivity over the summer while taking advantage of the flexilbity of self-employment.
Here are eight tips to get you through the silly season. Home-based business owners should add their best tips to work over summer by commenting at the end of this blog.
1. A summer plan
The summer break can be upon busy home-based business owners before they realise it. Ideally, plan well in advance how you will work and have a break between Christmas and Australia Day. Don’t make my mistake of years past: jamming in meetings, interviews and other work at home when you unexpectedly have a house full of people.
2. Be realistic
I’ve long given up on asking kids to be quiet, or getting annoyed when there is excessive noise over summer. Don’t expect any favours as a home-based business owner. Work around others; don’t expect them to tone down their holiday while you work. The best part of working from home is having more time for family, so why try to avoid it?
3. Business development in December
If you have extra time, and no plans for a holiday, use December or January for business development. Clients can be more receptive to your pitches and idea, and may have extra time to meet over summer if work is quieter. Extra business-development work gets you out of the house and, if done well, gives your venture a flying start to the following year.
4. Go nocturnal
It works for me. Late nights can be highly productive when children are in bed and there is space to work on projects. More is done late at night in a few hours than in a full day when there are constant interruptions. Others prefer early starts. My point: be prepared to adjust your work schedule so you can fit around others over summer.
5. Find a second space
The best planning in the world won’t overcome a house full of visitors, unexpected noisy tradesmen, or neighbours throwing summer parties. Have a second workspace ready to go to, and a computing set-up that allows seamless movement between locations. It need not be expensive: the local library can double as a second workspace and plenty of university libraries are empty around this time. Consider shared office space that can be rented at short notice, or work at a friend’s office or home.
6. Set boundaries
Set clear boundaries so that friends and family know what to expect of you. Be clear when you are working and cannot be disturbed, and when you are more flexible with work time. You only have yourself to blame if people can’t tell if you are working or on holiday.
7. Work-free days
A temptation for home-based business owners is working part of each day over summer. Break your time into three categories: days with no work (such as Christmas to early January); days when you are more flexible on work; and days when it’s mostly work. Again, it’s all in the planning and communicating your schedule to others.
8. Noise-cancelling headphones
If all else fails, buy a good set of noise-cancelling headphones and get used to them. It’s the best $300 I spent this year. Double-glazed office windows are next on the agenda, but for now, these simple steps that should help maintain high productivity while having a great summer.
This is my last blog for 2014. Many thanks to all the readers who commented on The Venture. Your feedback, positive or negative, is always welcome. The Venture returns in early January.