By Alyssa Gregory

Managing Office Politics at Home

By Alyssa Gregory

One of the things I don’t miss about the corporate world is the never-ending office politics. Becoming my own boss definitely changed that, but despite the fact that we don’t tend to think of it this way, working from home is not without politics.

The “politics” part comes from the person-to-person dynamic that takes place in every relationship and has an influence on your working situation. And there’s no escaping it because it’s the relationships that matter regardless of who you are, where you work or what you do.

While the issues can vary from in-the-office politics, work-at-home politics can be just as sticky and hard to ignore.

The Issues

Politics when you work from home can pop up any time someone exerts power in order to influence your actions or opinions, even if it’s not deliberate. Some of the biggest culprits are:

  • Clients who continuously push the limits on the policies and guidelines you have in place
  • Kids who struggle with respecting your workspace
  • Family members who don’t support your business
  • Assumptions from others about what working from home really means
  • Relationships with colleagues and even competitors that impact your actions
  • Your own ability to honor your priorities and personal time

Staying Out of the Ring

Just like office politics, you have to be aware of the home office issues and have a plan for combating them in order to avoid being dragged into the drama. If you don’t deal with the politics, you can lose precious time trying to recover from the consequences.

Some ways to get past the politics include:

  • Be consistent across the board with your communication and expectations
  • Avoid nonconstructive complaining
  • Focus on open communication
  • Address issues immediately instead of waiting until things escalate
  • Align yourself with a home-office politics pro who can help you
  • Take measure to protect your time and energy

Most issues can be managed if you separate the relationship from the problem, and work to solve the problem while respecting the relationship. Although, just like office politics, it can take a lot of work.

What Are Your “Politics?”

Work-from-home politics can take many different shapes, and typically exacerbate some of our own internal challenges. My politics seem to rest squarely on time management and external work-from-home perception challenges. I have yet to get rid of these issues completely but have found that being aware of them and approaching them with a clear head makes them controllable.

Do you work from home and find that you still have politics to deal with? What are your biggest issues and how to you manage them?

Image credit: andysteel

  • SO very true. Another very difficult situation – when your coworker is your spouse and both work from home. The biggest hurdle is when to leave work “at work” and not drag it into your out-of-work relationship. It can be trying, but if trial by fire works out, both work and the relationship are stronger for it. Biggest help? Communicate, not just with each other, but with yourself. Know what is causing the issue, how it is affecting you, and why it is affecting you. Then go into a discussion, not an argument. Don’t talk about “how you want it done”, but rather what outcome is needed and then sort out together how to get there.

    Don’t just explode, explain, talk and then….move on! Tomorrow is another day :D

    • Great advice…and I’m glad my spouse doesn’t work from home. :-)

  • Wolf_22

    The biggest issue I’ve ever faced was the avoidance of valueless opportunities and this applies to both at-home and at-office employment. John and Jane Doe always have someone in mind who needs a website and there’s always some non-profit who needs a hand-out. The problem, though, is that they exploit your relationship until you begin to burn-out or hate them. During these times, I have always had a coin to flip: boundaries or burnt bridges.

    I have also found that online work is usually seen as a commodity, too. For instance, a school I once worked for used PDF and Word documents for their primary web pages and when I tried to explain the importance of using actual markup for this, they did everything in their power to squash it. Why? Because the key people of this Accredited 4-Year University Committee believed that their way was the best. Unfortunately for me, I was forced to abide by their preferences. I’ve also learned that people whom you do work for usually care less about the technical issues revolved around a particular circumstance (and they are fully aware of the meetings they attend where they can exploit this in your face.)

    Lastly and possibly the biggest lesson I have ever learned is that of personal work ethic. It’s pretty hard to teach this…

  • Luke Cuthbertson

    Lol – “Kids who struggle with respecting your workspace” – Alyssa, that is a very diplomatic description of what goes on at our place. I always imagined it would be like the Brady Bunch and the only time they would interrupt me in my “den” would be when they politely asked for my wisdom – I was so wrong! I’d love to hear more about how you deal with the kids as I’ve resorted to only working at home when they’re not there…

    • Great question, Luke. Of course, I have no solution. :-) I try to use “creative distraction” with my kids (give them “jobs” to do, let them type on an old computer, stock the house with craft stuff), but they’re too young to last very long doing any of that. I’m definitely most productive on the days they are at daycare!

  • I used to have major problems with a housemate who simply could not respect the fact that sometimes I needed peace and quiet when he was there. For my part I tried not to have to work when he was there, but still there were one or two occasions when I had to work over a weekend, and I just needed him to stop playing Hawkwind at 11 for an afternoon; but he just wouldn’t.

    The lesson? Don’t live with other people!

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