The Home Office Is An Office

I just had a phone call with one of my co-workers, who works from home. He was huffing and puffing while talking to me, which made me wonder if he was exercising while on the phone with me. I found it distracting, but I can be oversensitive. Is it okay for an employee who works from home to make business calls while exercising?

L. K., Cambridge, MA

The short answer is “No.” From his perspective he’s multi-tasking effectively. From your perspective, he’s not fully engaged with you. And because his exercising is a significant distraction for you, you’re not as focused on the issue at hand as you could be.


The home office looks like a great alternative to working at the office. And it does have its benefits like the perfect commute. But it also comes with responsibilities. The first of these is to treat your work time as you would if you were at the office.

  • Set regular work hours. During those times you are “at the office.” If you have a significant other and/or children at home, they should be mindful that when you are “at the office,” they shouldn’t be interrupting you except in an emergency.
  • Dress reasonably for work. That change from pajamas and a bathrobe into slacks and shirt or blouse helps shift your attitude into work mode.
  • Limit the disruptions. It’s easy to think of the errand you can take care of or that fifteen-minute chore you could get done during your work hours. Those disruptions are a temptation. But they also rob you of your productive time. So schedule them just as you would if you had really been at the company office.
  • Know when to stop. Because you are at home, it’s easy to ignore “quitting time.” You need your personal time just as much when you’re working at home as when you go to the office each day. Besides, will you be paid for all that “overtime?”
  • Control your pet. It’s especially important to be careful with your pets when a client, prospect or colleague comes to your home for a visit. Pet allergies are common, and your meeting may not go well if your visitor is constantly sneezing, flicking off dog hair, or doesn’t appreciate Fido’s friendly licks.
  • Be a good neighbor. Make sure your business at home doesn’t negatively impact neighbors. Observe any regulations or zoning laws that may be applicable, such as signage for your business. Make sure you don’t hog the available parking spaces.

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