Working with family can have some great perks for you, your business, and even your brand. But it can also have its downsides. Family relationships can spoil a work environment and, worse, work can ruin family relationships. This is especially true in small business and startup situations, where you may be working in close proximity, on a tight budget, within an already close-knit employee group, or all of the above. Here, some tips to maintain that balance between personal and professional:
It may sound easy, but it can be rough to be fair in the workplace when it comes to family–or, maybe more accurately, fair in the context of the workplace. Just because someone did you a favor outside the office doesn’t mean you owe them one in the office. Remember: the only context your employees and coworkers have is what they see in the office. Bending the rules can be terrible for morale if other workers see it as a sign that they’re being treated differently, and even begin feeling like another class of employee.
Don’t Abuse Your Relationships
That said, it’s also important not to leverage your relationships with family members to ask them to do an unreasonable amount of work, stay after clock out, etc. Use a secure time tracking system to make sure everyone on your team is being paid for their time–and that if anyone is regularly being asked to stay overtime, documentation exists that can be addressed at a later time.
Be clear and open about your relations with others in the workplace. For one, if your family ties come out late in the game, colleagues may seem like you were intentionally concealing your connections. For another, if you’re running a startup and looking for investors, it is probably something you will eventually need to disclose. A policy of transparency from the get-go will save your headaches down the road.
If possible, try to space yourselves out physically. Even if you and your family member/spouse/whoever are getting along great now, spending too much time together can be a recipe for disaster. Setting healthy boundaries can help you keep reinforce a sense of separation between family and the workforce. Incorporate some distance throughout your space, building, or even locations.
Separate Work and Business
We’ve talked before on this blog about this idea of work-life integration as the “new” work-life balance. It’s a little trickier when you work with family. Most experts recommend a strict “leave all work at the office” policy, but that’s not necessarily feasible for everyone anymore. Instead, if you live with the family member, try to have separate work spaces in the house where you can retreat if you absolutely need to focus, and set some “safe zones” where no work discussion is allowed. Take real vacations, even if they’re just weekend road trips. And do not–DO NOT–let business talk take over holiday gatherings.
Have clear, written contracts and use an automated time tracking system, i.e. an RFID badge swiper. This way, you have something concrete to work with if paycheck disputes over worked hours arise.