It’s Okay to Work at the Kitchen Table

In a recent post by Chris Brogan about family balance, he says he might be perceived as someone who lacks balance between work and home. But he says, “I’m more home, more connected, and more a part of my family’s life than…ever before” thanks to what he calls “kitchen table companies.” Such companies “can operate from a kitchen table, get talked about around the kitchen table, and get [workers] home in time for dinner.”

This got me thinking about how much my beliefs about business have changed in the ten years since I started my own company. I used to agree with the common recommendation that lines should be clearly drawn between one’s business and personal space. The advice was that you shouldn’t work from your kitchen table, and that you should have a separate space for your business.

From a balance perspective, it seemed only natural to compartmentalize, and to have clearly-defined boundaries between work and home. After all, wasn’t that how it worked with “regular jobs”? So when I created a business, I attempted to maintain clear boundaries between it and my home life.

But I began to see that my life as an entrepreneur was very different from those with “regular jobs.” For me, it was a struggle to determine where my work life stopped and my home life began. I thought that something was wrong with me for a while, but then I realized that I actually liked the blurred lines. I liked ‘living’ as much within my business as outside. Since that was true, why was it so necessary to separate the different parts of my life?

I’ve come to accept that I like having a “kitchen table business.” Like Chris Brogan, I have way more time with family and friends now than I ever did before starting a business. I have flexibility to work when I’m able: around sickness, around unpredictable bouts of insomnia, and around the even more unpredictable ebbs and flows of life. So while I used to believe that having a “kitchen table business” would set me up to become a workaholic, I now see it as a way to live my life exactly as I want.

Does my business have boundaries? Yes, but they’re more like gray areas. I’m a web worker, but I also have Internet-free days. There are days when I work eighteen hours, and other days when I work three. Sometimes I work in my pajamas from the sofa, but I can crave the structure of my office. In the end, it all evens out, and for the most part, I feel I’m able to maintain a semblance of balance.

How do you balance your life and business? Do you set clearly defined boundaries, or are you able to work successfully at the kitchen table?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Muffet

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