If you work from your home, either full or part-time, you probably feel pretty lucky. You don’t have to fight the traffic, you get to wear your bathrobe if you want, and no co-worker is hitting you up to contribute money for another employee’s baby shower.
Everything is pretty cool. In fact, you’re so relaxed you haven’t bothered to lock the doors, you don’t hesitate to brag to everyone in the grocery store that you work from home and anyone can look in the window and see all your nice, expensive office equipment.
With that attitude, working from home could become your worst nightmare.
Just because you don’t go into an office does not mean you are not vulnerable to thieves and others who want to take advantage of your lax attitude. In fact, just as carjacking gained in frequency after annoying car alarms made it easier to just grab the car with the person in it, home invasions may become more likely because burglars have to become more aggressive when people are at home working.
Security experts say home invasions are extremely dangerous because once a criminal gets into your home or apartment, he is now out of sight for easy detection and now has free rein to do what he wants.
It's naive for people to believe rising violence in the workplace will not follow them home. This si especially true if your work involves contact with people who may have a reason to want to confront you personally -- and that could mean in your home office, with your family nearby.
For that reason, experts advise a number of steps be taken by those working from home, to protect themselves and their families. Among them:
1. Getting a dog. In a fenced yard, the dog can provide good company for your children, as well as signal trouble outside. When inside, the dog can alert you to anyone near the house when you are working.
If you must have clients in the house, have the dog trained to sit quietly in the same room.
2. Securing the doors and windows. In addition to keeping doors and windows locked at all times, get an intercom for the front or back doors. These inexpensive systems are easy to install and allow you to listen for outside activity as well as inquire who is at a door without opening it. Also, use covered peep holes for solid doors. Uncovered peep holes allow anyone on the outside to look in the peep hole and determine when you approach.
At the same time, use window blinds that lower from the top, so that you can still get light, but don’t display expensive equipment to outsiders.
If you can afford it, a video system is the best for screening visitors. If not, a good perimeter alarm system -- that is turned on while you are at home -- is a good idea.
3. Protecting your privacy.There’s no reason everyone has to know you work from home. In fact, the fewer people the better. Use a company name with a post office box, or some other delivery address other than your home. Use your company name in the phone book without the address listing, and answer the phone with your company name.
Forget just putting your first initial with your last name in the phone book. Everyone knows this is a trick mostly used by women -- a perfect tip-off to the bad guys. Have a male voice on your answering machine.
4. Being aware. You may be running around on company business, your mind on the work you have to do when you get home. That makes it easy for a criminal to follow you home, and drag you inside. Make sure you check your rear view mirror when driving. If you suspect someone is following you, drive around the block. If you are suspicious, use your cell phone to call police or drive to a well-lit place or police department.
5. Covering the bases. If you must have an associate or client come in your home on business, always have another appointment to keep -- lunch with a husband, another meeting, etc., so that they know someone will be checking up on you.
Always meet someone for the first time in a public place. If it is a sales person, then call the company to confirm the person’s identity, and try to get a physical description. Call your local Chamber of Commerce if you are not familiar with the business.
6. Delivering the goods. Overnight package deliveries and courier services probably will be a fact of life if you work from home, but anyone can put on a uniform and use a van to pose as a delivery person. If you are not familiar with the delivery service, do not open the door, but have the package placed on the step. Wait several hours before retrieving it -- bad guys can hide in the bushes and grab you when the door opens.
Only open the door to sign for a package if you are sure it is a legitimate service.