Ever worry that your home office is less legitimate than a corporate cubicle? Trust me—it doesn’t have to be. Maybe your kids are home, you have to walk your dog, and you’re working at the kitchen table in your pajamas. Even if you’re surrounded by a huge pile of laundry, you still need to be as professional as possible when you’re doing your job. Just because you work-from-home doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In order to be taken seriously, you need to maintain a professional image.
I manage my business from the comfort of my one-bedroom apartment, and I’ve picked up some tools of the trade. Take off your pajamas, brush your hair, and follow these five tips for being professional when working from home.
1. Eat a Real Breakfast
Setting your own hours can throw you through a loop, so keep yourself on track by eating like an adult woman, not like a college student. Sit down at the table at a normal hour and dig in, as eating a real breakfast will set the tone for the day. Eat something substantial like oatmeal, eggs, or granola. Instant noodles are not a well-balanced breakfast. Neither is last night’s Chinese food.
2. Put On an Outfit and Brush Your Hair
It’s tempting to stay in your oh-so-cozy pajamas all day, but eventually, this will make you feel pretty low. One day, you’ll look in the mirror without recognizing that dowdy gal looking back at you. You’re a beautiful woman, and you’ll feel better and more productive if you put on an outfit and brush your hair, just as though you were going into the office. If you feel confident about your appearance, you’ll exude that when you connect with people over the phone. If you want a professional image, put on an outfit, even if the mirror is the only one who will see you.
Related Content: Why You Should Dress Up, Even When You Work From Home
3. Be Reachable
A lot of women who work-from-home worry that others think they spend their days watching “Desperate Housewives.” In fact, before I managed my business from my kitchen table, I assumed people who worked from home spent most of their time at the tennis courts or changing diapers.
In order to prove these haters wrong, you must be reachable. Download Skype and Join.me, get a virtual phone system like Grasshopper, sync up your work email to your phone, and prepare to stay connected. When clients, customers, and managers can’t reach you by phone and email, they might think you’re sleeping on the job.
Related Content: Do You Need a Business Phone for the Home Office?
4. Schedule Your Day
In order to reach your maximum productivity, schedule your day and make checklists of what you need to get done. For example, you could plan to spend the first two hours checking emails and responding to customer inquiries, and an hour before lunch balancing the budget and doing accounting. Each day, make a checklist of what you hope to accomplish by day’s end. Hold yourself accountable—if you complete your checklist, award yourself with a manicure, massage, or hour of junky TV. Making a schedule and sticking to it is a sure way to get things done, especially if you’re managing your own business.
Related Content: Increase Your Productivity with Block Scheduling
5. Make a Quiet Corner
I live in downtown Boston in a super small (but chic!) apartment, and I don’t have an office. Even so, designating an area that is always quiet has helped me to feel professional, even when I’m working in 550 square feet. If you have an office, close the door and make sure that those who live with you know to tiptoe past. If you need to, designate certain times where you’ll make and take calls. My quiet space? The corner by the window in my living room. You can’t hear the doorbell, the ringing phone, or anything else. It’s always quiet. When my boyfriend comes over and I’m standing there, he knows he isn’t allowed to make a peep!
6. Get Outside
Just because you work-at-home doesn’t mean you need to be cooped up all day. If you want to appear professional, it’s essential that you take care of yourself. Make a point to get out for a walk every day, even if it’s to walk around the block or jog to the corner to get a sandwich. Sit on the outside steps to make a call, and breathe in the fresh air. Connect with the outdoors, and you’ll feel calm, cool, and relaxed—the perfect recipe for a professional attitude.
Working from home is no excuse to be a lazy bones. You’re a professional, and you should take the steps to act like one. Be reachable, get dressed, eat right, connect with the outdoors, and you’re well on your way to a productive life in the same place where you sleep.
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Emma Siemasko is a Boston-based writer and entrepreneur. She has her own online dating consultancy called Frog2Prince, which she manages from home, and also works at Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system.