Have you ever had unexpected guests show up on a day you need to work at home? It can really mess up your productivity. If you want people to take your work at home job or business seriously, you usually have to enforce your work hours strictly. But are there times you should give in and just be with your unexpected guests? That depends on a few factors.
I had this situation recently, although it was entirely my own doing. I ran into a friend at the store and invited her over spontaneously. She moved out of the area a while ago, so I very rarely see her. It was a snap decision to change my schedule so that we could catch up for a while.
That’s not always a good idea, but it worked for me this time. We had a great visit, and I worked extra another time. That’s the nice part about being self employed. I can get away with that. Not everyone can.
How Strict Is Your Work At Home Schedule?
If you work for someone else and you have a strict schedule, you probably cannot afford to let unexpected guests interfere with that. With some companies, it would mean risking your job. That’s almost never worth it.
If someone shows up wanting to visit and your schedule simply won’t allow it, say so or don’t even answer the door. No matter how some people may try to guilt you, you are under no obligation to play host just because someone else has the time to visit.
If you have a lot of trouble with unexpected guests coming to your door when you need to work, consider investing in a Ring doorbell or similar. This can make a lot easier to see if you want to answer the door at all. Keep it muted if you can’t have background noise, of course.
Can You Adjust Your Schedule?
If you can change your schedule so that you have time to visit with your unexpected guests. As I said above, that’s what I did so I could visit with my friend.
If you can work later in the day or on a different day without creating problems for yourself, you can decide if you want to visit with your guests more than you want to work at that moment.
I do not recommend doing this often, as you will create an expectation that of course you will drop everything. That’s bad when you can’t change your schedule. I doubt that I change mine for unexpected guests more than once a year.
Do You Think You Can Spare The Time?
Even if you can adjust your schedule, can you really spare the time? Be honest with yourself.
If you have a deadline, that time has to be made up somehow. If you don’t have a deadline, will adjusting your schedule make it harder to reach your goals?
Be very careful in how often you spare the time for guests when it wasn’t planned ahead. You don’t want anyone thinking this should be a routine thing.
When you can spare the time for guests, it’s one of the perks of working at home. When you can’t, it’s the same disadvantage as any other job.
Set Time Limits
If someone comes over at a time you consider it reasonable to call it a break time, make sure they understand that. Explain that it’s just like your break time at any other job – you have maybe 15 minutes for most breaks, or however much longer if it’s a meal break.
Then enforce those limits.
Time limits can be more difficult to enforce than a flat out “no.” You know how conversations can carry on. You may have to be as strict with yourself as you are with your guest.
Make Plans For Later
If now is not a good time, but sometime later is, let your guests know. Just tell them “I’m off work at x, and I’d love to see you then,” and send them on their way.
This may be easier said than done, but making your work hours clear and enforcing the idea that you are truly busy at those times is important. You’d do the same to someone who interrupted you on the way to an outside the home job, right?
Can Someone Else Entertain Them?
If you aren’t home alone while you work at home, maybe the other people there can entertain the guests.
This is why my kids can have friends over while I work without disturbing me, provided the parents aren’t along. If the parents want to stay and chat, I need to be in a situation where I can afford the distraction.
I don’t have to be on the phone to work, so children playing is only so distracting. It helps that my kids are old enough that I don’t have to supervise, and the garage is set up to be a lot of fun. That keeps them well away from my office most of the time.
If your spouse has company, you may want to be polite and say hello, but you should also explain if you are not to be disturbed. Your spouse could do that as well, of course. If you do a job where background noise is not allowed, make sure the rules are well understood, as well as the reasons for them.
Can You Work And Chat?
This won’t work most of the time, especially if you have to be on the phone or otherwise undistracted. But if you can work and chat with your guests, you can be at least a little productive.
My mother recently commented on how I manage to work even with distractions around. That is one of the great parts about blogging – I can listen to the conversations around me but not take part unless I want to. Some routine tasks are even easier to handle while chatting with others.
Chatting with guests will slow down your productivity. Don’t fool yourself about that. But if it’s worth it to you and doesn’t create a complete mess of your work day, do it.
What If The Unexpected Guests Don’t Want To Hear “No?”
Some people are really bad at taking “no” for an answer. They don’t tend to take “I’m working” much better, if at all. It can be very difficult to get this kind of person to respect your work hours.
If you can get away with not answering the door, that’s one way to handle the situation. This won’t always succeed – some people will keep knocking or ringing the bell a long time. They may even call or text to insist that you answer the door.
Start with a conversation to explain why you can’t drop everything for them. It may or may not work, but it’s usually the best place to start. Not everyone understands that working at home is the same as having any other job. Help them learn to respect that.
If that isn’t enough, find someone you can enlist for help. Your spouse, a sibling, inlaw, or mutual friend may be able to get things across better.
If all else fails, be consistent in your refusals. One “yes” will make your life that much more difficult. It will take time to make stubborn people understand that they need to respect your work hours just as they would anyone else’s. The fact that you’re at home must not be allowed to make any difference that you don’t welcome.
This Goes For Texting Chats Too
These days, you may have more trouble with friends and family who want to chat all day on text or other apps, rather than visit in person. The issues are much the same, however. You have to learn to say no when it’s too distracting to your workday.
Some people may not like it, but if you can’t text at the time, a quick “I’m at work, can’t talk now” reply should be good enough. Once you’ve said that, ignore the person trying to get your attention. I know some people feel it’s rude to ignore a text, but if you’ve made it clear that it’s not a good time, the person ignoring that is the one being rude.