Running a home business: how to take work calls without tying up the phone line for everyone else

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Running a home business: how to take work calls without tying up the phone line for everyone else

What if you could be making a work call in your study, while someone else uses the home line for a personal call in another room? Here's how to do it.

If you run a business from home, you'll probably reach the point where you need separate phone lines for home and work calls.

You might get away with only using your mobile phone for work, but that's not always practical.

You could hook up a second copper phone line (costly, time consuming) or else opt for Voice over IP using your broadband connection.

Whichever choice you make, rather than clutter your desk with two handsets, there'a a handy gadget that might help - a dual-line handset, which can connect to both phone lines at once.

What is a dual line handset?
Dual-line phones feature two phone sockets on the back of the base station, so you can connect two phone lines.
When you pick up the handset to make a call, you can choose between calling out using Line 1 or Line 2. When a call comes in, the handset can use different ring tones to indicate whether it's a home or work call. Obviously, you need to train everyone else in the house not to pick up work calls.
If you need several phones around your home - for example in your home office, living area and bedroom - then you might upgrade to a dual-line DECT cordless base station with several dual-line cordless handsets.
You'll find dual-line DECT options from the likes of Uniden, Panasonic and Siemens. DECT cordless phones do a better job of coping with nearby electrical interference than analogue cordless phones, which could be important if you're running a lot of electrical equipment in your home office.
My setup
I've got four Uniden 7960 dual-line DECT handsets spread around my home. The central base station is hooked up to my copper phone line for home calls and my VoIP-enabled FRITZ!Box 7390 broadband modem for work calls (using the G.711 codec rather than the crackly G.729).
Even though I work from home I don't spend my entire day sitting at the desk in my home office. The ability to answer work calls from the kitchen, lounge room or bedroom saves me dashing back to the office to pick up the phone.
Using dual-line handsets around the house lets me make or receive work calls in one room, while someone else uses the home line in another room. We can also make internal calls and transfer calls between handsets - so I can pick up a home phone call from my office, put them on hold, call the living room and then transfer the call.
The VOIP approach
Some VoIP modems and adaptors let you answer both VoIP and home phone calls from the same handset using the one line. You can also dial a code to choose which line you call out on.
This might suit your needs for a single handset, or if you live alone, but if you need several handsets around your home for your family then you still might appreciate the extra flexibility of dual-line handsets. They make it much easier for two people to use two phone lines at once without accidentally interrupting each other's calls (something which doesn't sound very professional when you're talking to an important client).
One downside
One obvious downside of dual-line handsets is that you might not want your work phone ringing in the living areas after hours, especially alongside the bed.
I could connect my DECT handsets directly to my FRITZ!Box VoIP modem, but then I'd lose some flexibility.
Keeping them separate means I can automatically divert the VoIP line to voicemail after hours, while home calls will still come through.
It would be all-or-nothing if the handsets were talking directly to the VoIP router, although it's worth checking with your VoIP provider to see what kind of automatic call diversions can be set up in the cloud.
Some home phone services can also be diverted after hours, such as Telstra's "Call Forward Set The Time" feature.
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