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Starting a Business

The Dark Side

Prepare yourself for being homebased by understanding the downside.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneurs StartUps Magazine. Subscribe »

QUESTION: I hear a lot about the advantages of working at home. What are some of the disadvantages--and how can I deal with them?

ANSWER: Over time, we've kept track of the problems people have written to us about and combined those with survey results. Based on this information, here are the top 10 problems of working at home:

1. Separation of work and family life, both in relation to space and time
2. Not enough space
3. Not being taken seriously
4. Distractions
5. Lack of privacy
6. Strain on family relationships
7. Tendency to work too much
8. Feelings of isolation
9. Poor self-management or self-discipline
10. Zoning; home- or condominium-association regulations

You'll notice half these problems involve mixing--or not mixing--work with home life. Personally, we've found the solution to most of these problems is creating a physically separate space for our office, usually a separate room. When that wasn't possible, we used a screen or other means to separate work space within a room from personal areas. Paul wrote his sections of the first edition of Working From Home from a divided living room. But when we recently conducted a national survey with Lisa Roberts for our book, The Entrepreneurial Parent, to our surprise, we found more than half the people working from home prefer to mix or integrate their work space with their nonwork lives. We call such people "Integrators," and they outnumber the "Segregators," like ourselves, 55 to 33 percent.

Work-at-home Integrators thrive on meshing their business, child-care and household tasks. They work in multiple rooms of their homes and keep flexible hours. Segregators, on the other hand, thrive when the business and personal facets of their lives are separated physically, intellectually and by the clock. Either type can work successfully with a homebased business. The important thing is to determine whether you're an Integrator or a Segregator, and structure your time and your space accordingly.

Segregators need to set up a dedicated home office away from the main traffic flow of the house. Having fixed business hours also makes sense, as does getting other family members to agree to help you keep them. Even Integrators should establish one desk at which they do most of their work, and designate other spaces in the home for additional work. This helps you keep your papers in dedicated spots so your business doesn't take over your entire house.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is Why Aren't You Your Own Boss? Leaping Over the Obstacles That Stand Between You and Your Dream. Send questions to them at

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