Setting Boundaries If You Work from Home

Updated on December 12, 2012
L.T. asks from Houston, TX
20 answers

If you work from home how do you let others know your boundaries? I'm especially talking about phone calls and when you don't have time to talk? I'm self-emplyed as a freelance writer/blogger but I do have deadlines that I need to meet for clients I work with and my own content, marketing, social media, etc. Sometimes people don't understand that because my schedule is otherwise pretty flexible and I do volunteer at my kids's school, etc. so I am "around." Some people just don't take me seriously it seems.

The worst offender is my mom! Ugh! I have told her the best times to call me is before noon (the earlier the better) and she almost ALWAYS does not call then. As a matter of fact, she almost always calls right before my kids are getting home from school and I'm working on some things to wrap up my work day. She knows she's calling right then b/c she will say "I know the kids will be home shortly so I thought I would call".

I've asked her to just email me if it's after a certain time b/c I'm trying to observe office hours but she'll just say "well call me later then" which might not mean until 9 at night and by then I'm tired! I know this is probably generational in some part for her at least and I'm getting the idea she is not a morning person while I am, but I feel like my attempt to set up office hours is not working. The problem is I have tried to ignore the calls and just let it go to voicemail but eventually I need to get back to her (or anyone) of course! As a side note, my mom will rarely call me on my cell phone even though I spend a lot of time waiting for kids at practices, etc. in the afternoons/evenings. She is afraid I will pick up the call when I'm driving (which I rarely ever do in general) and doesn't want me to do that--like she doesn't trust me to make a decision like that. Most of my friends know they can reach me on my cell phone if they don't reach me at home so that works there at least.

Any advice from others who work from home?

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Featured Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

With me, it's my adult daughter who's doing the calling, and Skyping. I just don't answer unless I have time to talk.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

If my Mom calls, I'll let her know right away that I have a conference call coming up in 15 min.
Sometimes she'll call when I'm on the phone already, but she'll leave a message and I'll get back to her later.
She knows work is important so she never gives me a problem about it.

More Answers



answers from New York on

Don't pick up the phone when she calls. Then when you have free time, call her on your cell. She will eventually get the hint. Or not - you are working. Do what you have to do.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Just let the calls go to voicemail and call back when you're waiting at practices, etc. If you take personal calls during work hours at home, it sends the message that it's ok.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you stop talking to her except during your preferred calling times, then she will eventually get it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Don't answer and then return the call during the times you want her to call you. The phone does work both ways all day and all night!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I don't think it actually matters whether you work at home or in the office people will call you during work hours.

I say this because it seems you are so into making office hours, office time you are forgetting what a real office is like.

When someone calls me here I answer if I can, if I can't I get back to them as soon as I can. If it seems like the call is going to be long I say I will call you back at this time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Wow L., you are quite adept at over analyzing...and in an interesting to read sort of way.

Hon, stop feeling guilty about your work hours. They are what they are and need to be.

I work from home on a very small scale and my VM works great! I won't answer if I'm in the middle of something. Even if it's my husband. He can leave a message if I'm occupied. If it's important, I'll pick up.

So, the answer, screen your calls. Take the ones that you can. Return the others. Just like any office.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I assume you have caller ID, so you know who's calling before you answer?
Just don't answer the phone while you're working, let it go to voice mail and call people back when you have time.
If you want people to take you seriously, then do what all working people do, whether it's from home or an office: return phone calls when your work schedule allows for it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

L., I don't work from home, so I can't answer that question. However, I do have the same experience with my mom from a long time ago. What I recommend is that you just don't pick up the phone after noon. Ignore that she has called after that (as if you didn't know she had called.) You have caller ID - you know it's her. Call her when it is convenient for you, like when you are waiting for your kids' practices. I promise you that if you NEVER pick up the phone after 12:00, she will start calling you before that. You have to kind of "train" her by never picking up the phone during the hours you have told her not to call.

I'd also devote about 20 minutes of each day to return phone calls of other people who have called during your work time.

You cannot control your mom's phone habits. You can only react to them.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would simply turn off the ringer to the phone and let it go to voice mail with the following message:

"Hi, this is L., as you know I work from home. My office hours are from XXam until XXpm daily on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I do not accept phone calls during this time.

Please leave a message and I will return your calls between the hours of XXpm and XXpm tonight or in the morning between the hours of Xam and Xam. That is when I am available to receive calls on my non work phone.

Thank you for calling."

Then stick to it. Of course the kids need to know how to get through if there is an emergency but I would only let them have a certain number and no one else. That way it would not become another issue that mom and friends just see as another way to call you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

When I am busy (homeschooling takes up my morning and early afternoon), I just don't answer the phone. I'll return calls after we're done with school, unless it's a call I need to get right away that will only take a minute, I'll go ahead and grab it.

I need your job, btw. Don't know if you saw my question a few minutes ago, but I just took about an 80% pay cut on my paper routes and I only do that because I need to stay at home...for many reasons... :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I work from home running the financial end of our company.

I do not have a set schedule because I am my own boss so I know my deadlines, etc and I only answer to myself.

However, when I am in the midst of running reports, invoicing, payroll, AP, IRS, dealing with inventory and scheduling trucking companies, etc... I do not answer the phone (or emails) because it is critical that I do not make a mistake or I could cost our company (my family) thousands of dollars.

I know where you come from when people don't understand. I volunteer a lot at the school and I have been a substitute for over 10 yrs. We do believe in multiple income streams and my subbing can bring in an extra $200-$1000 a month depending on how many days I wil commit to teach. I tend to keep my days at minimal because I am on deadlines with my business. Some teachers do not understand when I have to decline because they think.. I just stay home of do office work.. or if I decline because hubby is on the road... If only it were that simple... When I have previously committed to sub and hubby ends up going out of town, I lose money because I have to hire a pet sitter to come in for my dogs while I am gone.

It is sometimes hard to balance and I know people don't always understand but stand by your routines and people will eventually "get it".



answers from Houston on

Maybe your business could pay for a business phone. Set that to a certain ring tone and your personal phone to another. Answer business calls during your work hours and personal calls during your non-working time. That would make a very clear boundary for you and everyone who calls you will adjust. You can record your vm greeting to indicate when you are available to answer that particular line and what your time frame is for returning calls.



answers from Houston on

Ignore her calls when she's calling during your office hours and call her from your cell when you're waiting around!!!



answers from Victoria on

you cant adjust her but you can adjust you. wrap up before you usually wrap up and get yourself started sooner.

but this is totally not what i do. i work from home and i check who is calling and put the phone right back down if its not work related. ppl get it and dont all any more. i have to call ppl in the evenings when they dont want to talk because its not durring the day on there lunch break or day off. i would do the same if i had a home phone. do you have an answering machine? leave a message along the lines " i am finishing dead lines and things are very busy if its an emergency leave a message, if its work leave a call back number other wise i will call you once i have a moment."
But with your mom i would allow her to call you right before the kids get home. She wont always be here and there will be a time you will really want to hear her voice.
As far as being your own boss ppl really dont get it. They think its heaven you get to set your own hrs, wear what you want. My aunt was not in the office and it was already 11am. I asked and the employees said if I owned my own business I wouldnt come in at all. I am a one man show here and I have to work. Its all on me. PPL dont get that you still have to earn money and often its harder/stressful to be your own boss. She will get that you cant talk if you dont answer.



answers from Appleton on

I get it --- but my Mom never did either. My Mom's dream job was to be the world's greatest secretary so in her opinion I never had a 'real job'.

Tell her she can you during office hours if there is an emergency and an emergency constitutes smoke and or blood and a lot of it.



answers from Waco on

This is not a "work from home" problem. It wouldn't matter if you worked in a traditional office setting, from home, were a SAHM, etc. This is just a plain old boundaries problem. Just don't answer the phone. Let it go to voicemail. Eventually she will figure it out. Unless it is an emergency, stick to the schedule that works best for you. I'm guessing your mom is probably retired and has a lot of free time on her hands. You don't have that luxury so you need to set a schedule that is going to work best for you. Don't feel guilty about that.



answers from Portland on

I work from home too. What has helped me is to be proactive with my mom and others. If I call her every few days when it is convenient for me, then I get less calls during work hours. I still get them though, because things come up, so I try to let those go to vm and then call back. If I pick up, it's hard for both of us to keep it short. She's fun to talk to.

As far as volunteering and other things. I do try to say yes to a few things a month at school. However, I am very strict about what those are and make sure they don't cut into work time. Friends understand, and I do take time off to do some fun things during the day here and there. It's a little challenging, because I always have to make up the time. The flexibility is worth it though!



answers from San Francisco on

I sent out an email to all of my family and friends. I told them that I would no longer be able to answer calls between 7-3pm. If its an emergency, I would call back as soon as possible. But any other calls would be answered after 3pm. Then I stuck to it. It was hard, but people eventually remembered that not only would I not answer my phone, I wouldn't call them back for a few days if they called me when I working.

Then if something is really important--when I have lunch, I would call someone back and immediately say I have five minutes to discuss. Then I have to get back to work--

For your mom- Tell her that the afternoon/evening is a good time to call between 5-7 or whatever it is. Then she can call during that time and if you are driving, you can call her back. :) Tell her to not call your house phone only your cell from now on.

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