For some, workin from home sounds like a dream come true. No commute, no weird smells when someone heats up their lunch, and the ability to enjoy work flexibility. However, working from home can present challenges if you don’t take the time to set yourself up for success in a remote environment.
That’s why we compiled common work-from-home mistakes with advice on how to fix them. That way, you can maximize the opportunity and perform at a high level.
7 Work-from-Home Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 1: Not Treating It like a Real Job
Of course, you know it’s a real job because you’re getting a real paycheck. That’s why it’s important to take your work-from-home job as seriously as you would any other job.
So, while you can enjoy the benefits of remote work, you shouldn’t take advantage of working-from-home.
For example, you might like the idea of going to the movies for the matinee performance because it’s less expensive and less crowded. But, you’ll lose a lot of time during the workday. You can argue that you can make up the hours early in the morning or late at night, but is that the wisest use of your time? Do you really want to work in the wee hours just to see a movie? Not to mention the fact that you’re supposed to be working during those hours.
If you had an in-office job, you’d probably never sneak out for a movie in the middle of the day. So, even though you’re working at home, if you approach a work-at-home job the same way you would if you worked in the office, you’ll be setting yourself up for success right from the start. And keep in mind, you want to think long-term about these arrangements. Working from home offers plenty of perks that are best enjoyed over the long-haul.
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 2: All Work and No Play
On the flip side, though, working at home doesn’t mean that work is the only thing you do while you’re home. Many new work-from-home employees worry that if they aren’t constantly online, answering every single email, text, and chat, the second it comes in, everyone will assume that they aren’t working.
Even though you work at home, you’re allowed to take breaks, browse social media, and have a full lunch break away from your desk–just like you could if you were in the office. In fact, you should take breaks to help boost your productivity and prevent burn out.
Make sure you’re setting aside enough time to step away from the monitor and take meaningful breaks from the job. You’ll also want to discuss a schedule with your manager so that you don’t feel the need to always be working.
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 3: Not Setting Boundaries
It’s not always easy to set and maintain boundaries when working remotely, and work and home are under the same roof. When you’re working, you can’t help but think about the laundry that’s piling up. And, when you’re doing the laundry, you’re thinking about the work that’s piling up.
But setting boundaries is a crucial element to success as a remote employee. And when you work at home, you likely have the freedom to set the boundaries that work for you. For example, if you’re a morning lark, you might find that you’re the most productive first thing in the morning. So, dedicate those early hours to completing the hardest tasks on your to-do list. Then, later in the day, when you’re feeling less productive, take a longer break, and tackle the dishes or the laundry. Then, switch back to work tasks until it’s time to clock out.
The key thing is to stick to those boundaries. When it’s work time, all you do is work. No thinking about (or doing) household chores. Then, during the designated “chore” time, do chores and only chores. Don’t sneak in a single peek at your email.
Keeping these boundaries will help you stay focused, divide your work-life from your home-life, and help you maintain a sense of balance.
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 4: Child Care Issues
Normally, we make it a point to tell new remote workers that they should not overlook the importance of childcare. Plenty of work-at-home plans have gone awry because of a child. Who can forget this classic.
Our usual advice includes hiring in-home help or dropping your child off at daycare to maximize your productivity during the workday. It’s almost impossible to get work done when you’ve got one eye and ear on young kids that can’t be trusted.
However, if you’re working-from-home during the pandemic, outside childcare may not be an option right now. So, you have to get creative. Our top tips include splitting work and childcare with a partner (if you have one) and working flexibly (say, doing some focused work after the kids are in bed).
We’ve got some resources and ideas on how to work-from-home with kids during the pandemic (but they’re useful for your average snow day, too).
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 5: Not Investing in Yourself
One of the advantages of working from home is that you can work from wherever you like. Usually, that could mean the library, a coffee shop, or even on the road. During the pandemic, though, that pretty much means indoors, unless you live somewhere with nice weather and a porch.
That said, it’s a mistake to think that working from the couch, the porch swing, or even in bed are good ideas. For starters, it won’t do wonders for your posture. Read up on best practices for work-from-home ergonomics and invest in your home office.
That means picking the best equipment for your situation. Best doesn’t have to mean “most expensive.” It does, however, mean “best for your situation.”
If you have a home office, take the time to set it up properly. That could mean investing in a supportive and comfy chair, buying a second (or third!) monitor, or just rearranging the lighting. Whatever it is, spending a little extra time to invest in a decent home office set-up will help you perform your best.
Even if you don’t have a true home “office,” there are plenty of places you can claim as your own. A cozy corner, unused space under the stairs or even the corner of the kitchen can all be converted to the perfect work-from-home “office.”
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 6: Playing It Fast and Loose
Another common work-at-home mistake is not setting up a routine. Just like you have a routine at the office, you should have a routine when you work-at-home.
That said, there’s no one “right” routine for working-at-home, so you may need to experiment to find one that works for you. Do you like to work out first thing in the morning, enjoy some coffee then ease into your day? Fine. Maybe you’re the kind of person that likes to dive in first thing then take a longer break in the afternoon.
Whatever it is, once you find a rhythm that works for you, stick with it. It will help you maintain your boundaries and makes planning your workday easier.
Work-from-Home Mistake No. 6: Going Radio Silent
When you’re working from home, you’re (hopefully!) working without interruption. That means you’re able to focus and get a lot done. And that’s fantastic. But, don’t forget to let people know what you’re up to.
One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to communication and working from home is not communicating enough! In some respects, it makes sense. The amount of work you’re doing (and the quality of it) should speak to the fact that you’re working and being productive. However, completing your tasks isn’t necessarily enough.
Working from home usually doesn’t mean you’re a team of one. You’re almost always part of a larger team. And being part of a team also means communicating with them. You don’t have to brag about everything you got done that day. It does, however, mean you should make regular and meaningful contact with your co-workers and your boss.
Maybe it’s regular updates of a spreadsheet or project management tool. Or the whole team has a once a week meeting to talk about what they’re working on or what challenges they’re facing. For some people, an end of the day email to their boss describing what they did and didn’t get done that day is best.
Whatever communication tools you choose, use them often.
Work With Intention
Working from home isn’t as carefree as it sounds. Sure, it has its advantages, but if you don’t plan out what working from home looks like for you, you may find yourself floundering. Take some time to think about what will contribute to your success, and you’ll be well on your way to being the best remote employee you can.
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Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on November 15, 2012.
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Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Career Development Manager and a career coach and resume writer at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for remote, flexible schedule, and freelance job listings. She provides practical information and resources to help people overcome their roadblocks…Read More >
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