The Steptoe Syndrome refers to a working world without boundaries. Steptoe and Son were rag-and-bone men, whose job was buying and selling scrap.
Their yard was a dumping ground for assorted rubbish, but there was no dividing line between their junk yard and their home.
Cast-offs filled every corner of every room, making all their interactions feel claustrophobic and overwhelming. To the viewer, the characters’ lives felt cramped and lacking in balance.
This is not to suggest that running your own business from home can’t be fun. I run a small home-based coaching business and have experienced the advantages. You are the master of your own universe; you have taken your destiny into your hands. These advantages are countered by a few disadvantages, especially when children are involved.
Working from home can offer great flexibility, but you have to lay down some ground rules to ensure that you find the right balance. On a good day, it is a dream: no commuting, no petty office politics and you can put in a day’s work in a couple of hours.
On a bad day, you just feel like giving up. It can sometimes take an eternity just to get into the right frame of mind, let alone deal with the more pressing tasks.
To avoid a case of the Steptoe Syndrome, you need to remember the two Bs: boundaries and balance.
As a coach, I advise people how to separate the various strands in their lives, helping them to create structure. This is especially true if you are working from a household with children. So look around you and consider areas in your work/home life where boundaries have been breached.
Write down how you would like to separate those areas of conflict. This will help you to create a set of rules that will govern your work/life balance.
Boundaries and balance are both physical and mental attributes. So creating a physical boundary between work and home will help to maintain a mental boundary (in other words, stop your mind becoming like Steptoes’ living room).
It is essential to have a separate workspace. If you have a spare room, all the better. Your office door is an important boundary, a clear demarcation which when closed at the end of the can allow you to step freely in your personal family life.
Make sure the office is lockable and that your children know it is your workspace. The last thing you want to find is your youngest trying to give your laptop a drink of coca cola.
Try dressing for work, as changing your clothes can transform your mindset. In short, keep your work life in its work place and your home life at home.