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.
You can make these work at home mistakes whether you’re self employed or work for someone else. It doesn’t matter who sets the rules or determines what hours you need to work. What matters is how these mistakes impact the productivity of your work at home day.
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, 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. It’s not that I use the phone in my work and need quiet – they’re just distracting.
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.
What About When The Kids Are Sick?
It can be extra difficult to work at home when the kids are sick. They may actually need you at times that you’re supposed to be working. What then?
How you deal with this depends on your family’s situation. Don’t assume that just because you’re the work at home parent that you’re the only choice to deal with a sick child. You may not be.
Sure, if your child doesn’t need you all that badly but does need to stay at home for the day, you may be able to keep working as normal. It’s one of the advantages of working at home.
But if a day off work is necessary, think about which parent can afford that. It may not always be the work at home parent. Sometimes you’ll be the one who can’t get off work, and the work outside the home spouse will need to care for the sick child.
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? And can you resist when the dog is being so cute?
And then there’s the house.
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 during your workday.
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.
Limit the distractions, and you’ll be much more productive. Pick the times you allow them wisely.
This can be best handled by creating a work at home schedule for yourself. Set aside times for the things that might otherwise be distractions. You can make a block of time where you can play with the cat, walk the dog, or have fun with the kids.
Some Distractions Are Okay
You don’t have to work in perfect silence if your work doesn’t require it. Appropriate distractions can help.
Many people like to listen to music as they work, for example. They may even find that it helps with productivity.
If there’s an emergency in your home, obviously you want to be distracted from work to deal with that as well. Teach your family when it’s okay to distract you from work and when to leave you alone.
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.
Don’t forget to take breaks too. 15 minutes to refresh yourself every couple hours can give your productivity a boost. Just because your work at home hours are flexible doesn’t mean you have to work them straight through. That’s a bad idea.
The right amount of work 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.
Starting up a business, it’s not that uncommon to hear of people putting in 12-16 hours a day or even more. They want success that bad. It’s rough, but sometimes it’s what has to be done.
But you can overdo that. Some people burn out from working so many hours. That’s not good for your home business, no matter how badly you need to succeed.
Take at least one day off every week, and preferably two. Spend time doing things other than working. Have fun.
A comfortable home office with a door can help with this. When you’re outside of work hours, close that door and do not go back to work until it’s time. That physical separation between home and work can help in many ways.
The Flip Side
The flip side of this is taking too many breaks.
I don’t just mean the kind of breaks where you walk away from your computer. I also mean when you spend a little time on social media in the middle of your day, or play a game for a few minutes.
How quickly do those things add up?
Think about it. And be smart about your breaks.
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 when their kids are sick 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 your best 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.
Are Pajamas A Mistake?
Some people will swear that the ability to work in your pajamas is one of the great things about working from home. Others consider it to be one of the worst work at home mistakes you can make. Which is it?
That depends on you.
Can you be productive in your pajamas?
Will you feel like taking a nap because they’re so comfy?
Will your boss or clients see you in them?
Think about all of the things that could go wrong because you wore your pajamas while working at home? Is any of it significant in your case?
If you can be productive while wearing pajamas and no one will see you, go for it! But if wearing PJs while you work at home will cause you problems, dress a little nicer.
5. You Don’t Take Enough Advantage Of Technology
You work at home. You’re online all the time. How much more advantage could you be taking of modern technology in your work?
Upping your tech game doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Many of the things you can do to make your work at home time better aren’t difficult at all.
For example, if you don’t have a separate phone number for your home business, it’s easy to get one without having a new phone line installed. Sign up with a VOIP provider, and you’ll have a phone number completely separate from your home phone.
I use Google Voice because it’s free and I rarely need to make or receive calls in my business. If you’ll be making a lot of calls, you may need a better service, but Google Voice suits my needs.
You should also have automatic backups set for your data, especially the important stuff. There are lots of cloud backup companies that will help keep your data safe, even if your home is destroyed in a disaster.
I also suggest keeping a local backup. A 1-2 TB external backup drive doesn’t cost a fortune, and gives you a copy of your data in your home for in case your computer dies. It’s nice to know that you won’t have to download all of your data unless things go really, really wrong.
Can You Be Productive Away From Home?
One of the things people tout about working from home is the ability to get away from home and keep working. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are popular options. But are they right for you?
This depends on the work you do and how well you cope with the possible distractions.
Coffee shops and other such places are potential workspaces because technology makes them so. You bring your laptop and connect to their wifi or your data plan, and work just like you would at home.
Or do you?
If you want to work away from home, be sure that you will keep focused on work, not on socializing. Just because technology makes it possible doesn’t mean you should do it. But if it helps, do it!
Don’t Let Work At Home Mistakes Stop You
If you’ve come to realize that you’re making a lot of mistakes while working at home, don’t feel bad. Most of us make mistakes, especially when learning how to deal with working at home.
What matters is how you deal with your mistakes after making them.
It doesn’t matter if you feel as though you’ve gone through the work at home school of hard knocks or if you’ve had a relatively easy time of it. What matters is that you keep going. You haven’t completely failed until you give up, and even then, you can move onto something else and still succeed.