Working from home – 5 rules for visitors

Working from home used to be something people did when they had pre-school children, lived remotely, or ran their own business, and didn’t want to pay for office space. Now, in the interest of keeping everyone safe and well, it is something we all need to be prepared to do, to operate independently, or pivot, as they say, to manage our own health and the safety of others.

Not everyone is ready for this. After working from home for almost 5 years managing renovations, kids on school holidays, and not always wanting to pay for office space, let me share what I’ve learned about receiving people in my home. If you are lucky enough to work from home and don’t have visitors – power to you. Rock those zoom calls in your trackie daks and business shirt, cook strong-smelling food and leave the dishes for tomorrow. Wear pants or not. When meeting others in their homes, however, consider these suggestions.

  1. Show up on time – If you make an appointment with someone in their home, make sure this is confirmed and arrive at the agreed time. Don’t show up 10 or 15 minutes early because you got a run of green lights, they may answer the door in their sweaty gym gear pants and a bowl of cereal because they don’t have a waiting room and they are not expecting you for 10 minutes. To the teenage girl who had to spend an hour with me in my leopard print leggings and sweatiness, I’m sorry. Your early arrival was unplanned. I was hoping you were a parcel.
  2. Don’t make them wait or leave them hanging – If you are running late, be respectful and let the person know. Pull your car over safely and send a quick text. Don’t arrive late and expect the full appointment time. If you forget or miss the appointment, phone, apologise and reschedule. If you can’t make it last minute or an emergency comes up, phone or message. Nothing sucks more than being stood up in your own home, wearing a dress, heels, and a full face of make-up, then having to empty the dishwasher.
  3. Shoes on or off? Follow their cue. If they answer the door in bare feet, it’s always shoes off. If they have a nice carpet, leave your shoes at the door. If it’s raining, don’t add mopping to their list of things to do, they already need to put the dryer on, walk the dog, get dinner ready. Don’t make them mop, even if they assure you, shoes are fine, they are never fine unless everyone is wearing them.
  4. Check if it’s a good time to call – If you phone someone working from home, remember politely asking “Is this a good time for you,”  is helpful. Just because you are at your desk, doesn’t mean they are. I have answered calls in the supermarket frozen section, had several speakerphone conversations at school pick up whilst playing spot my kids when they all look the same, and another memorable phone call right after picking up excrement in the dog park. None of those times were good. It is also possible you’ve timed it badly and the person may have just arrived from the shops with a huge pile of melty groceries on the kitchen bench depositing meat juice.
  5. Don’t overstay – Just because it’s someone’s home and feels relaxed don’t overstay your welcome. The working from home person will always have other things to do. If it’s school holidays they may have kids banished to their rooms waiting for the all-clear so they can forage in the pantry, then complain there is never anything good to eat. Remember it’s their house and they can’t find an excuse to leave. They have so many things to do – like wipe over hard services, spray some air freshener, grab a piece of fruit, make a cup of tea, or pee before their next appointment.  Thank them for their time and leave.

Also for the home office – never skrimp on an office chair. It will pay for itself and save you a fortune in panadol, massage, and chiropractic bills. Trust me. Unless you are sharing a table with your fantasy dinner party guest list, a dining chair is not meant to be used for longer than the duration of a meal.


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