For over 30 years, I have not had what most people would consider to be a “normal” office.
I’ve been in basements, rented office space (which I only used in the middle of the night when no one else was there), and the thing we are now seeing more and more—the home office, which is what I currently use. I absolutely love my home office.
But how do you know that what works for you will also work for others? This won’t be true for everyone who runs a business out of their house, but many will, at some point, host meetings with clients or partners and possibly share their home office space with coworkers. When the time comes, your home office needs to be equipped to serve as a proper working environment for these occasions — and not leave a bad impression!
Not all home offices are created equal. There are exceptional ones, OK ones, and ones that are so bad their owners shouldn’t remotely consider the prospect of ever hosting clients, even via Skype. But how do you know which category yours falls under? Check out the following list and see if your home office is where it needs to be.
It needs to look and feel like an office.
This can be difficult depending on your situation. If you are just starting out or you have a house full of kids, it can be hard to completely remodel a room. But there are many little things you can that make a huge difference, no matter you’re situation:
1. Keep it clean. Having papers scattered everywhere doesn’t make you look busy; it makes you look unorganized and unprofessional. Take some time to at least create the appearance that you have yourself together.An entrepreneur never truly “has it all together,” but you need to create the appearance that you do.
2. Do what you can to keep it isolated and quiet. Hopefully your home office has a door and some semblance of privacy. If not, it’s important that you create the illusion of privacy. Get some room dividers if you have to.If you have a family, get them on board with being quiet enough not to disturb any activity going on in the office (whether you’re having a meeting or just working alone…it’s important regardless). Use what you can to create a “Camp David” environment, where great ideas and partnerships can be launched.
3. Make sure it smells nice. When you live where you work, it’s easy to not notice what the environment actually smells like. Even if there’s not a reason for your house to smell unpleasant, you need to act like there is.Buy a can of scent or a candle with an inoffensive aroma and make sure your office area doesn’t smell like a locker room.
4. Don’t over-think it. You know what it feels like to be in a nice office environment. Don’t reinvent the wheel; just recreate it back at your home with the least inconvenience to those who also live there.
You need to act like you’re at your office, not at your home.
This means that if and when you have meetings at your home office, you are prepared to host your guests or clients. It’s easy to forget this stuff, especially if you’ve recently made the transition to a home office, so here’s what you need to remember:
1. Treat every meeting like show and tell. Always have some documents prepared that highlight what you are proposing for the people with whom you are meeting, even if the meeting is over Skype.
If it’s not that kind of meeting, simply have an outline of what you’re going to discuss. Something—anything—of value that they can hold in their hands when they walk away is a huge thing most people do not do. If you’re selling a product, let them leave with it in their hands. Give something away.
Whatever they leave with will be much more powerful than a business card.
2. Go the extra mile with amenities. For in-person meetings, keep a variety of things stocked to make your guests comfortable. Have bottled water—regular and sparkling. Don’t bring them a glass from the kitchen that you use with dinner.
It’s easier than ever to have a single cup coffee maker. Pick up a Tassimo, Keurig, or any of the other varieties and keep some coffee and tea on hand.
Do everything you can to make even the most mundane kind of meeting feel like something they’re actually glad to be at. Plan as if you are putting on an event that they will want to remember forever.
Your family life is still separate from your work life.
To you, the place where you work is a home office. You know about everything else that is going on there while you work. You do not operate under the illusion that regular domestic activities are taking place while you work away at your desk.
To outsiders, however, your home is your office. Though you may normally work with a balance between home and office while working alone, when clients or partners are coming to meet, that balance is skewed way more toward office in their minds.
It’s not because they’re insensitive; it’s because they’re mentally prepared for a business meeting. Loud kids running around screaming isn’t usually part of what they’re expecting, so it’s important that your family is 100% aware of, and on boar with, the presence of outsiders. Make them aware of your schedule and what your expectations are for their behavior.
They don’t have to invisible, but it’s important that they not disrupt the environment.
Think of your home office like an extension of yourself. The state it is in reflects your personal brand to all who enter. If you find yourself frequently wanting to get out of your home office and go work at a coffee shop, that is a sign that something needs to change.
You’re only a few small tweaks away from a peaceful work environment in which life-changing ideas can be created and implemented. The return you will get on the hours you put into creating a better working space for yourself will be huge.
No matter how busy things are with your business, take the time to start adjusting right now.
What does your home office environment look like? Is it leaving a bad impression on others?
Image by samcrockett.
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