I consider myself lucky. I am one of 8 million+ people who work from home in the US. At least, I’m part of that number when I’m not working from a seat on an airplane, in a hotel room or somewhere else. While we are just over 5% of the workforce, our numbers have been steadily rising.*
Working from any location other than a corporate office presents some obstacles to overcome. Ignite 360 has been virtual since we began in 2011. We’ve been at the forefront of this growing work-from-home movement. But we’re not immune to the mishaps that can occur. Murphy’s Law prevails – the more important the call, the more chaos ensues.
Here are 5 harrowing tales from Ignite 360’s conference call archives.
Mind the Pets, Acknowledge the Pets
Rob Volpe, CEO based in San Francisco
“Recently I was on a call with some of my colleagues and a couple of clients. We were kicking off a new project. They were first time clients, so we were still in the ‘getting to know you phase.’ All of a sudden, I hear a noise like a circus clown horn. ‘What’s that?’ I think to myself. But it doesn’t repeat. The call continues. Until a few minutes later when the horn honks again. And then again. ‘What in the world?’ I’m wondering. And then one of our colleagues chimes in that her dog is playing with a dog toy that just happens to sound like a circus clown horn. I suppose it was either that or risking some barking for attention.
Our fur-babies just love to be in on the action and seem to have a knack for seeking our attention when we are most unavailable – the client call. My cat Domino likes to get in my lap, walk back in forth in between me and the laptop, and if she wants to play, she’ll sit in the hall and make the loudest “where are you?” meows just when I’m ready to share my part on the call.”
Rob’s Work-From-Home Hack: The ‘mute’ button is handy in these situations. Honesty about the situation works well too. Most clients understand these days.
Under %&$#-ing Construction
Nate Depies, Insights VP based in Naperville
“We were remodeling our master bathroom, which is adjacent to my office. Occasionally, the contractors would mutter some expletive, which could barely be heard in my office. However, once I was on a client call when a contractor shouted, at the top of his lungs, one of the really good curse-words. The twelve-letter, compound word that has an M and F in it! It rang out like a bell. My client heard, forcing me to explain the situation. Fortunately, he was understanding, and we all had a good laugh.”
Nate’s Work-From-Home Hack: All you can do is apologize and keep your sense of humor and hope the client does as well.
Are Those Crickets?
Irene Tengwall, Insights Cultivator based in Chicago
The worst feeling in a presentation is to share learning and get nothing in response… to hear ‘crickets’ in the room. This literally happened to one of our consultants, while living in Louisiana.
“I was on a conference call, in which the cicadas were so loud everyone asked what was happening (I had all my windows closed!) ... and you can't ‘shut them off!’ So, the cicadas were in on the strategy.”
Irene’s Work-From-Home Hack: Be flexible. Sometimes all you can do is go with the rhythm of the cicadas.
The Noise That Keeps Following Me Around
Lisa Osborne, COO based in Seattle
“Mine seem to follow the unavoidable noise disruption like the UPS delivery with a knock on the door and then the dogs start barking or the inevitable landscaping / mowing happening right outside my window during a virtual presentation. Oh if only we had soundproof bubbles to work in at home.”
Lisa’s Work-From-Home Hack: Put dogs in secure spot (i.e. kennel) before jumping on calls. Use the mute button when not speaking during those problematic moments. I've also been known to get up and walk around my house during calls just to avoid the noisy areas of mowing. I recently had an important intake call on a new project with a client. The minute the call started, so did street repairs right outside my house. I moved to the back of the house and there was a saw from a home renovation in the backyard. I finally found a quiet corner in my bedroom and sat on a bench so I could hear the call.
Never a Plumber When You Need One
Tori Palmer-Kern, Moderator/Project Manager based in Minneapolis
“I had one just last week. We were on a call when all of a sudden, I heard some loud gurgling noises coming from my kitchen sink and it was filling up on the verge of overflowing. My normal solution would be to start plunging the sink, but I certainly couldn't do that on a client call so I sent a panicked email to my maintenance guy (who I have become quite close with being as I'm always home when they are doing repairs and updates). He saved the day and was there within minutes to fix the sink and I was able to continue on with the call.”
Tori’s Work-From-Home Hack: Keep the phone number of your maintenance guy or gal on speed dial.
The textbook example of what can go wrong during a remote call happened a couple of years ago when a foreign affairs expert based in South Korea tried to offer commentary to the BBC on a North Korean news event. During this “serious” interview, his daughter decided it was time to visit Daddy in the office, and not even Mommy could keep her under control.
What mishaps have you had happen while working remotely? We’d love to hear your story.
Want to read more about working from home or how we started a remote company? Check out these posts…
*For more statistics and insights about the work-from-home movement:
Out of the Office: More People Are Working Remotely, Survey Finds – New York Times
The Rise of Working Remotely Will Continue - Fast Company