Shift Happens!® When You Make Your Home Office Work Harder

This is an example of an article written by Jim Feldman for a publication or newsletter. Jim is an author, keynote speaker and consultant who writes and speaks about Change Management, Customer Service and Innovative Problem Solving. Contact us about using Jim as an author, interview or speaker at 312-527-9111.

Before it was popular, I set up a home office. It allowed me to work at any time of the day or night, avoid traffic, ignore the weather and save a tremendous amount of commuting time.

I often discuss home-based business with my clients that have downsized their expensive office space and permitted many of their key executives to work from home. However, for many it simply does not work, because they allow the home distractions to overcome their desire to complete their business objectives.
What I discovered, years ago, what that when I “dressed” to go to work – whether at home or in my regular office – I was prepared to “work.” That’s why you didn’t see “work in my bathrobe” as one of the advantages of working from home. Sure, it’s comfortable, and, of course, I do it from time to time. But dressing for work is part of the discipline of work that helps me focus and keep distractions at bay.
What has made working from home so productive, of course, is the advances in telecommunications, specifically email and voice mail. It’s amazing that today business just can’t survive without them, especially since it wasn’t so many years ago that we didn’t have them.
But over those years email and voice mail have replaced the face-to-face interaction. With many of my clients, I often I have to force the visit, offering dinner or finding some attraction.
The exception is my gaming clients, who expect me to visit them at their locations. I look forward to these on site visits. I get to wear my new ties, see another part of the country, and learn first hand what is working for my clients and their customers.
I recommend a personal visit to each client at least every 45 days. There may be some resistance, but, really, not that much. Clients liked to see their suppliers, their marketers, and their customers because today that is an unusual occurrence. Sure, email and the telephone can be an effective business tool, but they are not as effective as face-to-face contact.
Here are some more tips to help you with Better Change email and voice mail.
Be an enviable emailer. Create clear, descriptive subject headings. State your purpose up front. Keep your message brief. Make it easy to read. Be respectful of their time. If they need more information, they will ask for it. If you do need to have some backup materials, don’t embed them in the email. Instead, attach a PDF file or set up a Web page and provide the link.
Reduce your email. If you get a lot of messages from one source ask them to consolidate them. If they persist, create a mail filter to automatically put them in a separate mail folder. Then you can read them when you want, not when they want.
Use a spam filter service. Because we operate several business units, I receive over 100 emails an hour. There is no way I could read all of them without a spam filtering service. I like Spamarrest.com, but there are many to choose from.
Take action immediately. Email by its nature looks for immediate response. Don’t flag the email for later response…do it now. Do not collect old emails. Clean out your inbox. Set up file rules so that your email software will sort the incoming emails into folders so that you can check those files first and other emails later.
Use voice mail as a tool. Do not just leave a message – leave an action item or response. I often get a response that “Bill would like you to call.” Instead, I would prefer to hear, “This is Bill. I have a special price reduction on XXX that is only available until Wednesday. Please let me know if you are interested.” This tells me why he called, what he wanted, and when he needs a response.
Maximize voice mail and email. Most people seldom change their outgoing messages. I always update my voice mail message to indicate whether I am in town or not, and I create an autoresponder for email to let people know if I won’t be able to respond quickly because of travel.
Be brief. Everyone is busy. Home offices don’t normally have a support staff. Do not leave messages longer than 30 seconds, if possible. Get to the point quickly. Be respectful of the recipients’ time…and then demand that they do the same for you.
Scan first. Whether email or voice mail, go through all of the messages first and determine what is important BEFORE you act. Also, many people automatically respond to voice mail instantly, without checking email or other sources. Find out if something may have followed shortly thereafter. Be knowledgeable in your response. Make sure you have all the facts first by scanning before responding.
Batch your calls. Batch your emails. Manage your time. Like many of you, I deal with clients on both coasts. Since I am on Central Standard Time, I am one hour behind the east coast and two hours ahead of the west coast. I try to return all the calls in batches. I prioritize the calls and responses. I respond to eastern calls and emails first and the western calls later. I have found that early morning calls to the west coast (7:30-9:00 a.m.) often reward me with clients answering their own phones. East coast calls after 5 p.m. often provide the same results.

Before it was popular, I set up a home office. It allowed me to work at any time of the day or night, avoid traffic, ignore the weather and save a tremendous amount of commuting time.

I often discuss home-based business with my clients that have downsized their expensive office space and permitted many of their key executives to work from home. However, for many it simply does not work, because they allow the home distractions to overcome their desire to complete their business objectives.

What I discovered, years ago, what that when I “dressed” to go to work – whether at home or in my regular office – I was prepared to “work.” That’s why you didn’t see “work in my bathrobe” as one of the advantages of working from home. Sure, it’s comfortable, and, of course, I do it from time to time. But dressing for work is part of the discipline of work that helps me focus and keep distractions at bay.

What has made working from home so productive, of course, is the advances in telecommunications, specifically email and voice mail. It’s amazing that today business just can’t survive without them, especially since it wasn’t so many years ago that we didn’t have them.

But over those years email and voice mail have replaced the face-to-face interaction. With many of my clients, I often I have to force the visit, offering dinner or finding some attraction.

The exception is my gaming clients, who expect me to visit them at their locations. I look forward to these on site visits. I get to wear my new ties, see another part of the country, and learn first hand what is working for my clients and their customers.

I recommend a personal visit to each client at least every 45 days. There may be some resistance, but, really, not that much. Clients liked to see their suppliers, their marketers, and their customers because today that is an unusual occurrence. Sure, email and the telephone can be an effective business tool, but they are not as effective as face-to-face contact.

Here are some more tips to help you with Better Change email and voice mail.

Be an enviable emailer. Create clear, descriptive subject headings. State your purpose up front. Keep your message brief. Make it easy to read. Be respectful of their time. If they need more information, they will ask for it. If you do need to have some backup materials, don’t embed them in the email. Instead, attach a PDF file or set up a Web page and provide the link.

Reduce your email. If you get a lot of messages from one source ask them to consolidate them. If they persist, create a mail filter to automatically put them in a separate mail folder. Then you can read them when you want, not when they want.

Use a spam filter service. Because we operate several business units, I receive over 100 emails an hour. There is no way I could read all of them without a spam filtering service. I like Spamarrest.com, but there are many to choose from.

Take action immediately. Email by its nature looks for immediate response. Don’t flag the email for later response…do it now. Do not collect old emails. Clean out your inbox. Set up file rules so that your email software will sort the incoming emails into folders so that you can check those files first and other emails later.

Use voice mail as a tool. Do not just leave a message – leave an action item or response. I often get a response that “Bill would like you to call.” Instead, I would prefer to hear, “This is Bill. I have a special price reduction on XXX that is only available until Wednesday. Please let me know if you are interested.” This tells me why he called, what he wanted, and when he needs a response.

Maximize voice mail and email. Most people seldom change their outgoing messages. I always update my voice mail message to indicate whether I am in town or not, and I create an autoresponder for email to let people know if I won’t be able to respond quickly because of travel.

Be brief. Everyone is busy. Home offices don’t normally have a support staff. Do not leave messages longer than 30 seconds, if possible. Get to the point quickly. Be respectful of the recipients’ time…and then demand that they do the same for you.

Scan first. Whether email or voice mail, go through all of the messages first and determine what is important BEFORE you act. Also, many people automatically respond to voice mail instantly, without checking email or other sources. Find out if something may have followed shortly thereafter. Be knowledgeable in your response. Make sure you have all the facts first by scanning before responding.

Batch your calls. Batch your emails. Manage your time. Like many of you, I deal with clients on both coasts. Since I am on Central Standard Time, I am one hour behind the east coast and two hours ahead of the west coast. I try to return all the calls in batches. I prioritize the calls and responses. I respond to eastern calls and emails first and the western calls later. I have found that early morning calls to the west coast (7:30-9:00 a.m.) often reward me with clients answering their own phones. East coast calls after 5 p.m. often provide the same results.

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