April 29th, 2010

How Late Is Too Late To Call Someone?

by Jacqueline Whitmore

At 12:15am this morning, while I was soundly sleeping, my phone rang.  I immediately woke me up, glanced at the caller ID, and noticed that someone from Philadelphia was calling.  I don’t know anyone in Philadelphia so I didn’t answer it.  The phone rang again one minute later.  This time the phone woke up my husband and my dogs too.  I glanced at the caller ID again — same caller.  I didn’t answer.  By this time I was fully awake and frustrated that someone would call me at that hour.

When I got up today, I listened to the phone message from the “midnight caller” who happened to be a student calling to schedule an interview for a business etiquette story she was writing for a class project.  Chances are, she wasn’t aware that she was calling my home when she dialed my office number (which she probably found on my website).

Most, if not all, entrepreneurs, authors, and etiquette experts work from home, therefore our office number is also our home or cell phone number.  I’ve also heard other executives say that they too receive calls in the middle of the night from co-workers, solicitors, bosses, and the like.

I once made the mistake of calling a client during off-hours.  Even though it was 9:00am my time, it was 6:00am his time.  In retrospect, I should have done my homework, looked at his area code, and then I would have realized that he lived in California and was three hours behind.  I’ll never make this mistake again.  I now play it safe and call people between the hours of 9:00am and 6:00pm only, unless they tell me otherwise.

The lessons to be learned are:

  • Find out how a person would like to be contacted.
  • Unless your call is urgent, most people prefer to be contacted via email because it’s less intrusive and they can respond when it’s convenient for them.
  • Find out what time zone you’re calling.  By taking this little extra step, you increase your chances of calling someone when they’re available and more apt to listen.

Do “off-hours” exist anymore or has technology made us accessible 24/7?  Is it okay to call someone at any hour of the day?  Let me know what you think.

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5 Responses to “How Late Is Too Late To Call Someone?”

  1. Douglas Trapasso on April 29th, 2010 10:31 am

    How awkward! I am -dying- to know if her mistake will find its way into her paper!

  2. Laura Sultan (paramaya) on April 29th, 2010 10:55 am

    I work at home as a web designer so I feel your pain. Fortunately, I have separate lines for personal and business. My landline is for business only, and it’s located in my office far away from the bedroom. I strongly suggest that anyone with a home-based business use two separate lines and turn the ringer off when you close up shop for the day.

    I also think it’s important to avoid sending your clients the wrong message. I almost never answer the phone during off-hours anymore, and my clients seem to have gotten the message. I also know of some home-based business owners who post office hours on their websites.

  3. Karen on April 29th, 2010 11:34 am

    This is an interesting topic and I have differing viewpoints.

    I think Laura is right. 2 lines and turn the office one off when you aren’t working. I have a co-worker who refuses to do this and then gets upset when people call her outside of her working hours. She works from home on Mon and Fri. Or, they only call her @ home and not in her office. They only have the home # programmed into their phone and they only call it. She refuses to let them know the proper #. She is very non-confrontational so I guess she is just going to have to put up with it.

    Supposedly new technology is coming to allow 2 line or more per 1 cell phone! That would be great! I think Google has something like that as well where you can create a “Work #” and it will forward the call to another number.

    Most people don’t have the time to research every call they make ot see what time zone it is in. And if they are working @ 10pm they may want to leave a message for the person knowing it is after work hours and they will get the message when they return rather than waiting to the next day. It’s too hard sometimes to keep everyone’s work from home schedule in your brain that you deal with. Posting hours is great but still some people are going to call so they can leave a message when they are dealing with something.

  4. Barbara Lopez, @Brightfarm on May 17th, 2010 2:00 pm

    Hi Walethia – it’s funny how sometimes people perceive that if you work from home then you must be reachable 24/7. Like Laura, I have long put into practice not answering my business line (a completely separate, dedicated business line) during off-hours. That doesn’t mean I don’t check messages (in case of urgent situations), but it’s a simple way to educate clients on respecting availability. Great tips here, thank you!

  5. Oluniyi D. Ajao on May 24th, 2010 2:42 pm

    I hardly ever answer phone calls on my cellphone outside business hours unless it is from a number in my phone’s address book.

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