Avoiding 5 Common Work from Home PitfallsFederal Civilian Life
More Americans are working from home than ever before. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from 5.7% (roughly nine million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people) between 2019 and 2021. That number continues to rise with some projections showing1 that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote, either fully or using a hybrid model, by the end of 2022.
With more and more jobs offering (even mandating) a work from home option, it’s important to consider what it takes to be a successful at-home worker. While there is a lot of positive to be found in losing the commute and gaining the flexibility that provides for new work life balance options, there are some key pitfalls every at home worker should be aware of to make the most of the work from home life.
1. Feeling Isolated
20% of at home workers report struggling with loneliness2. In addition to missing emotional connections, at home workers also miss professional connections. Organizations and individuals alike are struggling to find ways to collaborate with a dispersed workforce, providing the same mentoring and hands-on learning found in a traditional office environment.
Make a conscious effort to build in lunches and coffees with colleagues as part of your days. When a meeting topic is especially important or complex, look for opportunities to turn virtual meetings into in-person meet-ups. Add more professional events like conferences, breakfast panel discussions, or evening networking events to your schedule to help advance professional development and build professional networks. Finally, consider a hybrid work schedule that puts you in an office with co-workers a couple days a week or even just a couple days a month.
2. Overworking Yourself
When home and work are one in the same how do you “punch out?” Start by setting specific work hours and holding yourself to them. If possible, set aside a place in your home as your dedicated workspace. At the end of your workday, “shut it down” much like you would an office, turning off computers and lights and closing the door behind you. If living space and workspace co-exist in a single room, still find a way to clean up your work materials and store them away until the next day — putting your work on a literal shelf.
3. Becoming a Laptop Potato
While it may not feel like it, working in an office introduces a good deal of movement into your day. First, there’s the walking involved in commuting. Even if you drive into the office, you are still walking from the parking lot into a building and then navigating a building that may even include taking flights of stairs. Once in the office, going to the break room, copy room, conference room all add steps to your day. At home, your bed, kitchen, and office space may be a single step or even arms reach away. Build movement breaks into your day even if it’s just walking laps around your couch. You could use your typical commute time or lunch break to fit exercise into your schedule.
4. Getting Distracted
While working from home does remove the in-office distractions of co-workers dropping by to chat, an impromptu birthday celebration, and more, a pile of laundry can be just as disruptive as a chatty co-worker. While it is great to be able to throw in a load of laundry between conference calls, you have to be mindful that home tasks do not start to snowball into one another. While putting in laundry you notice the counter needs wiping, after throwing away the paper towel the trash needs taken out, and so on…
Schedule home chores like you do your work tasks. After a meeting, give yourself 10 minutes to sort the laundry. After you finish a writing assignment, take a movement break to take the trash out. Use the awkward time between meetings (when there’s not enough time to start something new before you’ll have to jump on another call) to prep some vegetables for dinner. Keep the home tasks small and discrete and you’ll find you are able to balance home and work productivity.
5. Not Getting Dressed
While it can be tempting to work in pajamas, there is a mindset shift that happens when you put on real clothes. While a suit is not necessary, wearing something that you would want to be seen in will help get you in the right frame of mind to be productive and professional. This distinction between work clothes and home clothes can also help mark the beginning and end of your workday. No answering emails until you put on pants. No more work once the sweatpants slide on.
Working from home can increase productivity while also providing a new level of work life balance, but only if it is approached thoughtfully. Setting rules and boundaries for work and home will allow the two to co-exist, resulting in newfound satisfaction in both areas.
1. Bryan Robinson, PhD, “Remote Work Is Here to Stay And Will Increase Into 2023, Experts Say,” Forbes, February 1, 2022.
2. Arabella Anderson, “ 12 Remote Work Statistics to Know in 2022,” NorthOne, accessed October 18, 2022.