Childproofing Your Home Office

Junior High and Beyond

As your children get older, the areas that you need to limit in your home office may change. Jean Bedord, the founder of Cupertino, California-based eContent Strategies, a consulting business specializing in online content, found this out as her son became a preteen. When Brian, now age 11, was younger, Bedord had no problems with the limitations imposed by only two telephone lines (one voice and one Internet access/fax). From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jean answered the phone in her business persona ("Hello, this is Jean Bedord"); after 5 p.m., she simply answered "Hello."

As her son become older, however, he began answering the phone as well, thinking it might be one of his friends. "Somehow, this kid's voice at the other end of the line didn't project the right professional image," admits Bedord. To handle that issue, the family now has four lines: a home telephone, Bedord's business telephone (which rings only in her office), her husband's business phone (which rings only in his office) and their shared fax/Internet access line. Brian, however, still had to learn that he had to keep his voice down when Mom was on the phone.

Bedord also discovered, as her son grew older, that sharing a computer doesn't work. "My son absolutely loves computer games," says Bedord. "Unfortunately, they interfere with business software and crash machines, plus he would love to camp on the computer for hours at a time." To avoid that conflict, their home now houses three computers.

Space allocation has also been problematic. When Bedord changed from corporate life to entrepreneurial, homebased work, she needed a dedicated office which contained only her business stuff. "I'm trying to keep the 'family stuff' segregated," says Bedord. The family has accomplished this by setting up game consoles in Bedord's son's room, having a separate office for her husband, and keeping the family room clear of computers and electronic games.

Bedord admits that it's an ongoing battle to stay organized. "But at least now I can shut the door," she says, "instead of looking at my office during family time."

Quick Tips

Tell your children they aren't to answer the business phone (a separate line, of course) under any circumstances.
If possible, have separate PCs for the family and for your business. If that's not possible, establish specific, after-business-hours times your children can use your PC.
Install protective software like Net Nanny or point them to kid-friendly Web portals like ALFY. Check out ALFY's safety section for helpful suggestions about protecting your children while they're Web surfing.

Joanne Eglash is the author of How to Write a .Com Business Plan: The Internet Entrepreneur's Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Business Plans and Financing Options.

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