As a work-from-home pro, I can honestly say I have the best.job.EVER.
I am busy, happy and my schedule (to some degree) is flexible. I save oodles of money every year on makeup because…well….I don’t wear any. My dress-for-success attire consists of yoga pants and hoodies with an occasional side order of pink fuzzy slippers. Most days I probably look like a Walker from the hit TV show Walking Dead, but hey-it’s just me and the dog and he doesn’t care what I look like.
This is all fine and dandy until a surprise guest comes-a-knocking on my front door during my work day. Sketchy appearance aside, my day is planned to the minute and nothing throws a monkey wrench into things more quickly than an unannounced visitor. Even after 3+ years of working solo from home I still have the occasional friend or family member that seems to think I am on eternal coffee break inside my home. I get the feeling that they think, because I am a working from the coziness of my abode, I must be doing my work in between daytime soaps and HSN episodes. Though I am flexible, my work day is highly scheduled and it needs to be if I want to optimize the hours I have between school drop-off and pick-up. Just to be clear, I am not against visits from friends and family (I welcome the break!) it’s the “un-announced” piece of the puzzle that make for moments of awkwardness.
Here are three types of unannounced infiltrators I have encountered in the past:
The Clueless Visitor: Even after working from home full-time for years I still have the occasional friend/relative who pops by, acts surprised that I am home and makes ludicrous comments like, “Oh? You have a day off today?” After biting my tongue and refraining from asking them if they had lead paint chips for breakfast today, I gently remind them (AGAIN) that I work from home, so just because I am home doesn’t mean I am not working. Make sense?
Well-Meaning, But Bad Timing Visitors: It’s Friday, it’s been a heckuva week and one of your besties decides to “drop by” to offer up some surprise R&R in the form of coffee, treats and chatter. Let me preclude this by saying HECK YES because I could use a break most days. But like any job, my breaks need to be somewhat planned and scheduled. For the well-meaning friend who pops by to “surprise me” with coffee and treats fifteen minutes before I need to be on the phone with Publisher Weekly may get hugged, then throttled.
The “I Don’t Give a Rat’s Butt About Your Time” Vistor: Luckily these visitors are few and far between. These are the visitors that know full well that your work day is jammed and the time between school drop-off-and-pick-up is precious. This particular visitor gives no-never-mind to your schedule, but is more concerned about theirs. This would be the same person who calls at 10:30 p.m. (because it’s more convenient for them) and the same one that comes pounding on your front door during work hours because, “they were in the neighborhood and really needed to talk/give you________.”
Don’t Answer The Door: I can hear you mock gasping and clutching your chest in horror at this suggestion. But before you tag me as the Most Cold-Hearted WAHM in the Universe I want to give you a point to ponder. I recall a conversation I had many years ago with an elderly neighbor. Her philosophy on telephones and door bells was this; these items were introduced to our lives as optional conveniences. If it’s not convenient to answer that unexpected call or knock at the door, then don’t do it. If it’s important, they will stop back/call back at a more convenient time.
Lucky for me, my home office is in the upper level of our house, facing the street and directly above our front door. When I hear an unexpected knock at my front door, I am blessed with the option of peering out my window like Quasimodo in the bell tower to see who is on my front stoop. I can then make the executive decision if I can stop what I am doing and engage with the visitor. Think that sounds unfriendly and unsociable? I consider it Crisis Management (averting a crisis when I can’t get my work done for clients because of said visitor) and within my rights and CEO of my biz.
Be Honest, Tactful and BLUNT: If not answering the constant honking of your front door buzzer makes you uncomfortable, the honest and direct approach works well too. If it is truly a bad time to engage in conversation with an unexpected guest, tactfully let them know face-to-face. Saying things like, “I am not trying to snub you, but I have a massive meeting coming in about fifteen minutes that I need to prepare for. Can we get together for lunch later in the week?” or, “I’d love to have a chat with you, but I am simply buried right now. Can I call you later?” will hopefully let your visitor down easy and send a message to plan ahead next time.
As hard as it is to head off surprise visitors at the pass, it’s even harder to explain to irritated clients why your work isn’t done. Being a work-at-home pro also means taking ownership of your time and being firm about work boundaries.
What do you do when expected visitors stop by your office?