There are many factors that influence a productive home office environment. Creating a defined work space. Developing a daily routine that minimizes outside distractions. Finding ways to balance personal and work responsibilities. Experimenting with different virtual tools to find the ones that work best for your business—the list goes on. But one often overlooked and more intangible factor of working remotely is how you interact with your clients.
Just because you work from the comfort of your own home doesn’t mean professionalism goes out the window. In order to build strong relationships with clients, it is important to maintain basic courtesy and consideration. When working with your clients remotely, keep these five etiquette rules in mind.
1. Create a Schedule and Set Boundaries
Creating a daily or weekly schedule not only helps you better structure how you spend your time when working remotely, but it’s also a big help to your clients. As an independent contractor, how and when you do your work is up to you—you’re not required to be in front of your computer all day or on-call 24/7.
Think about the hours when you are most productive and consider scheduling the bulk of your work around those times. Try and set a time to complete work each day as well. Shutting down your computer and only responding to urgent emails and calls after a certain hour will help you maintain better work/life flexibility.
With your schedule in mind, talk to your clients about your work hours and how they can best get in touch with you during those times. If something urgent does come up, discuss a communication plan for those instances. By setting these boundaries with clients, you give yourself more flexibility and authority over how your day is structured. In turn, clients will appreciate knowing your schedule so they can better plan their own work.
2. Take Time to Get to Know Your Technology
There’s no way around it—when you work remotely, technology hiccups are bound to happen. However, by taking time to get to know the virtual tools you are using, you can learn how to troubleshoot when something happens. Test out video conferences and instant messaging apps with friends or family to get their feedback. What was intuitive for them? What did they struggle with? Clients will likely run into the same issues. If you know how to solve these potential problems or troubleshoot, your meetings will run much more smoothly.
In addition to learning how your virtual tools work, have a second option in place in case your first choice doesn’t work out. For example, if a video call is jumpy or fuzzy, do you have a backup app that you can turn to? Or, if your internet goes down can you jump on a call instead? If you are working with clients in different time zones, be sure to keep those in mind as well when scheduling meetings and sending calendar invites.
3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
You can’t always have full control over your surroundings, especially if you live with a roommate, kids, or a significant other, but you can anticipate potential noise and help to mitigate it. If you have a client meeting planned, ask others in your household for an hour or two of quiet, or if you have a dog, put them outside or in another room for a bit. Using headphones when you talk to a client also helps to minimize background noise—keep yourself on mute when you are not speaking.
If you do use video chat, be aware of your office surroundings. Is the space you’re in clean and presentable? Is there enough light? Consider dedicating a specific place or corner of your home office to use for video calls. Always make sure that space is free of clutter and ready to go in case a client gives you a call.
4. Dress Appropriately
While working in your pajamas can be tempting, it likely doesn’t put you in the right mindset for work. Establishing a set routine where you get ready for work each day—including getting dressed—can help get you be more productive and maintain a better balance between home life and work life. Once you’re done with work for the day, the sweats can go on!
5. Stay Present
When working remotely, you are surrounded by potential distractions. When you are on the phone or on a video call with a client, do your best to give them all of your attention. Don’t respond to text messages or browse email during a meeting. Avoid eating during calls. Be aware of your body language when video chatting.
If you tend to be easily distracted, take steps to minimize temptation. Block out ambient noise by working a in a room with a door or use a white noise machine, make a rule for yourself to keep the TV off until you’re done working for the day, or try using apps like Freedom and SelfControl to block websites or apps you tend to get distracted on. Getting your own distractions under control will help you be more present when meeting with clients and completing work.
What other client etiquette rules do you follow? We want to hear your tips!