by Sarah Kellner
According to Forbes, 52% of American small businesses are home based. Although many of these businesses operate primarily online, meeting with clients face to face is still a big component of many companies’ success.
When preparing to welcome clients into your home, there are specific safety precautions you need to take to ensure your work environment is secure and prepared for any emergency. And as an added bonus, I guarantee these measures will be noticed by the client and communicate a professionalism that many other small companies don’t always take into account.
1. Clear Exits.
Considering you probably don’t have glowing exit signs over all the exterior doors in your home, including a clearly marked exit sign in your home office is a bold move to transform a “home office” into an “office.”
As far as safety goes, visiting clients will definitely notice this professional emergency preparedness—at the very least, as they are leaving your productive meeting.
2. Emergency Exits.
A convenient place to set up an office is in your home’s basement—it’s quiet, private, and secure from errant family members wandering in. Plus, finishing a basement typically costs up to half what it would cost to construct an office above ground.
However, basements are not entirely ideal when it comes to safety. Ensuring your space is up to code is essential to your business’s success. Check with your local zoning inspector to learn the specific regulations for your area.
In case of an emergency, an egress window or door is required for basements nationwide. Generally, this window is required to have a net clear opening of 5.7 square feet, which should be enough room for an average person to crawl through.
An egress window is generally made up of these 5 parts:
- A window frame in the foundation wall, often called a “buck.”
- A well to partition the window from the surrounding earth. It’s typically attached to the wall or to the buck.
- A basement window that follows code (one with hinges and doesn’t require keys or locks that are difficult to operate in an emergency, typically).
- Safety grates, grilles, or covers to keep people or pets from falling into the window well (as this would certainly negate the purpose.)
- Ladder or steps to get out of the window well, if present.
3. Emergency Lighting.
If your business operates like the Postal Service — through rain, hail, and blizzards — installing emergency lighting is an important move to make your clients feel safe, just in case the power is cut during a storm. Would you like to find yourself sitting in the total darkness of a stranger’s home? Be sure to install these lights in a route to the exit, kind of like a movie theater aisle.
4. Privacy vs. Safety.
If you have clients visiting your home, put yourself in their shoes when considering safety and the overall feel of your home The last thing you want to do is make your visiting client feel uncomfortable in any way.
For example, look at the exterior of your home, specifically the side that a client will be approaching from. Do you have thick bushes around the home that—while perfectly attractive—create a barrier around your home and give it a secluded feeling? This goes for the decorating in your office as well. Stark walls may be a bit creepy, while a room featuring photos of smiling family members and lively (or fake) houseplants can put a person more at ease.
When a client enters your office, it’s fine to shut the door. You should have substantial, soundproof doors for privacy and to block out the noise from your teenage son practicing guitar upstairs. But how necessary is it to lock the door? Even if your intention is to prevent your toddler from waltzing in, consider how this move may come across with some clients.
All this being said, being attune to the unspoken comfort or discomfort of your client is a great way to bond with them. Offer them a beverage and ask how their day is going.
5. No Pets Allowed.
When you’re a pet lover, it can slip your mind that other people may not be. To keep your clients safe and healthy, under no circumstance should you allow your dog or cat into your home office area. Asthmatic and allergic folks can be very sensitive to these specific allergens—even dangerously so.
Consider changing clothes before going into a business meeting if you’ve had contact with your pet earlier that day. This goes for smoking, too—habitual smokers sometimes forget how pervasive the smell can be, and sensitive clients may take their business elsewhere if their nose is bothered.
6. Electrical cords.
I can’t tell you how many home offices I see swimming in cord spaghetti. It would be a disaster for a client to trip. Corral that tangle, entrepreneurs, and everything else will be manageable, too.
What steps have you taken to improve safety and increase the professionalism of your home office?
Sarah Kellner writes on small biz and home offices for Home Depot. Sarah’s aim is to provide DIY and other top-flight info to individuals so they can sustain the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Many of the home-office lighting options discussed by Sarah can be found on the Home Depot website.