Working from home can be remarkably liberating, as the flexibility allows for a better work-life balance. A bit of structure is all you need to get the most out of your time and maximize productivity. Let’s take a closer look at the most common mistakes people make when working from home so that you can establish better habits and reach your full potential.
1. Not having a designated work space
It is easy for work to spill into all areas of your home when you do not have a specified work space. The sofa or kitchen table may seem convenient, but creating an area solely for work—one that includes storage, an appropriate work surface, and all of your resources in one place—will help to keep you organized and centred. There are many creative and practical solutions out there for all types of spaces and needs that will let your personal style shine through while providing a functional work space.
2. Forgetting to stretch
When you work solo, it’s easy for time to fly by. You’re sitting in front of your screen, deeply focused on your work as ideas spill from your mind; when you stand up to get a glass of water, you suddenly feel stiff as a board. All that inactivity creates pressure on your spinal cord, keeps blood from circulating properly around your body, and causes your shoulders to become hunched. Take care of yourself by incorporating a few minutes of simple stretching into your routine. When your workday is done, you will feel both mentally and physically better for it.
3. Overlooking the importance of balance
There are only so many hours in a day, and other responsibilities are always going to be a distraction when you work from home. Do not let the fact that you are at home trick you into thinking your work is less of a priority than it is for those who work in an office. The flexibility of your schedule is useful, but establishing a routine that works for you and that is respected by those you share your life with will enable you to set boundaries, fulfill your work obligations, and achieve a more balanced lifestyle overall.
4. Working in the dark
Take care of your mental health by making sure your work space includes a bit of sunlight. There are many studies that detail all the benefits of exposure to natural light, but most of us can already attest to the difference that simply working next to a window can make. If that’s not a possibility or if you work at night, a desk lamp can help reduce eye strain when you read and changing the light intensity of your screen can help prevent headaches.
5. Not setting up a daily routine
Create a task-based, goal-oriented daily/weekly/monthly schedule that works for you. Sometimes, not having to set an alarm or tackle a daily commute can make it tempting to slide slowly into your workday. You already know when you are most productive and how to prioritize, so make your life easier by eliminating the need to waste time figuring out each day as it arrives. You will feel more productive and cross things off your list faster, which translates to a greater sense of achievement.
6. Underestimating the power of positive thinking
You are separated from the colleagues who would normally give you a boost or recognize your achievements, so be your own champion. You may have to find your own ways to stay motivated and feel a sense of accomplishment until you get the chance to share with friends and family. You should also consider asking for feedback from your clients or your boss. Take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments, whether by giving yourself a small reward or phoning a friend to brag a little.
7. Not dressing the part
Lounging around all day in your pajamas may seem like a perk to working from home, but it is not. Putting on a proper outfit will make you feel ready for your day and go a long way in helping you mentally transition into work mode. It’s the same philosophy as when you dress up for a birthday dinner or a date: you are preparing yourself. Also, practically speaking, if you should suddenly need to video chat with a client, you will feel confident knowing you look professional.
8. Failing to maintain a professional image
Don’t let the way you live influence how people judge the quality of your work. You’ve worked hard to make the right connections, build your client list, and get the job you want. Starting a video chat with a client or professional contact without making sure that what’s behind you isn’t utter chaos is simply self-sabotage. Take those two minutes to declutter, reorient your camera, and set up an appropriately neutral background so that the focus stays on work and not your pile of laundry.
9. Becoming too casual
Offices typically have a workplace email protocol that everyone has to follow. When working from home, however, the comfortable atmosphere, the ease of multitasking, and the lack of supervision can lead to loose, even borderline unprofessional email practices. Keep in mind that messages you fire off at one in the morning may not come off the way you intended when your client reads it the next day. Take a moment to scan what you’ve written for tone and appropriate structure to be sure you are representing yourself well at all times.
10. Getting distracted
A major perk to working from home is that you can take breaks and check off a few household chores during your workday. However, a client who calls to talk business will not appreciate the background noise of clinking glasses as you unload the dishwasher or your kids telling you about their day. You may be at home, but your clients shouldn’t feel as if they are there with you. Practise switching in and out of work mode and let those you live with know when you are on a work call so that you are always ready and professional.
11. Working too much
Stepping away from work is harder when it’s right in front of you. When you can’t leave the office behind and it’s totally up to you when to call it a day, the line between work and life gets pretty blurry. Setting guidelines as to when enough is enough will prevent mistakes, poor-quality work, and the feeling that your job is your entire life. If this is a struggle, then imagine if your partner or friend were completely lost in their work. Think about what you would say to them and follow your own advice. There is a big difference between being passionate about a project and completely losing your work-life balance.
12. Failing to keep learning
Take a seminar, join an independent business association, or create a group related to your area of work that gets together once a month for lunch. Relying on the Internet to stay up to date on what is happening within your field is not the same as sharing conversation in person. Push yourself to gain new skills and branch out. If you worked in a large company, management would send you to development workshops because they are useful. Follow that logic on your own and reap the benefits.
13. Forgetting to enjoy it
There are perks to being able to make your own schedule, develop ideas at your own pace, take a long lunch, or meet a friend in need at the drop of a hat. Remind yourself that you have the power of flexibility and use it to your advantage. Not everyone has the discipline to work independently; enjoy the fact that you do.
14. Not aiming high enough
Challenge yourself, set a high bar, and reach it. It is a mistake to get too comfortable when there is no one waiting to offer you a promotion or project that will push you out of your comfort zone. Whether you work for someone else or act as your own boss, take a moment to re-evaluate your personal business and work goals. Are you still moving forward? If not, fix the situation by looking for new opportunities and challenges.
Originally published on MSN.com
By Kate Greaves