Multi-Task No ProblemForbes.com has released an interesting list of 10 mistakes professionals make while working from home. [article]

I’ll go over them real quick for everyone’s enjoyment.

10. Not Smiling
Debra Benton, author of the book The Virtual Executive, says “Smile when you pick up or click on the phone, and continue to smile as you talk regardless of who’s calling or what the conversation is about.” Joe St. Aubin says the same thing, but he didn’t write a book on it and we need a credible source. Smiling while talking on the phone makes you sound happier, and you pick nicer words. The same idea works on emails too, you will pick less negative words.

9. Not Getting Dressed
Some successful CEOs put on makeup, perfume, dress shoes, and brush their teeth before making phone calls. They feel it makes them sound clean. Benton says it’s just as important to dress the part at home, particularly on days you are making important calls or emails. Dressing the part gives you confidence and professionalism that will be conveyed through your interactions.

8. Bad Posture
Turns out bad posture cause a lot more than back pains. Good posture will help with your breathing (imagine a heavy breather on the phone, yeah), your confidence, and your professional attitude. If you have bad posture at home, your wording may convey boredom and a bad attitude. Benton says bad posture will make you sound out of breath, weak and loser-like. Don’t be loser-like, practice good posture.

7. Looking Like a Terrorist on Skype
Looking at you in a video conference with a plant growing out of your head can be distracting. Personal items laying about doesn’t say much either. But be careful not to look not to be sitting in front of “the terrorist white sheet”.

6. Terrible Props
As the writer, I laugh at this one. Benton had a client, he wanted to have a glass of water on hand during a video conference. He choose to drink out of a beer mug! Aside from making our hero list, he could have been more wise in his selection of glass. Stay away from showing ashtrays, personal care products, children’s toys and paperwork pertaining to other clients.

5. Saying No
You can say yes all you want in email, but apparently you can’t say no. Benton says you need to pick up the phone to say no. Ignoring the question all together is also a bad idea. Any communication you need to have from home that is either critical or could be perceived as critical should be addressed, at least at first, over the phone. It’s courteous and allows you to clarify any outstanding issues in real time.

4. Emails Are Terrible to Begin With
First, your emails are too long. For every request you make, make one email. 1 request = 1 email, not 10 requests = 1 email. Also, use clear subject lines to help differentiate which email is about what. Doing this helps your colleagues (or minions) keep each task straight and helps you to follow up on each important issue.
Secondly, your emails are too short. Avoid responses like “fine”, or “thanks” (classic “ty”). Instead opt for “great idea, go for it!” “I really appreciate you time!” That last one especially works on your IT guys :-).

3. Your House Is Loud
“Working from home it’s easy to become numb to the noises that you’re used to in your own house,” Benton Says. Think about it, your neighbor mowing their grass, your dog barking at the door, a noisey dishwasher, people on the other end of the phone call will hear it. If a “home” noise does pop up while your on the phone, have a phrase ready to explain it away. “Even my dog has an opinion on this subject!”

2. Forgetting the Handshake
In person we never introduce ourselves or greet another person without the pleasantry of a handshake or hello and yet Benton says we quite regularly skip this step at home. Begin every email or phone conversation by discussing something that important to the other person. “Hey Joe, how was your trip?”

1. You Think You’re Alone Now
Ah, the joy of multi-tasking. You can run a load of laundry when you are at home. Cook dinner, shop for something online, even catch up on those TV shows you have been missing, but every task other than you business takes some of your focus. When we think we’re not being watched we often lose focus as we take on more and more personal tasks simultaneously with the professional ones. Your lose of focus will show, no matter who is watching.

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