In the classic late 1970s/early 1980s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, news director Les Nessman had a desk in a large bullpen he had to share with the rest of the staff. Believing a news director should have a proper office, he put masking tape on the floor around his desk delineating where walls and a door should be. He insisted his co-workers respect those boundaries, and he would even mime opening and closing the door.
Now, that’s obviously a bit of TV comedy, but the concept of defining boundaries is critical when thinking about a home office. A door or other boundary marker is essential to getting work done.
The door is an important part of the office set-up, and everyone in the household needs to understand what that closed door means. A closed door means “Daddy or Mommy—or spouse, or significant other, or even roommate—is on the phone or is otherwise engaged in important work and should not be disturbed.” This concept applies to couples without kids as well. Obviously if there’s a medical emergency or the house is on fire, common sense has to prevail. But otherwise a closed door, perhaps with some sort of “do not disturb” sign or other indicator, such as a red cardboard circle hung from a doorknob like those seen on hotel doors (or perhaps even the “On Air” lights that TV studios use), should be treated as inviolable.
If you are forced to position your a desk in a common area of the home, you’ll need to be more creative in developing boundaries. Perhaps you and a neighbor could work out a kid swap, allowing both parents to enjoy some quiet time. But if not, some sort of “do not disturb” signal needs to be devised and enforced.