YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: My new job requires me to work from home. Is it possible to combine a private and professional life in that environment? Do I need to set personal rules for talking to my clients? Do I need to structure hours for taking calls? How do I politely let my contacts know that they need to call only at reasonable workday hours? Do I need a specific work area?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Yes, it is possible to keep your personal and private life separate. Tell your clients your work hours. However, keep in mind what your job is and how available you want to be. This is all up to what you want.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: If it’s possible to structure the hours for calls, then that would be ideal. That way you’re in control of your schedule and know when you can give your full attention to your clients. You can set appointments around your schedule and tell clients in emails when you are available. Make sure your hours are generous enough to handle your work. It all depends on your job and the expectations your clients or bosses have of you. And yes, a specific work area is best, even if it’s a small corner of your house, so it feels like work when you are sitting there.
In various jobs through the years, I have enjoyed the privilege of working from home It can be difficult to juggle, but I always made sure to focus on my job during work time, which meant no laundry, no housework, etc. After having children, that juggle became more difficult, but in the past, I have hired a sitter to watch my kids while I worked from home. When they were little, I would kiss them goodbye, walk out the back door and then have the sitter distract them while I sneaked in the front door. That way, they wouldn’t know I was home to interrupt me. Enjoy the time working from home. It takes some getting used to, but it’s nice to be able to return phone calls in your pajamas.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It has been a great blessing to be able to work from home on a part-time basis, especially when I had young children. My hours have been the same and I set them early on in my career. The people who need to contact me know which days I work the most.
My office desk is in a spare bedroom and I can close the door if there are other activities in the house. I think a specific work area reminds you that your job at home is important and that your desk can be organized as to what works best for you.
Your clients will respect your hours and if you don’t have time to talk when they call, either let the call go to voice mail or answer and tell them when you will call them back and do so. You might send out an email stating your available hours. Also, have some cards printed listing your “at-home” work hours and hand them out to clients and friends.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of NewsOK’s “Fashion Matters” blog: It is possible to bring private and professional life together in a home working environment. Try to set regular business hours, say from 9 to 6 or 8 to 5 and let your clients know. There may be times when those hours are stretched, just like if you were in an office. When talking with clients, politely inform or remind them of when you are available to take their calls. Include your hours on any emails. People I know who work from home full-time say a designated work area and regular hours are a must. Some are casual about their morning routines; others get ready for work just like they did when they had to be at a downtown office at 8:30.
For me, one of the perks of working part-time from home is being able to blog or write any time of the day or night. I like that flexibility if I need it. With tablets, smartphones and emails, it is easy to let business creep into your personal time. That goes for all of us, whether we’re in a home office or an office building.
Callie Gordon is 20-something; Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s; and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.