It’s no secret that working from home provides a more flexible work environment, increased motivation and results in higher productivity.
In fact, a 2-year Stanford study conducted by Professor Nicholas Bloom on 16,000 employees of a huge travel agency revealed an astonishing level of productivity among the workers equivalent to a full day’s work or more.
However, as with many positive outcomes, challenges arise in equal measure. Working from home is no exception.
From technology hiccups to interruptions from family members and procrastination, working from home can prove to be a nightmare if you’re not intentional about dealing with these challenges.
Here are some pitfalls of working from home that can ruin your career.
Working Longer Hours
The common assumption is that working from home entails plenty of free time for employees to binge-watch their favorite shows while gorging on unlimited snacks.
However, demarcating the workday can prove to be cumbersome. There are always more tasks to be completed and emails to send and/or respond to.
The threshold of productivity also increases significantly due to the preconceived notion that working from home is riddled with laziness. So the temptation to keep looking at notifications often fosters feelings of guilt when not attended to.
“Work is infinite,” Conrado Lamas, CMO at Carts Guru says. “There is always something to be solved–and when you have an office routine, it’s easier to leave what you do at the workplace. When you work from home, your office is where you live. So I’m constantly closing small pending tasks late at night before I go to bed or early in the morning when I really wanted to be reading the news.”
To curb this challenge, set up reminders to take breaks and actually follow through. Take a walk, dribble a ball or have a cup of coffee in the sun.
Simply take a moment to refresh your mind away from your workspace so that you can be more efficient. With a tired mind, you’re more likely to do subpar work that will then require additional effort to rectify.
The house that needs cleaning, the pets that need feeding and the children that demand your attention. Working from home is an ongoing battle between work and house chores.
For new remote workers, the more your little enterprise grows, the more attention it requires. As the sole proprietor, this leaves little time for interaction with family members which results in a bit of strife.
From the outside looking in, it appears as though you have time for longer lunch breaks as well as impromptu babysitting appointments when in fact the workload could very well be the same.
Properly delineating the boundaries for yourself and your family could also be hampered by personal guilt. However, doing so will create a happier healthier atmosphere for everyone because you’ll meet your deadlines then have enough time to spend time with your loved ones.
You could start by setting up a signal that lets the family know when you’re focused on work.
This could be a “do not disturb” tag placed at the door or putting on a pair of headphones.
Also, go ahead and fill them in on both the demanding and fulfilling aspects of your work. So that they too have a vested interested in your success and are more understanding when you have to work longer.
Try to keep consistent hours every day so that the entire household gets into a routine and won’t unnecessarily lengthen your breaks. If all else fails, consider working from a library or a coffee shop every so often to change things up.
Despite the immediate access to your loved ones, a family cannot replace the kind of relationships built between employees working on the same project towards similar goals.
There are office jokes to be cooked up, life experiences to be shared and promotions to be celebrated. Over time, colleagues essentially become your family away from home.
With no one to share frustrations over work details with, working from home can easily start to feel like solitary confinement.
Worry no more, shared workspaces closely mirror a typical work environment. Only that the people surrounding you are all working on other different projects and you’re not necessarily expected to talk.
However, those little walks across the room or meetings at the water cooler provide some special moments to interact, feel seen and heard.
Also, be intentional about social interaction by planning for lunch dates and walks with friends who may be in your line of work. You could also join a local community of people who work from home.
Time Zone Difference
Imagine waking up to work while someone else goes to bed. Late responses to important inquiries could slow down the work pace resulting in less productivity.
Not only that but also one misses out on vital information shared when they were offline from policy updates, briefings and meetings.
The main solution is to be more considerate when sending messages by keeping in mind the time difference. Also, get into the habit of responding expeditiously whenever you receive a message or a task. Mere acknowledgment saves a lot of hassle.
As far as interacting with people around the “office”, pop into the group chats every so often. Pick up on the seemingly minute things your colleagues are experiencing in their part of the world.
Use these cues to engage in a conversation with people. You’d be surprised at the wealth of knowledge you can gain from your online friends.
Possibly the greatest pitfall, power outages or a poor internet connection cost you a day’s worth of wages because online work heavily relies on their availability.
Especially where you’re required to log the number of hours you work using software such as Hubstaff, your absence ultimately raises alarms.
The key is to communicate with your superior as soon as you’re back online in the most respectful and truthful way.
Also, always have other places in mind that you can quickly get to and work from such as a trusted neighbor’s house or the usual coffee shop around the corner.
This is the bane of our very beings yet the easiest habit to fall prey to when working from home. The freedom to work at your own pace and during your own hours elicits laxity.
You wake up determined to knock out a whole list of tasks but only end up doodling on one. You plan to dedicate the whole day to working and only sit down for an hour before “unforeseen” distractions steal you away.
Truth is, with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. You have to be more intentional and find the intrinsic motivation to draw up a weekly work plan then follow through with it.
At the beginning of every week, take note of all the expected activities then allocate time each day to work on a specific listed task. This time slot should not be utilized for any other purpose.
Bearing in mind that you’ve dedicated a specific amount of time to knock out several different tasks keeps you from being overwhelmed which often leads to procrastination.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, Benjamin Franklin couldn’t have put it any better. Despite the accompanying challenges, working from home is a privilege that must be handled with the utmost discipline to reap its full benefits; a work-life balance.
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