Whatever you call where you work (office, consulting room or therapy room) the space is an important part of the client’s experience with you. What kind of experience does your office environment offer?
In visiting a local psychologist’s office suite, I walked past one of the therapist’s office and I actually shuddered. It was cluttered and sloppy looking. Furniture looked like a reject from a thrift shop. Papers were everywhere, on the floor, the window ledge and stacked on the table she used as a desk, along with used tissues, candy wrappers, left over food containers and three coffee cups that looked as if they had not been washed in weeks. Yuk, and trust me, I am not a neat freak! As I left the building, I met that therapist, who looked as unkempt as her office. Maybe she was an excellent therapist, but she’d have “lost” me as a client at the door of her office. And, this is sad and much more common than one would expect.
I was reminded of story from Psychology Today a few years ago. Written by the client who didn’t make another appointment because she felt the therapist’s lack of attention and investment in her office was a reflection of her values. The client’s assumption was that, if the therapist didn’t value her surroundings, on some level that translated into that she didn’t value her client either.
We talk a lot in EFT training about creating a safe environment for the client. In addition to being present, listening closely and working to establish rapport, a pleasant, comfortable, relaxing place to talk is also a factor in a safe environment.
How we want others to see our work space is sort of like preparing our house for sale. It should be uncluttered, neat, in good repair, and not overly personal. Healthy plants can help, too, if the combined number of them is not equivalent to a jungle!
Now granted your space doesn’t have to look this lovely or expensive, but notice how pleasant, neutral and comfortable it is. You don’t need any other convincing to think that whoever is in that office is a professional who values his professionalism, his surroundings – and his clients.
This applies even if you only “see” people only over a video software. Are you aware of the background your online client may see if you use video on your calls? Can he see your bed or your breakfast dishes or other clutter? And if you only do phone work, what you are looking at is still a part of what you value.
After a while, we often stop noticing the space we are in. Try this. Go out to where your client would come in and notice what your client may see as they approach. Or ask a friend (one of the “tell it like it is” friends) to pretend they are the client and tell you how they experience your office environment.
What is the entrance to your office like? Is the doorway they come in cleaned and swept? Is the carpet or other flooring in good repair? Is there enough light? Are the kid’s toys or other clutter all over the yard or entrance? On my way to a hair dresser’s space in her home I had to wind my way through all the storage and clutter in her garage. (No, I didn’t go back.) What other parts of the building can they see on the way to, and in, your office? What do they smell? I did Rolfing in the practitioner’s home; there was mildew on the walls and a very strong mildew smell. When I mentioned it to the practitioner she said she didn’t notice.
Is there a need for signage? I had to hunt one therapist who was in an office with a lot of other therapists and there were no list of who was where.
Is your space quiet and devoid of interruptions? Did you put the dog/cat up? Bribe the kids to be quiet? Made sure any deliveries aren’t supposed to come during a session time? Put the phone on auto answer or better yet – turn it absolutely off. And speaking of phones, what number do you give your clients? If it’s your mobile are you in a confidential environment when you answer it? And, who else answers it? Have you trained them as to how to answer and what to say? I called for an appointment with a Yoga teacher and her teenage, rather angry sounding, son answered with a curt “I’m on the other line, what do you want?” Another time the phone was answered politely but obviously the kids were in some sort of loud unhappy discussion.
And, oh yes, if you see clients in your home office and have to share your bathroom with your clients be sure you put your personal items up and remove your favorite ratty robe out from behind the door. I actually saw that in a massage therapist’s home office. Shows you are human, yes, but does nothing for seeing you as a knowledgeable professional whose key focus is the client.