Work-at-Home Rules Everyone Should Know

Start Immediately with Purpose

Even before the coffee has finished brewing you're probably already taking a peak at your e-mail. That seems fine, but before you know it several hours have passed as you've bounced from the bedroom to the kitchen to the home office, checking e-mail and browsing the web—still looking like you just crawled out of bed.

We Train People How To Treat Us

So if we act as if we're sluggish and we don't want to walk into that [home] office and you haven't changed out of your pajamas and my hair still is not brushed, that sends a subliminal message that it's not that important to you, so why should it be important to you. This may give others the impression that it's okay for you to be interrupted or that what you're working on isn't very important.

So, yes, you need to dress appropriately. Perhaps not the full suit and tie or high heels, but something that expresses to others in the home or the mail delivery guy that you are a professional and should be treated as such. It sends a message that you value what you're doing. You might also find that you get focused quicker when you go through your workday startup routine.

Location, Location, Location

If you have a choice of rooms for your home office, make sure it's away from the racket and distractions. Specifically, try to avoid setting up shop next to a bathroom used by other members of the house. You don't want to hear flushing or doors slamming. Of course, this recommendation extends to other noisy rooms, such as a kids playroom or even a highly trafficked kitchen.

If you have no choice and you expect there will be some noise on occasion while you work the phone, try to find a room that has a door you can shut and post a sign on the door asking for others to please be quiet.

Mitigate the Noise

Pets, kids and vacuum cleaners can all make a big ruckus when you're trying to get some work done. If you need silence, make sure to let others know and put the animals outside. You don't want a dog barking in the background as you try to close a sale with a potential client. If you really can't eliminate background distractions while you are on the phone with a customer or client you might say, "I just want to tell you in advance, if you hear kids in the background or a doorbell, just know that I'm home for the day, but I'm totally focused on you.". Be conscious of your environment and let them know they have your full attention. "When you have to walk away from the phone [to address the noise] you've lost your power."

Establish Boundaries

I'm very fortunate in that I have a very quiet home to work from. However, unexpected guests who know that I'm home might pop by. If you can't be interrupted, stop the guest at the door and politely turn them away. Say something like, "So nice of you to stop by, but I'm just at a point where I can't stop, please excuse me.". There's a way to be assertive and still be very pleasant and engaging versus rude. If you're close enough friends you can totally do it. We have to be very assertive.

This also extends to phone conversations. If it's someone you can't talk to right then, you just skip it. You let everyone know in advance something like: 'This is my work schedule, I'm not available during the day.'"

Of course, one of the benefits of working from home is that you can be flexible and you can carve free a piece of your schedule from time to time. In those instances, you can invite your friend in, but again establish your boundaries. Tell your guest that you have a few minutes for a cup of coffee, but then you need to get back to work. This will establish the expectation up front so they won't be offended when you announce you have to get return to your desk—if it's your husband or wife, you may resume the conversation over dinner.