If you’ve never done it before, working from home is an exciting opportunity. Research suggests that working from home makes you more productive on average, and obviously, you’ll get to skip the daily commute and exercise more control over your work environment. For these reasons, as well as the inherent cost-savings benefits of reducing the office workforce, working from home is becoming more popular.
However, before you get too excited about your new remote opportunities, there are some pitfalls you’ll need to be aware of—and watch out for.
Working From Home for the First Time
It’s natural to be excited about having more autonomy over your working domain, but make sure you’re also paying attention to these potential pitfalls:
- Loneliness. Working from home usually means working by yourself. At first, this can seem liberating—especially if you’re tired of your coworkers interrupting your work regularly in the office—but over time, it can take its toll on you. It’s important that you have some way to compensate for this isolation. Thankfully, there are many options to choose from, including working in a coworking space, working at a local café, or simply spending more time outside of work hours engaging with people in the real world.
- Distractions. Your home is likely a more comfortable environment than the office, but this also presents a fatal flaw; there are more distractions to be tempted by. If your kids are around most of the day, they may frequently pull you away from your tasks. If you have a big screen TV in the same room you’re working, it can be tempting to turn it on for some background noise—which can quickly steal your attention. To fight against this, you may want to create your own home office, and remove tempting people or items from that environment.
- Blurred lines. After a while, working from home can blur the lines between your personal and professional life, especially if you don’t have a designated home office. Your work and home environments will be practically the same, with no discrete segment (like commuting) to separate the two. This can complicate your ability to maintain a work-life balance, causing you to work extended hours without realizing it or preventing you from being able to truly relax in your own home. Drawing boundaries, both physical and mental, can help.
- Relationship stress. If you live with a significant other or spouse, working from home can cause relationship stress. Disorderly habits from your partner can make it harder for you to work, and if they distract you during the workday, it can breed resentment. Being proactive here is helpful; articulate your needs clearly and deliberately, and acknowledge it if and when your partner crosses a line that interferes with your ability to work productively. Also, pay attention to their needs; your work may introduce stress in their life in a multitude of ways.
- Disorganization. Without someone looking over your shoulder or other coworkers to help you maintain a sense of routine consistency, things can get disorganized. This isn’t a problem for all new remote workers; some people are naturally organized and disciplined. But others are more likely to lose track of their task lists, mismanage their time, and experience other organizational hurdles that make it hard to remain productive.
- Employer expectations. You’re working from home, but what does that fully entail? Are you allowed to take breaks at your discretion? Can you start a little later if it means working later? Just how much are you supposed to get done every day? These expectations can be left ambiguous if you’re transitioning to full-time remote work, so make it a point to clarify them; making assumptions is rarely a good idea.
- Overcompensation. Even if you’re working from home, you may still get the feeling that your bosses are watching your every move closely. In fact, some hypothesize that the boost in productivity most people get when working remotely is due to paranoia; they want to prove that they’re still productive while working from home, so they work extra hard. Overcompensating like this, however, can set lofty expectations for your employer and add stress to your life.
Seeing the Big Picture
Working from home is certainly a step toward more freedom and workplace happiness, but it’s also a double-edged sword. If you’re going to be successful as a remote worker, you need to be aware of both the pros and cons of the arrangement—and have a plan for dealing with the inherent disadvantages and challenges. No professional arrangement is perfect; there will always be strengths and weaknesses to deal with, and working from home is no exception.