The 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Working From Home
You've finally done it: You've landed a work-from-home job. No more daily commute to the office. No more being distracted by the office gossip. And no more interruptions in the middle of your workday to celebrate the fifth office birthday of the month.
Yes, working from home can alleviate much of the stress that comes with holding down an office job. But this doesn't mean that working from your own home office doesn't pose its own risks. For first-time work-from-homers, especially, the many temptations of the home could pull you away from your work, lower your productivity, and get you in trouble with the boss. (See also: 5 Ways to Stay Productive While Working From Home)
Here are five big mistakes that, if you don't avoid them, could cause you to lose that work-from-home gig and return you to that daily morning commute.
1. You Don't Work in a Home Office
It's easy to say that you'll treat your entire home as an office when you work from it, but that's unrealistic. Saying that you can tote your laptop to the kitchen, the living room, or your bedroom depending on your mood means one thing: You don't have a real home office. And that can lead to problems. It's harder to resist the pull of your favorite TV shows when you're working just feet from the flat-screen in the living room.
The better move is to set up a dedicated home-office space as soon as you land your work-from-home gig. This office space can be anywhere, as long it's permanent, large and comfortable enough to allow you to get your work done. Setting up a permanent home-office space — that you only use for work — is also important when you want to claim work-from-home deductions on your income taxes.
2. You Take Far Too Many Breaks
One of the benefits of working from home is that you can avoid the distractions caused by chatty coworkers, but working from home brings with it plenty of other distractions — especially from your computer or your TV. It's easy to give yourself a 15-minute break to watch a few YouTube videos or check your Facebook page. Most workers do this in a traditional office, too. But when there's no supervisor looming over your shoulder? Those breaks get far easier to take, and they can then easily increase in frequency.
To fend off this temptation, make a list each morning of what work you absolutely need to complete before the day ends. This should keep you focused on the tasks you are getting paid to complete. And don't work anywhere near your TV. If you get too distracted by the entertainment options in your home, your productivity will plummet. Once your bosses notice, they might yank you right back to the office.
3. Your Health Takes a Backseat
You might think that working from home would be a boon to your diet. After all, it's tempting to go on those fast-food lunch runs with your coworkers. It's easy to snag one of the doughnuts in the conference room. But working from home brings with it some extremely tricky dietary landmines.
You might be alone in your home for hours every day. Even if you start each day with good intentions — you're ready to fix a healthy lunch during your break time — it's awfully tempting to visit your refrigerator and cupboards several times a day, just for a break from your work. All those extra crackers, candies, and pretzels can add up, and you might discover that your clothes are getting a bit snugger.
When you do need a brief break, why not do a few jumping jacks or take a walk around the block instead of opening that refrigerator for the sixth time?
4. You Forget to End the Work Day
A big benefit of working from home is that you can set your own work schedule, but that can also be a significant negative. Some work-from-homers don't reduce their production when they leave the office. They go the opposite route: They never end the work day.
It's a tough temptation for many. Your laptop is right on the kitchen counter, so why not check your emails before getting ready for bed? Why not write a few more paragraphs of that report long after the workday ends?
If you're not careful, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of working from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. To avoid this, vow not to work after a certain hour. Your entire life shouldn't be devoted solely to work, even if you work from home.
5. You Disappear Too Much From Office Life
Just because you work from home doesn't mean that you should never make an appearance at your former office. Too many work-from-homers simply disappear from office life. They rarely attend important meetings. They don't participate in conference calls.
This can lead to missed opportunities. Supervisors might pass over work-from-homers for key promotions simply because these employees have become all but invisible.
To avoid this, make sure to visit the office on a regular basis, whether it's once every two weeks or once a month. Also, check in by phone or video conferencing on a regular basis with your coworkers and bosses. Remind your supervisors that even though you're not in the office each day, that you are still completing important work.
Do you work from home? How do you balance it all? Share with us in the comments!