Most people make some mistakes when they’re working at home. There’s a learning curve, easier for some than for others. A part of the problem has to do with common misconceptions about working at home. Still, if you’re aware of the more common work at home mistakes, you may be able to avoid them.
1. Too Little Childcare
Most parents who work at home do so specifically because they don’t want to use childcare. They have visions of working at home and being a good parent at the same time.
The problem is that this doesn’t always work. It works better for some than for others, of course, but most people who work at home have times where they really need someone else watching the kids.
That even goes for me. My best work hours are when my husband can watch the kids, or they’re asleep. It’s hard working when they’re awake and needing my attention, and I don’t even use the phone very much in my work.
Be realistic about any childcare needs you may have when you work at home. Make sure you schedule calls or meetings at times when the kids won’t be an issue. You don’t necessarily need to hire someone to care for your child, but you do need to make sure you can appear as professional as necessary.
You may not need to get this perfect. There are circumstances when people will be very understanding if you say you’re a work at home mom or dad. Other times this may not be so. Be very aware of the image you present to your managers, supervisors, and/or clients. It can make a huge difference.
2. You Allow Yourself Too Many Distractions
You’re home, the TV’s there, you’re online, what distractions will you resist? You may believe that you can work while you watch a favorite show, but can you really? How much will it slow you down?
Limit the distractions, and you’ll be much more productive. Pick the times you allow them wisely.
3. Working Too Much
While you want to look professional, there is such a thing as working too much. Work hours are work hours, family or personal time are yours. Give yourself enough hours away from work to recover and enjoy your life.
Just how much time this is depends on the needs of your job or business and the income you need to earn. Don’t treat yourself worse than you’d allow an employer to treat you. There may be times where you have to work a ton of hours, but don’t do that to yourself all the time.
4. Not Expecting To Be Treated As a Professional
Many work at home parents feel as though other people don’t treat them as serious professionals. Sometimes it’s that other people can have trouble recognizing that working from home is just as serious as working outside of it – it took my mother-in-law years, but she gets it now. Other times it’s that you don’t appear to take your work hours seriously, so why should others do so?
Be a professional. Don’t be the one everyone turns to to watch a sick child unless your work hours really allow you to do that. Do the favors that you would be able to do if you had an outside the home job, not the ones that take away from your work hours and income.
This includes your family. While you want to be there for them, do what you can to keep your work and their needs balanced. As mentioned above, this can include paid childcare.
If it helps you to dress professionally to feel professional, then do it! There’s nothing wrong with dressing professionally even if no one is going to see you. On the other hand, if you can be productive in everyday clothes, that’s fine too. Dress in whatever way makes it easier for you to act the professional you are and be productive.
5. Do Household Chores When You Should Be Working
The house just gets to be a mess sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially if you have kids around. It’s way too easy to take some time out to make your house look a little better when you ought to be earning a living.
Moving a bit of laundry quickly probably isn’t so bad, although folding it may take more time than you ought to give if you haven’t planned for it. The problem comes in when you do too many household chores at the wrong time. If the laundry needs to be done that day, try to work around it without allowing it to take over what should have been your work hours. It’s your balance to strike – only you know if you can stand the extra wrinkles in the clothes if you don’t fold the laundry right away or if you’ll lose less time overall by folding them immediately.