1. Having customers hear your kids playing in the background
Working in a noisy area or with the TV on is distracting and no way to excel. A quiet workplace is the key to success when working from home - it is essential for concentration and for receiving business calls. When customers can hear kids, dogs, TV and other noises in the background, they most likely will assume you are not devoting your full attention to your work. If your customer can hear the noise, there is a good chance that your supervisor could hear the noise as well. A good home office sounds just like a good office environment -- silent.
2. Setting up shop on your kitchen table, coffee table or bed
Working from different areas of the house can be a distraction or create a disorganized environment possibly causing a loss of focus or important materials. Every company will have different rules when it comes to how a home office should be set up, but having an area that's sole purpose is work is necessary to put some space between your work life and your home life.
3. Letting your computer lead a "double life"
Having your computer hacked and a customer's personal information stolen while a family member is surfing the Internet or downloading music is a quick way to lose your job. Data security is becoming an increasing concern and you're likely to have access to personal information that needs to be kept private and away form potential viruses and hackers. Sharing your work computer or passwords with your family can open it up to a wide range of problems.
4. Using "ancient" technology
Frequently losing Internet or phone connection while working from home will prevent you from doing your job and ultimately lead to losing it. Most companies that allow you to work from home will have specific technology requirements to ensure that their applications function effectively -- not adhering to these could be grounds for termination.
5. Not knowing how to "Google" something
Not knowing how to turn your computer on, what a mouse is or how to perform basic troubleshooting are surefire ways to get the ax. You don't have to be a computer genius, but basic and sometimes intermediate computer skills are needed for work-from-home customer service jobs. Your computer and phone are your links to the company and clients so it is necessary to have a basic understanding of how to run them. Often these skills are tested during the hiring process as well.
6. Not understanding the definition of multitasking
Doing laundry or other household chores while on the clock are not perks of working at home. Work time is work time and should be dedicated to professional duties. Mixing personal and professional duties will lead to unfocused work, unsatisfactory performance and a potential job hunt in the near future.
7. Spending your work time shopping online
Just because the boss cannot walk by your desk at any moment and see what you are working on does not mean you don't have to work. When working from home, it is important to be able to prioritize and work efficiently. Goals still need to be met and dedicated work time should be spent doing just that ... work.
8. "Showing up" late or consistently "leaving" early
Just as your co-workers and supervisors expect you to arrive on time in an office setting, they expect the same when working from home. Responsibility and dedication are extremely important. You must be able to motivate yourself to keep on schedule to succeed when working from home.
9. Mouthing off to a customer
Just because you are not at an office or face-to-face with co-workers, supervisors or clients does not mean that professional decorum is not required in all communications. Yelling at, arguing with, hanging up on or generally being rude via phone or e-mail are easy ways to find yourself unemployed in any job, home- or office-based. Proper etiquette is required in all positions. A polite demeanor will get you ahead in a lot of situations - this is one of them.
10. Eating lunch while working
A certain level of professionalism is required in any position. Peanut butter encrusted envelopes or conversations with a mouth full of chips will not bode well for you. Using common sense to follow general etiquette and businesses rules will make a good impression on customers, co-workers and higher-level employees in your company - and allow you to keep your work-at-home job.
Mary A. Naylor, a 20-year veteran of the concierge services industry, is founder and CEO of VIPdesk, a leading provider of premium virtual contact center solutions serving Fortune 500 clients and their collective 10 million customers.