Post by Laura Thompson, contributing Women On Business writer
Many of today’s working women are fortunate enough to work from home, which means they don’t have to commute to an office and they can work in their underwear. However, this also means that it might be necessary to meet clients in the home.
I’d venture to say that some of you are quite capable of taking care of yourselves. Perhaps you’ve taken self-defense classes (as every woman should—hint, hint), or maybe you’ve become proficient at some form of martial arts. However, as the evening news reminds us on a daily basis, you don’t have to be a weakling to become a victim of violence.
Indeed, vulnerability to crime is not the same thing as weakness, and every woman should realize that it can be dangerous to meet clients at home. This situation places you in a secluded, private environment where a determined criminal could easily take advantage of you.
Creating the Illusion of Exposure
Most criminals are on the look-out for an opportunity to take what they want. Your job? Don’t give them that opportunity. Just because you are meeting clients at home does not mean you cannot make them feel as though they are in a public place.
Ideally, your home office should be located at the front of the house with windows to the street. When you are meeting clients in your home, open the drapes or blinds so people walking by can see inside. You can also install doors with windows to your home office so other people in the house have a full view of the office.
Keep a cellular or land line phone on the desk or near you in plain sight. This communicates to your clients that you have access to the outside world at the push of a button. Remember, safety is just as much psychological as it is physical.
When you are meeting clients in your home, you can increase safety by creating barriers to physical contact. In other words, the goal is to make it as difficult as possible for the other person in the room to launch an attack (see figure 1).
For example, let’s say that you are going over expense reports or flipping through a portfolio. Arrange your office furniture so that there is a card table or some other flat surface between two chairs. You take one chair; your client takes the other. You can also use an L-shaped desk for this purpose, with the writing desk between you.
Creating an Exit
It is never a good idea for women to box themselves in when they are meeting clients in the home. This blocks all avenues of escape and places you in a vulnerable position. It is much better to create an exit for yourself just in case something were to go wrong.
Again, the placement of your office furniture is key. If your desk is stuck in a corner and you are sitting between the desk and a wall, your client stands between you and the door. Instead, position your desk so that you have a straight line to the door from where you sit (see figure 2).
You should also create a psychological avenue of escape. For example, leaving the door to your office open communicates that you can leave at any time. This alone might be sufficient to deter an assailant.
Safety for women who are meeting clients at home is not limited to physical safety. Any time you bring a stranger, client or associate into your house, you become vulnerable in more ways than one. You keep your most important data and information in your office, and you don’t want to give anyone the opportunity to steal it or take a peak.
Sensitive information relating to other clients, for example, should be stored in a locked file cabinet. If you leave a client’s file open on your desk, your visitor can see something that is not for his or her eyes. Not only does this protect you, but also your clients.
Word to the Wise
Most women don’t worry about safety when it comes to networking with clients or schmoozing potential partners. However, violence can happen any time and in any situation. These tips are geared specifically toward meeting clients in the home, but they could just as easily apply to a woman who meets a new client alone at the office.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are vulnerable, and remember that criminals come in all shapes and sizes. That well-dressed man in his twenties who wants to purchase your products in bulk? The one who always seems shy and asks you about your pet Pomeranian? Yeah, he could be dangerous. Keep safety in mind and you’ll never have to find out the hard way.