User Post: Office Etiquette: Working From Home

Office Etiquette is a weekly column focusing on the do's and dont's of office behavior. A well-respected workplace reputation should be a goal for everyone.

We've all dreamed about ditching the cubicle and working from home in our pajamas, nestled under the covers. If you're among the lucky people who have experienced this joy, you know that it can also have its downfalls (e.g. neglecting to brush your teeth until noon).

Whether you're a seasoned telecommuter or just interested in knowing more about working from home, here are some basic rules to follow:

  1. Wake up at a decent hour. You may think, "Eh, I'll just sleep in for a few hours and work later tonight." Please. Very few people actually do this. It's better to wake up when you normally would for your 9-to-5 job. After all, you don't want to still be working when your friends and family get home from the office.
  2. Take breaks for healthy meals. I learned two very important lessons when I worked from home: 1. Don't skip meals. 2. Don't order takeout all the time. Sometimes I would get so overwhelmed and caught up in my work that I would forget to eat. And if you met me, you'd see that I cannot afford to skip meals. If I did remember to eat, I made an unhealthy and expensive habit of ordering greasy food from the local diner and eating only a small portion of it while chugging coffees on an empty stomach. The result was that I lost about 10 pounds and got an ulcer. So let this be a lesson that working from home is not an invitation to eat like an idiot.
  3. Remember personal hygiene. When I was a full-time freelancer, I usually woke up 30 to 45 minutes before my scheduled work time to shower and put on makeup. The days that I just hopped out of bed and ran over to the computer without even brushing my teeth were the most depressing days of my life. Always look presentable for yourself, if anything else. Showering and looking like an employed person will elevate your mood. Plus, working naked or in your pajamas doesn't exactly fly when you're on a video conference call with your boss or clients.
  4. Don't Gchat and/or surf Facebook all day. Consider making yourself invisible on Gchat or any other messaging system, as friends will assume you have "all the time in the world" because you work from home. Constantly chatting with your friends will only make your work productivity suffer. Also refrain from logging into Facebook every five seconds. Facebook statuses are like train wrecks, and you could spend hours looking at them if you aren't careful: "Just ate a ham sandwich," "In the delivery room about to push my baby out," "Why do some people insist on breaking my heart?" You know those statuses, and they aren't worth your work time.
  5. Don't invite people over. If your friend is taking the day off, it doesn't mean you should invite her over for wine and cheese. Even though you're not in an office, you must remember you're still working. You may find that friends and family have trouble comprehending this, so it's best to lay down some ground rules during work hours.
  6. Don't run all your errands. It's OK to occasionally buy stamps or grab a few groceries, but running through a to-do list during work hours is a bad idea. This isn't what you get paid to do, and you may lose your telecommuting privileges if your boss notices that your work productivity is slowing. Reserve your errands for the weekend or after work hours.
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