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5 workplace rules to remember (even if you work from home)

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, Working? Living?


I saw these 5 office etiquette rules at CBS Moneywatch, and they got me thinking about what rules would be on my list if I was the one to wield supreme executive power at the office. Then I realized: Since I work from home now (except when I’m traveling), I guess I do have the power to issue my own etiquette laws, after all. And so here they are: 5 rules to remember—regardless of where your office is.

Don’t assume that someone who works from home is free during the day. When you call someone who works from home during normal business hours, your first question should be “Is this a good time to talk?” Even though my office is now my kitchen table/desk in the bedroom/lap desk by the wood stove/coffee table in front of the news, I still have conference calls and business meetings, I still have deadlines, and I’m still working.

Overdressed is better than underdressed. Work in an office that embraces casual Friday—and casual Monday through Thursday as well? Polish your image a bit and you’ll stand out in a crowd. As Susan points out over at The Working Closet, there’s a huge difference between a sleeveless blouse and a tank top.

Build and reinforce the team. Whether you work in a cubicle farm or from your home, stay in touch with the rest of your team. It’s easy to do that these days—another reason to love Facebook and Twitter! (Don’t know the difference between a RT and a #hashtag? Here’s a primer on how to make Twitter work for you.) Also: What not to say to your coworkers. Take it to heart.

Give credit where credit is due. It may be temping to just say “Thanks!” when your boss compliments you on a job well done, but if other people helped you, make sure they get the kudos they deserve. You don’t have to play down your own accomplishments in order to do it, either; just change “Thanks!” to “Thanks! I really appreciated the effort X, Y, and Z put into it, too!” Few things are more demoralizing than watching a colleague take sole credit for a group effort.

Watch the way you email. I’ve written before about avoiding email overload, and those tips work well no matter where your office is. But when it comes to constant communication, here are a few other things to consider:

  • Spell check isn’t foolproof, so take time to proof read as well. (to, too, and two, anyone? Or their and there? Exactly).
  • Forward as seldom as possible. If you must send a forward, make sure it’s directly related to work, and make sure to remove everything except the original message and your response to it.
  • Don’t send large attachments. Not unless someone requests that you do so, at any rate.
  • Reply as soon as you can. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your email, but you should try to acknowledge that you’ve received the message as soon as you can. (Obviously, you don’t have to respond to spam, or to email blasts from strangers).

What office etiquette rules would you call for if you were in charge?

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5 comments so far...

  • Avoid having conference calls in the work space shared by someone who isn’t involved in the call and has other work to do. Or if that’s not possible, at least don’t do it on “speaker phone” unless you really, really have to.

    If you can’t give attention to my issue right now, just say so! Give me a better time and I will go away. Don’t try to deal with me in a half-assed manner because you really need to be dealing with something else.

    SKL  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 12:32 am

  • It’s ironic that you suggest proofreading email… when this blog post has so many spelling errors and missing words in it! “you’re response to it…” (you mean “your”); “to, two, and two” (you meant to include “too”); “Watch the way your email.” (did you mean, “you”?)…

    I’m sorry to nit-pick, I just thought it was funny! Love your blog!

    Tracy  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 11:28 am

  • Thanks, Tracy, I’ve fixed those now — I need to be better about following my own advice. So take heart, folks, and proofread…. or run the risk of being taken to task by someone who loves your blog but prefers to leave corrections in the comments rather than sending you an email.

    Lylah  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 11:46 am

  • this is a great list!!

    i would just add that make sure if you know you aren’t going to make a previously agreed upon date/time for getting back to someone - let them know early and be the first to suggest a new date/time but still flexible since you are the one breaking the agreement. It’s really annoying to wait for someone/something and just getting NOTHING.. i’d rather reschedule then wait around!

    If you find yourself doing this a lot, learn your limitations - obviously you are over-scheduling! Once in a while it happens, but commitments shouldn’t change every time…

    kate  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 1:29 pm

  • I really appreciate the first rule! When you call make sure that it is a good time. Don’t assume because someone works from home that they have oodles of time!

    Mary  |  April 26th, 2011 at 6:15 pm