Practical Work-at-Home Tips

by martha on January 7, 2011

Smart gals work-at-home clothes.

I learned some unexpected lessons today that I’d like share with you.  After these many years of working in the house, one would think I’d have already figured out the shortcuts, best practices, and other little things that make your day more productive and help you appear more professional.  One would think.

5 Handy Tips for Being a Professional Work-from-Home … err…. Professional

1. Change Into Grown-Up Clothes First Thing in the Morning

What are you? A Bum? No? Well, have some respect and change out of your pajamas before your workday begins.  It will make you feel better about yourself, you’ll accomplish more, and your elevated respect for yourself will influence every task you take on. Are you making coffee and taking your first call in your bunny slippers?  Stop that!

2.  Schedule Your Calls Back-to-Back to Maximize Your Time

Most of your business interaction is via e-mail and phone and you take most meetings as webinars or conference calls.  When planning your day, schedule your calls in quick succession so you have a solid deadline for ending your calls and can get off the phone gracefully.  Build in some time before your calls begin to finish up anything you’ve delayed but that needs to be complete when you pick up the phone.   Make sure you take good notes and keep a running to-do list so you don’t forget any important details from those many, many back-to-back calls.  Work late to get those things done and sent to the clients by close of business – Pacific Time. (Special tip: learn how to mute your phone and time it so that you can refill your coffee or take a bio break while someone else is talking during those teleconferences. Otherwise, you’re toast. Workdays are long.)

3. Keep Your Front Door Locked

If you have very close local friends or neighbors who will knock and potentially then open the door in the middle of the day because they can hear you talking make it a habit of locking your front door.  Should you forget to lock your front door, while on the phone with an important client, and see one of those neighbors approaching the front of your house, it’s very helpful to panic, unplug your laptop and dash upstairs to finish your call away from the front door so that you’re not interrupted. This is essential especially if you’re still in your pajamas.

4. At All Times Remain Professional with Your Clients …

In other words, don’t explain your breathlessness to your client by telling them about why you moved to the upstairs office.  Don’t make the situation worse by explaining to your mildly amused client that the main reason you couldn’t risk the neighbor walking in is because you are still in your pajamas at 2 pm.  Though you will laugh about it together, since your client works in an office and has never worked from home, she will sound mortified / disapproving and you’ll find yourself making deprecating jokes about those bunny slippers and you’ll drive yourself crazy thinking that she’s not laughing like she usually does.  Trust me: your clients who aren’t “work-at-home” people don’t need to see behind the curtain. (My theory: They’re secretly jealous.)

5. Screen Your Calls, But Check Your Voice Mail Promptly

Since you have a lot of calls lined up during the day and your time is very precious, don’t answer the phone if you don’t know who’s calling.  The flip side of this is:  check your voice mail several times a day, because those voice mails left on your work number can – in any given day – include any or all of the following messages: one from someone who wants to partner with you on a project PRONTO; one from someone who would like to hire you ASAP for an even bigger project; and/or someone who used to be a client and is calling to see if you’re available for another project with a tight deadline.   The one Friday that you delay checking your voice mail until after business hours will likely be the day that all these people reached out to you, but with your back-to-back calls and pajama-hiding antics you may have to wait until Monday to call them back.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda January 8, 2011 at 5:34 am

Great post and I so enjoy your writing style.

Teddy Wolcott January 8, 2011 at 8:52 am

Great tips – I could identify with some of them. I am going to go get dressed right now and then start working. Oh yes, I had a friend that used to say that you aren’t dressed unless you have made your bed. I think I will do that also. Happy Blogging

Sidney January 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

Great thoughts!! Some things I need to work on.

Snerdey January 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

Nice share.. my biggest problem is when the phone rings and my i-tunes is a full blast. Thank goodness for pause buttons 😉

martha January 10, 2011 at 12:24 am

Thanks Linda!

martha January 10, 2011 at 12:25 am

Tedd, I totally agree with your friend. I do like to make my bed each morning. Even if I don’t go back in there for hours, somehow being aware that it’s made makes me feel like I’m on the right track that day.

martha January 10, 2011 at 12:26 am

Oh…that should have been Tip #6! (Maybe Tip #7, if I’d included bed making.) That tip could have been: make sure you have a remote for your docking station. 🙂

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