4 Pitfalls To Avoid When Working From Home
The idea of working from home is a dream of many in the workforce. Must of us spend our workdays trapped in our cars on our morning commutes and sandwich 8-10 hours trapped in our offices/cubicles before we hop back in the car and do it all over again. It’s a grind that leaves us yearning for a simpler way that gives us more time to spend with our families. While the “work from home” revolution is on the rise so is its failure rate. As a person who’s spent years working from home (I am writing this from the confines of my home office.) I know just how productive you can be without the rigors of “the water cooler”. I also know just how dangerous it can be to have the luxury of the couch. Here are 4 pitfalls most at home workers make and how you can avoid them.
1. Losing The Alarm Clock
After years of needing to beat the boss to the office, many workers have a rush of relief that they will no longer need to account for heavy traffic. This leads many to opt to sleep in longer, enjoy that larger breakfast, longer shower, and extra cup of coffee. While your morning ritual may get an upgrade, this loss of productivity rarely results in an upgrade of performance.
Smart Tip: Substitute your morning commute for your morning routine. There’s nothing wrong with that extra long shower or that extra large breakfast as long as your day still starts when it normally would have had you went to the office.
2. Creating A Comfy Office
My current sales team is remote and I have had the pleasure of working with this great group of people for the past three years. The sales people who’ve succeeded and have been with the company for many years have many things in common. The ones who’ve failed all seemed to have one glaring similarity – their remote workspace was also where they relaxed. It is no exaggeration when I say each rep who had underperformed in the past three years had their at home workstation situated in their living room or bedroom. Why is this dangerous? We are all creatures of habit and genetically predisposed to doing the things that cause us the least discomfort. If throughout your entire life you’ve slept and watched tv in your bedroom it becomes very hard to spend multiple hours in this space and NOT do those things. The same goes with the living room and its many distractions. It’s a slippery slope on your productivity and it becomes far too easy to turn on the tv just to have “some background noise while I work”. Far too often that news report draws you in, or that 10-minute tv break becomes 20.
Smart Tip: Do everything you can to avoid sharing your workspace with your relaxing space. Convert your spare bedroom into an office – with no bed and no tv. If you don’t have a spare bedroom set up shop in your dining room or your kitchen table. I’ve even had an employee who set up his workstation in his bathroom! While I always felt strange taking calls from him he definitely got the work done!
3. Separating Home & Work To Do Lists
Probably the single most common work from home offense I’ve ever seen – and been guilty of myself – is not properly using your time to work solely on work. For some, the autonomy of working from home allows them to believe that you truly can “kill two birds with one stone”. And while you probably can finish that report while getting a load of laundry done you probably shouldn’t. The key to being successful and productive while working from home is having the discipline to plan your day/life as if you truly aren’t home during your work hours.
Smart Tip: Don’t mix your to do lists. Keep your work activities relegated to work hours and your responsibilities at home to be done during the times you would normally have set aside to do them if you didn’t work from home. Save that trip to the bank for your lunch break.
4. Becoming An Island
Companies thrive on ideas and communication and working from home directly complicates the spontaneity of this process. Its easy to work on your assigned project and lose sight of the team. It’s even easier for people to lose sight of you. My best career advice is to always be seen and heard – even if you aren’t at the physical office, your presence and your absence should be felt.
Smart Tip: If you aren’t in a position that requires constant contact with your team be sure to schedule time throughout the day/week to get direct feedback. Practice “managing up” and set up communication guidelines with your direct superior that you are both comfortable with.
As companies increase their adoption of technologies and policies that allow remote workers, more and more of us will be working from the confines of our home. That freedom comes with its pitfalls, but if you are disciplined and focused enough you can flourish remotely and have more time to live your life.