I’ve Been Working From Home for 3 Years, and Here Are 8 Big Mistakes I Wish I Had Avoided
Working from home may be a real blessing, but only if you do it right. A Chinese experiment showed that employees who work from home may have higher work satisfaction and be more productive than their colleagues at the office. But at the same time, those who work from home often feel lonely and isolated, because they don’t feel like they’re a part of a community anymore.
I’m Maria and I’ve been working as a Bright Side author for more than 3 years. I’d love to share with our readers some of my mistakes that, at some point, almost made me want to return back to the office. I hope that my experience will be useful for people who are working in a home office and maybe give you some idea about how to change your work for the better.
1. Not having a dress code
Don’t get me wrong, I love wandering around the house in my pajamas, but I’ve realized that it’s better to save this look for my more relaxed weekends. Scientists have already proven that our clothes influence our mood, energy levels, and even our way of thinking. So wearing PJs is likely to make us feel lazy, relaxed, and not motivated to work at all.
What to do: Our brains love routine and wearing different clothes when you’re working and when you’re going to bed helps us separate work from life, even if we spend the whole day at home. This doesn’t mean that you have to dress up every morning (but if it works for you, why not?), but having several sets of clothes that you wear only while you’re “at work” may definitely help you to feel more productive and organized.
2. Not caring about having a normal schedule
After I quit my office job, I dove into the “benefits” of freelance. I stayed up until 4 a.m., slept in late, had snacks instead of a normal meal, and was always up for any adventure. And honestly, this way of life was pretty fun and worked for me for a little while, but then I realized that my productivity was decreasing and I didn’t really feel good for quite a while, both mentally and physically.
What to do: Doctors share that healthy eating, sleeping, and exercising are paramount not only for our health, but for our success as well. When you work from home, it may be pretty easy to completely ruin your routine because you have no external stimulus that forces you to work certain hours. So, be your own boss and create a schedule that allows you to enjoy the benefits of flexible working hours, but that also doesn’t harm your health.
3. Failing to explain to your family members that you have a real job
When I just started working as an author, my family members and my friends didn’t take it seriously. For them, I was just sitting in front of my computer all day, looking for some fun and exciting stuff. Doesn’t sound like a real job, does it?
So it was always me who had to adjust my schedule to do household chores and figure out how to organize my work so we get to spend some time together. But one day, I caught myself in the middle of the night, still working and struggling to meet deadlines, because I had prioritized other people’s plans over mine.
What to do: Have a talk with your family and friends and explain that you have a real job with real obligations that you have to “attend” to, just like they do. Of course, it may be easier for you to shift your working hours, especially if you don’t have to be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but you still have to meet the deadlines and constantly postponing your work to finish it later at night or on the weekends doesn’t benefit your health and ruins your work regime.
4. Mixing business and personal time
Once, I noticed that despite all my efforts to have a normal schedule, I was thinking about my job all the time. I didn’t work extra hours and I took breaks during the day, but I was exhausted and felt like I was working non-stop. Then I realized that I didn’t pay enough attention to the smaller things. I’d check my e-mails first thing in the morning or respond to work-related messages on my breaks, even if I knew that there wasn’t anything urgent.
What to do: When you work from home, your personal and business life will inevitably mix, but it’s your job to create distance between them. Make a habit of getting all work-related questions out of your head after you leave your desk and resist the temptation to check your e-mails or do even the tiniest task during your “me” time. This will help you create healthy boundaries between your personal and professional life, which may be challenging even if you’re your own boss.
5. Forgetting about physical activity
While not everyone is fond of sweating at the gym or running a marathon, having to actually leave your house for work makes you more active, even if you don’t exercise all the time. An average office worker takes about 6,886 steps a day, which still may not be enough to stay healthy. But if you spend most of your day at home and the farthest walk your take is from your bedroom to your desk and from your desk to your kitchen, with occasional bathroom breaks, you probably aren’t reaching the bare minimum.
What to do: I easily dive into my work, and at some point, I realize that I may not have gotten up from my chair for 3 hours straight and my body doesn’t like that. I wasn’t a big fan of working out back then, so I decided to take it slow. I try to go for a short walk around my block 1-2 times during the day or replace it with one long walk before I go to sleep.
If I don’t feel like going out, I choose a quick workout to do at home (there’s a bunch of apps and YouTube videos). It helped my body to adjust to a regimen and now I have a regular workout schedule, but this worked great for me during the transition period when I didn’t feel like doing anything at all.
6. Falling into a rut
After 6 months of working as an author, I got extremely bored. Although I was definitely in love with my job, I felt like I was doing the same thing all over again and every day was the same.
I guess this feeling is common for office workers too, but when you work from home all the fun and exciting things that may happen in your life, depend completely on you. Hilarious stories from your colleagues that you get to hear on a coffee break or funny accidents that may happen on your way to work just aren’t there anymore.
What to do: I realized that I desperately needed a change of scenery during the day to create more new experiences for myself. I was working, watching TV shows, texting with my friends, and sometimes even eating in the same room in my house every day. No wonder, I got bored!
So leaving the house and doing things that both aren’t related to work and that you don’t depend on for survival (like going grocery shopping) are a must. Do a small thing differently every day, so your brain doesn’t get bored, and you’ll see new opportunities for growth and development.
7. Not talking to people in person
Working from home may be great for people who don’t need a lot of social interaction all the time. But let’s be honest, sitting all day at home alone can get pretty lonely sometimes. And even if you get to chat with your colleagues online during the day, this still can’t replace a one-on-one conversation on a coffee break. Social interactions are essential for our mental health, so make sure that you don’t deprive yourself of this experience.
What to do: We all have different needs when it comes to communication, so I suggest listening to yourself. If you can talk to just one person during the week and still feel great, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you notice that you become lonely and depressed, or that your self-esteem suffers, try to find a way to incorporate more communication into your life.
For example, some people start to work from public places, call their friends or family during the day, or make plans for the evening. Getting a pet to keep you company during the day may also be a good option.
8. Not having an organized desk
I used to work from my bed pretty often and honestly, I still can’t resist the temptation to do that from time to time. But this way of working may be harmful in the long run. Our brains need to associate our bedrooms with rest and when we decide to work there, especially in our bed, this pattern gets disrupted. It may end up resulting in a lack of productivity and difficulty falling asleep.
What to do: Organize a nice work desk where you have everything you need on hand. Working at the kitchen table won’t do the trick, because you usually can’t keep all the things you need for work there and the idea of cleaning it all the time, before and after work, doesn’t seem very motivating. Working from random places in your house and outside of it can be fun if you do it from time to time. But having your own desk will help you build your work regimen and feel more organized.
Have you ever worked from home? What mistakes did you make and how did you manage to adjust to this way of working? I’d love to read about your experience and try out some advice.