Welcome to the world of working from home, where the commute is great, but the potential pitfalls are many. If you’ve ever found yourself typing away at midnight or realized you’ve been wearing the same sweatpants for three days straight, you’re not alone. Remote work can be a dream come true, but it can also feel like you’re navigating a minefield in your pajamas.
In this article, we’re going to explore the top five mistakes you’re likely making while working from home, and how to avoid them. From creating a dedicated workspace (no, the couch doesn’t count) to setting clear work hours (midnight brainstorming is a no-no), we’ve got you covered.
Whether you’re a seasoned remote worker or a newbie trying to navigate the work-from-home waters, this article is exactly for you.
1. Not creating a dedicated workspace
We all know that working from home isn’t just lounging on the couch with a laptop or hammering out emails while binge-watching your favorite Netflix show. If that’s your idea of remote work, then you might be falling victim to the first and most common mistake — not creating a dedicated workspace.
Having a designated workspace not only boosts your productivity but also helps set up a boundary between your work and personal life. It tells your brain, “Okay, we’re in work mode now,” whenever you’re in that space.
Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t have an extra room for a home office!”. One of the best things about a home workspace is that it doesn’t have to be a traditional office. It can be a corner of your dining room, a desk under a stairway, or a spare wall in your bedroom. The key is to make it work-friendly.
Here are a few ways to set up your home workspace effectively:
- Choose a well-lighted area: Natural light is ideal for reducing eye strain and boosting your mood.
- Invest in a good chair: Don’t skimp on comfort. Sitting for long hours in a non-ergonomic chair can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Keep it organized: Clutter can be a distraction. Keep your workspace tidy and only have the essentials.
- Limit distractions: Keep the TV remote and any other potential distractions out of reach.
Setting up your dedicated workspace might take some trial and error, but the benefits you’ll reap — increased focus, productivity, and a smoother work-life transition — are definitely worth it.
2. Failing to set clear work hours and overworking
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is flexibility. However, this can easily segue into a work-from-home nightmare if you don’t set clear work hours and stick to them. Imagine answering work emails at dinner or brainstorming presentations at midnight — that’s not exactly ideal, is it?
Overworking is too common among remote workers, and it’s a dangerous path leading straight to burnout. In fact, almost half of the remote workers (48%) report that they work more hours now than in the office.
Establishing specific work hours aids in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It mentally segregates the time you work and the time for personal activities. Intriguingly, having a set schedule can actually make you more efficient since it gives you a finite time to accomplish your tasks.
Here are a few tips to establish a healthy work schedule:
- Align your work time: Try to align your work hours with those of your colleagues or clients if they’re in a different time zone. This would allow smoother communication and collaboration.
- Stick to your work schedule: If you usually work till 4 pm, log out at 4 pm and don’t bother with replying to work messages that you receive later (unless they’re super urgent). Most of the things can wait till your next work day.
- Use tools to signify your availability: Use status updates on collaboration tools like Slack or Teams to signify when you’re “in the office”. If you’re using Slack, you can even set a specific time for receiving and snoozing notifications.
- Communicate: Ensure your team is informed about your designated work hours. Communicate this clearly to avoid unnecessary late-night ping-pong of emails.
Remember, while work is an essential part of life, it isn’t all of life. By establishing clear work hours, you’re protecting that essential downtime that we all need to thrive and keep our sanity intact.
3. Not taking breaks
Raise your hand if you’ve been forgetting to take a break, or even eat until your body sends a not-so-friendly reminder in the form of a headache or neck pain.
When you’re working from home, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget to take necessary breaks. However, working continuously without breaks doesn’t mean you’re being more productive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Research indicates that incorporating frequent, brief breaks can enhance your concentration and overall productivity.
Moreover, skipping breaks can also affect your physical health. Sitting in one place for too long can lead to physical discomfort and even more serious health problems like cardiovascular disease in the long run.
So, how can you guarantee that you incorporate sufficient breaks?
- Create a routine: Try to wake up earlier than 15 minutes before you’re supposed to start working. This allows you to have enough time to prepare a nourishing breakfast, enjoy your coffee, and then get down to working. Also, set a specific time for your lunch break.
- Use the Pomodoro method for miniature breaks: Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Every fourth break should be a bit longer, say 15-30 minutes.
- Stay active: Utilize your breaks for quick exercises, stretching, or a short walk to keep the blood flowing.
- Use technology: If needed, set reminders on your phone or computer to remind you to stand up, stretch, and take your eyes off the screen.
Keep hydrated and snacked up: Sometimes, we forget to drink or eat during work. Keeping a bottle of water and some healthy snacks nearby can help you sustain your energy and concentration levels.
By taking regular breaks, you’re showing yourself some much-needed self-love and care, which will reflect on your overall productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction. So, go ahead, take that break — you’ve earned it!
4. Not utilizing technology to boost productivity
Technology — it’s a brilliant tool that has made remote work feasible for millions across the globe. However, are you fully harnessing its potential to boost your productivity? If not, it may be time to adjust your time management approach.
There’s a myriad of software apps available designed specifically to streamline the remote working experience. From communication tools to project management apps, time-tracking software, and even virtual water-cooler spaces — the possibilities are endless.
Here’s how you can make technology your best friend in the remote work world:
- AI: ChatGPT can help you brainstorm ideas, get instant answers to work-related queries, and receive assistance with tasks such as drafting emails, generating content, or refining project plans, all of which can contribute to more efficient remote work.
- Communication platforms: Try Slack for team chats, Zoom for video calls, or Twist for asynchronous communication. These tools will keep you in sync with your team and cut down on email overload.
- Project management applications: Asana is great for tracking your tasks, and its project timelines can chart the progress of your team’s projects visually.
- Time tracking apps: Traqq lets you track work hours on different tasks and divide your work time better. Tools like Traqq also monitor the time you spend on each app or website, which can help you identify potential time wasters.
- Automation tools: Zapier can link your apps, automating repetitive tasks and freeing up your time for more critical work.
Remember: Technology is supposed to smooth out the speed bumps in your work-from-home journey, not create detours. So, choose your tools wisely and remember — achieving productivity with the help of technology is a marathon, not a sprint!
5. Neglecting professional development
Here’s a question to ponder — When was the last time you invested in your professional development?
If you had to dig deep into your memory, then there’s a chance you’re committing the fifth work-from-home mistake — neglecting professional development.
Working remotely shouldn’t mean putting a pause on learning and growth. In contrast, remote work calls for an even higher emphasis on professional development, since there are fewer opportunities to engage face-to-face with management and discuss your growth.
Skills like tech advancement, time management, self-motivation, digital literacy, and virtual communication are crucial for remote workers. At the same time, staying updated with industry trends and knowledge is equally important to keep you competitive.
Not sure how to get back on the professional development train? Here are some examples:
- E-learning platforms: Websites like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or Udemy offer a wealth of courses, suitable for various interests and proficiency levels.
- Webinars and virtual conferences: Get the scoop on the latest industry trends, insights, and network with other professionals, all from the comfort of your home.
- Reading list: Dedicate time to read industry-related content, whether it’s articles, journals, or books. Feedly and Pocket could be your go-to apps for this.
- Use your network: Ask your colleagues and mentors for guidance on how to advance in your career or to learn about alternative chances for professional development.
Remember, working remotely doesn’t mean progress has to stall. So, let’s hit those (virtual) books, shall we?
Key takeaways: How to avoid common remote work mistakes
Remote work presents its own set of difficulties, yet with mindfulness and proactive approaches, these obstacles can be conquered. To recap, here’s how you can tackle these mistakes:
1. Create a dedicated workspace: Create a dedicated, clutter-free workspace, however small, to boost work mode and establish a work-life boundary.
2. Set work hours: Define and stick to clear work hours to prevent the blurring of lines between work and personal life.
3. Take regular breaks: To avoid burnout, take regular breaks, try the Pomodoro Technique, and keep yourself hydrated and snacked up.
4. Leverage technology: Embrace technology and appropriate tools for effective communication, project management, and time management.
5. Professional development: Keep learning and growing. Sign up for online courses, webinars, or read industry-related materials to stay relevant and competitive.
By addressing these common missteps, your remote work experience can become more fulfilling and efficient.