5 Common Mistakes People Make Working From Home

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Opportunities to work from home have never been more abundant, nor has there ever been a time when the number of remote jobs spanned such a large range of job descriptions. In most cases, it’s a dream come true for anyone who has wanted to put in a full week of work from their home office, complete with fuzzy slippers on their feet. More employers are starting to offer flexible work positions, but in order to keep that arrangement from crumbling, employees have to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain.

Working from home isn’t a free pass to wake up at noon, binge on the latest Netflix series, and generally fritter away your work day. While we should realize that, there are other common mistakes that can negatively affect how much work you accomplish from home, and whether that work is quality or not. For tips on pitfalls to avoid, The Cheat Sheet spoke with Tricia Sciortino, the president of eaHELP. The company specializes in pairing virtual executive assistants to other professionals, and its workforce is completely remote. Since its founding about five years ago, eaHELP has continued to improve its policies to help employees stay on track and avoid common mistakes.

“This is something that we battle personally, as we are all remote workers,” Sciortino explained. A recent Glassdoor survey shows that 30% of people would prefer a flexible work schedule over a pay raise, but once your boss gives you the green light, you need to make sure you’re working at peak performance while also taking care of yourself. The work-life balance has the potential to become more out of whack, but only if you don’t form good habits. Want to make sure you succeed in an at-home setting? Avoid these five common mistakes. 

1. You don’t have a designated work space

a laptop on a desk and with pen holder and table lamp

Source: iStock

When you work in an office setting, you need a space that’s relatively distraction-free to do your best work. That doesn’t change when you work from home, which is why Sciortino strongly advises having a designated work area you go to within your home. In an ideal world this would be a separate home office with a door you can close for optimal peace and quiet, but even a designated corner of your bedroom or living room will do the trick, she said. Your couch and bed are comfortable, but they won’t help you get into a proper frame of mind for a productive work day.

Starbucks and other remote cafes can be good for a change of scenery once in a while, Sciortino said, but in most cases you’ll be most productive when you have a place to call your own, without coffee grinders in the background. You can of course make sure you have the right aesthetics in that office, too, but setting aside the space is your first priority.

Once you have a designated area specifically for work, don’t forget that you may qualify for the home office deduction on your taxes. In this case, you might be able to deduct expenses like rent, your mortgage, and utilities that are incurred by working from home.

2. You’re always “on”

You might be tempted to check your emails from your phone when you leave the office for the day, but when you work remotely, your office never truly goes away. Setting up work boundaries and being mindful of when your work day begins and ends is vital for preventing burnout, Sciortino said. “Try to avoid ‘work creep’ into dinner, weekend, and family time,” Sciortino added, which is made easier when you create strict boundaries about when and where you’ll work. Though it’s a struggle for everyone regardless of where your desk is, checking emails at 8 p.m. can be your downfall. It also could be a sign you have a more serious workaholic issue. 

3. You don’t use a webcam

Webcamera on top of laptop screen

Source: iStock

If companies aren’t careful, working from home can feel isolating at times. It’s both the company’s and the employee’s responsibility to combat that problem, Sciortino said, and using a webcam frequently can help to combat this issue. “Working from home can lead to some people feeling lonely or isolated or alone because you’re not in an office face to face with people very often,” Sciortino explained. “We really believe in and encourage webcam meetings all the time.”

In fact, eaHELP requires that employees use their webcam every time they meet with a client or another eaHELP employee, Sciortino said. Seeing someone’s face and their expressions adds another layer of information to a call, she explained, but it also adds another layer of camaraderie. The company began requiring webcam use about three years ago, Sciortino said, and since then “we have found it has really catapulted the team’s connectedness.” 

4. You’re not getting connected outside your home

To add another safeguard against feeling isolated, make a conscious effort to get out of your office, even if it’s just for a few hours. Sciortino said eaHELP still makes an effort to have face-to-face meetings with team members, and each department has monthly in-person meetings to help with this as well.

Depending on your work environment, frequent in-person meetings may not be possible. But find a way to make it work for you, Sciortino advises. “We do encourage getting out of your four walls,” she said. Each Tuesday, Sciortino has a lunch outside her home office, and occasionally does the same on Fridays. This could look like grabbing a meal with a family member, taking your dog for a walk, or hitting the gym in the middle of your work day. If you’re able to build this into your day or have special non-office trips once a week or so, you’re more likely to feel connected to the outside world and feel satisfied as a result, Sciortino said. 

5. You don’t respect your work as your day job

No matter your field, you were hired to do a job and to do it to the best of your abilities. Even though you might have a nonexistent commute to your home office, you still need to respect the work and treat your responsibilities like a true day in the office, Sciortino advised. As wonderful as roommates, spouses, and children are, believing you can care for and interact with them while also working from home is a disservice to yourself, clients, and your employer.

“Working from home offers tremendous flexibility, but it still needs to be treated as the important work that it is,” Sciortino said. In the case of children, planning ahead is key. If you have young children still at home, this could require finding a babysitter or enrolling them in daycare, just as if you were going into an office for the day. The same could be true over the summer for school-aged children, depending on their ages and needs.

Taking the time to find childcare will save your own sanity and will benefit your child as well, Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs, noted in an email to The Cheat Sheet. “What this looks like will be different for every family, but especially for people with younger children, having childcare for your work hours is a must,” Reynolds wrote. “There’s simply no way to focus on your child AND your job at the same time, in any productive way.”

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