When Your Family and Friends Think ‘Working From Home’ Equals Twiddling Your Thumbs

Posted on Monday, October 12, 2020 by The Office Zen MasterNo comments

If you’ve face-palmed in exasperation as you’ve explained to your parents, yet again, that working from home does genuinely mean you’re busy, you’re far from alone. For many of you doing office and PA jobs in your bedroom, it’s a tall order getting family and friends to accept that working from home still equals being at work. You aren’t free for a coffee, a leisurely phone call, or to run an errand or ten.

The problem

A recent discussion on Mumsnet highlighted just how tricky this situation is for many. It’s bad enough for those ‘simply’ trying to work from home. Add childcare to the mix and it becomes a desperate situation.

It’s common for family members and friends to think that working from home is the same as being at home in your free time. They just don’t grasp that you’re working. Indeed, you may be working more, and even at unusual times, in order to get everything done.

The solution

It may be one of the more frustrating problems that come with working from home, but with a little strategy and planning, you can educate those who interrupt your working day.

  • Stop making concessions: The simplest and easiest way to get the message across is to stop contorting yourself into all sorts of shapes to meet others’ expectations. If you manage to meet them for a coffee one week (even if that means burning the midnight oil to catch up your hours), they’ll assume you always can, so don’t! Stick firm with your work commitments. Even if they turn up on your doorstep, let them in and let them witness first hand what working from home actually means.
  • Explain modern working: Sometimes, the problems arise because working methods are now so different from how they were even just a few years ago. Technology has enabled working from home on a vast scale. Explain what you do and how it can be done from home.
  • Don’t respond: Tell repeat offenders that you cannot be interrupted during work hours, then follow through. Refuse to answer the door (mime talking on a headset if they can see you through the window!) and don’t answer the phone to them.
  • Lay it on thick: If you’re still working at 10 pm because someone took advantage of you working from home, let them know the consequences it has had for you. Tell them that you’ll now have to work in the evening, and let them grasp the effect their interruption has had.
  • Be firm: Don’t cave. If you do, it shows that you can. Instead, end calls with “I have to go, I’m working and only answered in case it was an emergency.” If they ask to come over, firmly say something like “You can come then, but you’ll have to entertain yourself as I’m working until five.”
  • Bend the truth: If you’re met with certain characters who stubbornly refuse to “get it”, then it may be necessary to give the impression that you’re working in an office, away from home. Another alternative is to call on a friendly colleague to stage an intervention. When you know your relative is coming round, suddenly have a fake video call and get your colleague to make it clear that the person is encroaching on work time.

Working from home is a frustrating situation for everyone, whether in permanent or temporary jobs. Try one of the techniques above and hopefully, you’ll be able to set healthy boundaries.


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