Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't go out in the monkey pants!

This may seem like a ridiculous title but I am quite certain that many of you working from home understand it. And many of you who may view the telework life as a glamorous one need to understand it. It is both the blessing and the curse of those of us with offices in our homes.

Early in my telework days, just after we had started our business, I would take my children to school and/or pick them up in the afternoon. Anytime my youngest son would slide into his seat in the carpool line, look up and say 'Oh,you had an appointment today?' meant I was wearing make up and my hair wasn't in a ponytail.
I started working early in the morning, sometimes stopped for lunch, and worked until I had to leave to pick up a kid or refill the refrigerator. I hadn't remarried yet and I just didn't see the point in taking a shower every morning, fully dressing and wasting make-up and contacts on the cat.

There are several sales books I've read that insist on dressing in business attire including the heels just to make business calls from home. The thinking behind them being if you are in business clothing you will feel more professional and therefore sound more professional. I think that is pure bull.

I've launched events, courted Washington Post reporters, sold sponsorships to large companies and helped clients with new business strategy all while wearing my favorite monkey PJs. I was no less 'professional' in my information or approach than I would have been wearing uncomfortable clothes that had to be dry cleaned after a day in the office with my cat. And my product or consulting was no less valuable and produced the same incredible results.

What I did find was this; I am a person of extremes. I don't just drink a can of Cheerwine if I have a 12 pack, I drink it all in a day.For those of you unfortunate enough to have been born outside of North Carolina, Cheerwine is soda (pop?) similar to Cherry Coke. So I was extreme in my eschewing of the 'dress like the office' mindset and that was wrong.

I wasn't less professional, less productive or less effective by not wearing pantyhose every day. But I was less balanced and less comfortable outside of my house as a businessperson. If I spoke to a client who mentioned a chance to chat in an hour at a coffee shop, I was just out of luck. If I ran out to Food Lion to grab cat food during the lunch break and happened to overhear someone mention their struggles with their business, I couldn't strike up a conversation about what I did dressed in my crazy monkey pants. While it didn't effect my business ability within the confines of my home office, it made me less willing and able to feel 'businessy' outside of it. And that was important to me.

It can also make the times it is necessary to don the full DC business outfit seem far more annoying than they really are. While every home worker should have a plan to get out of their office and network for business AND human interaction on a regular basis, not being in the habit of dressing every day as a routine makes you less willing to want to get ready to go out. Getting ready to be social becomes a chore, something that you have to plan for within the day and you are so less likely to do it.

It is important to have a business network to interact with monthly if not weekly IN PERSON when you work from home. Not a personal network mind you...not just dinner or drinks or coffee with friends, but lunch, drinks or coffee with other professionals. And for that you need something other than the most comfortable pink fuzzy socks EVER...I'm just sayin.

So do I get up every morning and put on a DC worthy suit?  Heck no. But I do have my own getting ready routine each morning. As soon as my husband, who does have a commute, leaves for his hour and 20 minute 12 mile drive into our nation's capital, I jump in the shower and dress in clothes that I haven't slept in. They aren't client meeting clothes, but they are clothes that shouldn't embarrass my family in public and clothes that make me feel professional enough to strike up a conversation in Staples
...and that's important. And if  a client calls and wants to meet on the fly, I can be ready super quick because everything but the dressing is done.

If this isn't your struggle or you haven't fallen into the rut of dressing for your cat then I applaud you. Most teleworkers have to go through a spell to find their comfort zone. I encourage you to develop a routine of 'getting ready' every day. The lady at the Food Lion will appreciate it.

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