How can I start working from home?

Anyone who is considering working at home has to recognize a reality: In the office, the whole workplace conspires to help you do your work. When you're at home, it is just the opposite. Everything conspires against you. All of a sudden everyone wants a bit of your time, taking you away from your tasks. Family and friends—and sometimes you yourself—find it hard to take your work plans seriously.

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To minimize conflicts, it is wise to sit down with the family and make decisions about the time that will be needed to carry out work and the time remaining for family needs. Declaring unilaterally that you will work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. can cause a lot of conflict.

Working at home also demands that the parent adjust his or her own work style. Distraction and procrastination, if problems for you, will need to be addressed if you are to work at home. Identify your optimum work style. For instance, you may work best in short bursts of activity, whereas trying for long sustained work goes against your nature. Under these circumstances, you might want to organize your work day to have numerous subprojects so you can shift from one task of thirty minutes to another of twenty-five minutes and so on through the day. Over time, the full projects will be completed.

An alternative approach is to organize the workload by day. So you would immerse yourself in work one day, working straight through lunch to complete a major project, and then, on another day, you could visit clients, make phone calls and send off e-mails, organize files, and complete all those other small tasks associated with work.

What kind of handshake makes the best impression?

In the United States, the handshake is the meeting/greeting ritual. And many managers place a lot of emphasis on it. We allow impressions based on the handshake and the rituals that surround it to determine future business relationship.

Don't extend your hand to another unless you gauge by eye contact the individual's willingness to shake hands. Don't extend your hand unless the person seems happy to see you. Sometimes, a person is too preoccupied to extend his or her hand. Once presence is established with a warm greeting, then you can extend your hand. Initiating the handshake is the sign of a true professional. If you are in your office and you wait for the other party to initiate the handshake, you risk being seen as timid and unsure of yourself.

When you are visiting another, of course, you wait until that person offers his or her hand. After all, this person is the host. If a handshake is not forthcoming immediately, hold out your hand. Never allow an important meeting to start without a handshake.

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The handshake itself should match palm to palm. Pressure should also match. If you receive a firm handshake, grip with the same firmness. If you receive a handshake with light pressure, don't squeeze too hard. Cultural differences or health issues may prevent the person from extending a firmer handshake.

When shaking hands, do a mental 1-2-3 count. At 3, drop the hand. Don't pump up and down more than once. Don't sandwich the other person's hand between both of yours. It suggests that you are trying to overpower, to patronize, or to claim the higher status. Don't bone-crush or wimp out with only half of the hand. It doesn't matter whether you are shaking a man's or a woman's hand. From a business etiquette perspective, it is as appropriate for a man to offer his hand to a woman as it is for her to offer her hand to him. Gender isn't a consideration.

Some women are uncomfortable shaking another woman's hand. Either they will nod to each other or they will hug one another. But in business, a firm handshake is the appropriate greeting.

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