Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Handling Houseguests in Your Home Office

Set some basic rules for your guests and yourself, and your out-of-town visitors will enjoy their visit, while you still get your work done.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q:How can I enjoy having houseguests with a homebased business? How do I keep running a business in a productive way without alienating my visitors?

A: As a homebased business owner, you have to worry about something that other hosts and hostesses do not: having houseguests in your office. If you follow these guidelines, however, the visit will go smoothly, and you can all be happy:

1. Evaluate if it can work. If you are squeezed for space in your home office, do you want guests, or is having them more a "duty" than a "pleasure"? If you have three children under 5 and operate a family day-care center in your home, can you enjoy houseguests, and can they enjoy themselves? If you use your spare bedroom to give private music lessons with students during the day and evening, do you really want to try squeezing guests into such a schedule?

You are not a rotten friend or relative if you don't open your home office to guests. Under any of these circumstances, your guests and you will be happier if you provide them with a room in a nearby hotel. Thoughtful and caring friends and relatives will understand. No considerate guest wants to be a burden or a disruption.

2. Enjoying houseguests is a matter of timing. Look at your calendar. What work is scheduled for the time period involved? If you're too busy to spend time with your friends or family, it will be hard to enjoy their visit and keep your business up and running at the same time. For example, if you're in the gift basket business, having guests during the holiday season could be a setup for disaster. If you're a tax preparer, Easter houseguests may be totally unworkable. The more you can clear your calendar, the greater the chances of enjoying your guests.

3. Establish ground rules. Walk mentally through the anticipated visit, and imagine every possible scenario, from your mother wandering into a client meeting in her swimsuit to your nephew practicing his electric guitar in the living room while you're on the phone. Will there be certain areas of the house that will need to be off-limits? Are there telephone lines you won't want anyone using? Will sleeping guests keep you from getting to your computer? Will there be times of the week that you will not be available? Are there times the car will not be available? What limitations will you need to set up to make sure your business can continue to function adequately? Spell out all expectations clearly in advance, letting your guests know you have a home business.

Paul and Sarah Edwards are the authors of several homebased business books, includingWorking From Home. Their latest book isWhy Aren't You Your Own Boss?