Working from home has undeniable advantages—autonomy, flexibility, and no commute. But to be successful takes discipline, focus, and self-awareness. Here are the mistakes successful people who work from home avoid.
Not having a designated workspace. Few people can work productively in bed or on a couch. Successful home-based workers have a dedicated workspace. You do not need a whole room, just an area in your home you recognize as a place that is not for relaxing in, but for work. Your workspace layout should mimic an office setup. Have a desk that can accommodate your monitor, printer, keyboard, and mouse, plus file cabinets, a comfortable desk chair, and good lighting.
Not dressing for work. Successful home-based workers do not roll out of bed and start working in their pajamas. They ready themselves for the day as if they were going to a place of business. This means dressing in presentable clothes. Dressing that way takes your mind from home mode to work mode. When you are well-groomed and presentable, you are also prepared for any unscheduled Zoom meetings that come up.
Not sticking to a schedule and setting boundaries. Working from home, you are much more accessible to people outside your work. To keep them from distracting you, set up a consistent schedule and strictly adhere to it. Make a daily to-do list of specific tasks you want to accomplish. And set boundaries—windows of time when you cannot be disturbed unless it is an emergency. Also, put boundaries on yourself. If you’re tempted to check social media or surf the web, install an internet-blocking program such as FocusMe or Freedom.
Not staying connected. Stay in touch with everyone you work with—managers, customers, colleagues, and partners. Contacts via texts, phone calls, and emails are fine, but you do not have to immediately reply to emails unless they are urgent. The goals are to keep everyone up-to-date and to sustain the relationships.
Not taking care of your health. Working from home, you are less physically active—no meetings to go to, no long hikes to the printer, and no coffee run on breaks. Avoid sitting for hours at the desk. Block time in the day for taking a walk. There are apps that can help: Randomly RemindMe, Stand Up! The Work Break Timer, and Time Out – Break Reminders.
Not appreciating the unique benefits. It takes a while to learn how to be disciplined and manage your time working from home, but the experience can help you grow in valuable ways. Your communication skills will improve as you become more confident in your digital communications. You will become more tech-savvy working with support people over the phone. Finally, you will develop your emotional intelligence. Non-verbal cues are hard to read in digital communications, so you will get better at noticing tones of voice and facial expressions to tell if someone is excited, stressed, or otherwise off their game.
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