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Good Phone Etiquette in the Home Office

When the telephone is your business lifeline, good phone manners count.

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Phone Etiquette

Mom on Cell Phone

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Good phone etiquette is essential in any business setting--be it a brick-and-mortar office or your home office. But for those that work at home, there can be more problems with distractions while on the phone and more consequences for poor phone etiquette. After all, if it sounds like there is a free-for-all going on in the background, your boss and/or clients may wonder if you are really doing your job from home.

Good Phone Etiquette Means: Giving the Caller Your Full Attention

This is the most basic tenet of good phone etiquette, but this is easier said than done. Though we may have more distractions to contend with when working at home, many of these dos and don'ts regarding paying attention are good for both a home and regular office.

  • Don't read texts, email or instant messages while talking on the phone. If necessary close these programs or turn off your monitor, so you aren't tempted to read.
  • Don't type while on the phone. Your caller may be able to hear you typing.
  • Don't multitask excessively when talking on the phone. This would include surfing the web while talking. You may be able to do some simple tasks that don't involve reading or writing, but it's better not to.
  • Do try to keep the caller on the subject at hand. Your attention is more likely to wander when your caller goes off on a tangent. Tactfully guide the subject back and/or end the call professionally.
  • Don't allow others to interrupt you while you are on the phone. Other members of the household should know your ground rules regarding interruptions. Put the caller on hold briefly (and only one time) until you can give him or her your full attention.
  • Do ask to speak to the caller at a later time, setting a time for when you or the caller will phone again.

Good Phone Etiquette Means: Keeping Noise to a Minimum

Probably the number one source of noise for work-at-home moms is the children. If your boss or a client must shout over the din of a crying baby, you will look less professional. So, be sure you have the right amount of child care in place considering your job's demands (particularly if it frequently involves phone time or video conferencing) and your children's ages.

As kids move beyond baby- and toddlerhood, you might be able to make do with part-time child care or even no child care if your children know--and follow--a set of work at home ground rules. Put in place rules that forbid phone interruptions, except in an emergency. Give examples of what an emergency is. Also you may want to ban noisy toys during working hours, if kids are likely to play with them within earshot of your office.

Of course, children are not the only source of background noise. Typically, an office building is much more soundproof than a home. Other things that might cause distracting noise:

  • Barking dogs
  • Traffic and sirens
  • Construction noise or lawn mowers
  • Doorbell
  • Television/radio
  • House's phone line or your cell phone

Anticipate these types of noises and do what you can to minimize them, such as: Locate your home office as far away from the main area of the home as you can and make sure it has a good solid door. Invest in a window air-conditioning unit for your office so you can keep windows closed. Mute other phones in the house during work hours.

In the same way that good phone etiquette is crucial to the telecommuting professional so too is stellar written communication. For more information on this, see how to write effective email.

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