9 Best Practices for Home-Based Web Workers

When you work from home, it can be difficult to keep work and personal life from blending into one big mess. Work demands bleed into every waking hour. Friends and family, assuming you’re not really busy, invite you out to lunch or ask you to help with daytime errands.

SmartMoney talked to a few long-time home-based entrepreneurs to find out what rules and guidelines they’ve developed to draw a line between work and personal life. But do these rules apply to web workers?

I’ve listed the tips here with my own commentary about how this might work for web workers. Share your own ideas in the comments.

1. Keep regular hours.

WWD says: This is difficult for the web-based worker since even during nonwork hours we may be using the computer to keep in touch with friends, play games, and manage our personal lives. I find my work so inspiring and stimulating that it’s a struggle to step away. Besides, my work and family schedules change so often that this just doesn’t seem feasible.

Do you limit your work to certain times?

2. Arrange for a second phone line or number.

WWD says: Who uses the phone anymore? People contact me by email or IM. The few times I get phone calls I already know it’s coming because the person pinged me first by IM to see if I was available to talk. Many web workers can do without a business phone line.

3. Get ready for work by showering and dressing up for work as though you were going to the office.

WWD says: We’re all for cleaning yourself up to signal to yourself that you’re “on the job.” WWD contributor Sabra Aaron covered what not to wear for home-based workers on her personal blog. I agree with her that elastic-waist pants are out — as Jerry told George in an episode of Seinfeld:

You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world: I give up! I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.

4. Limit personal tasks during business hours.

WWD says: While this seems good in theory, I’ve yet to put it into practice. One of the main reasons I work from home is so I can get laundry done, pay the bills, and get the kids to and from school on my own schedule. What about you?

5. If you have kids, especially younger ones, consider hiring child care.

WWD says: Good idea. Or take lessons from WWD contributor Mike Gunderloy, father of four homeschooled children. Here are his humane ideas about working from home with kids around.

6. Adopt an exercise habit.

WWD says: Too much time at the computer makes Jack flabby and Jane tired. Ideally, choose a regimen that will counteract the back and muscle problems that plague web workers.

7. Tell friends and family you’re not available during the day.

WWD says: Agreed. Also, use your IM presence indicator to let them know when you’re available for a chat or needing a change of scenery. Sometimes a light lunch outside the house is just what we need to refresh before an afternoon of web surfing.

8. Work from a local cafe on occasion.

WWD says: Yes. Of course. Definitely. Why not.

9. Give yourself a couple years to figure out what works for you.

WWD says: We don’t leave the cubicle womb knowing how to manage our work life when it’s moved into our home. Don’t despair if you’re having trouble initially finding the right balance for you.

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