Whether you love working from home or hate it, surveys suggest that it's here to stay for many companies and employees. You may be planning to make working from home permanent, or at least a permanent option, for your company's employees. And you may be planning to work at home forever yourself.
There are some obvious advantages to working at home, such as zero commute time, a more relaxed dress code, greater control over your schedule, and no need to spend money on takeout coffee or food. But there are some serious disadvantages too. Last week, the personal finance site GOBankingRates published a list of 29 things that are good or bad about working at home. Here are some of the biggest drawbacks and what to do about them.
You may face unwelcome interruptions from your spouse, partner, roommate, or kids who don't fully understand that even though you're home, you're still very much at work. Working at home while caring for small children is a particular challenge and requires extra support from employers and other family members. When it comes to adults and older children in your household, though, it's up to you to set appropriate boundaries so that they know when it's acceptable to talk to you or enter your workspace, and when it isn't. "Establish 'do not disturb' hours that are interruption free," GOBankingRates advises.
2. A 24-Hour Workday.
You may feel compelled to make up for your absence from the office by being available to do things like answer emails or solve problems 24 hours a day. That's a particular problem for entrepreneurs who can't easily turn their at-work responsibilities off. And if your workplace is now in your living room or bedroom, it may be hard to ever think of yourself as away from work.
But it's essential that you do just that. You must disconnect completely from your job for part of every day and every week, otherwise your own performance, your mental and physical health, and ultimately your company will suffer. If you can, segregate your work space from your living space by putting it in a dedicated room or perhaps putting up a screen. Make sure your customers, employees, and anyone else you work with all know that there are some times when you just won't respond to business demands.
Fear of missing out is one reason so many of us tend to overwork when we work at home. Even if everyone else at your company is also working at home, it's hard to shake the nagging feeling that there are things going on and conversations happening that you should know about but don't. If some people at your company are working in the office while you're working at home, that feeling can be even more acute--and indeed research suggests that in that situation, people who work at home do risk damage to their careers.
Either way, the best antidote to FOMO is increased communication. Pick up the phone and call a colleague or direct report just to check in or say hello. If you're wondering about conversations or meetings that might be happening without your participation, sometimes the simplest approach is to ask your co-workers what's going on with important projects or issues and if there's any important information you're missing.
4. Never leaving the house.
For some of us, stay-at-home orders have become very literal. With infinite streaming video choices and anything we need easily available by delivery, it's all too easy to simply stay in our houses all the time. At a time when Covid-19 infection rates are on the rise, it may seem safer, too.
But it's not necessarily healthy to stay indoors all the time, and the chances of infection are considerably lower during outdoor activities. So if it's at all possible, make sure to get out, at least for a walk, several times a week or ideally every day.
Productivity may increase when people work at home, but so do struggles with self-motivation and procrastination. It's just plain easier to get down to work when you're in a buzzing office surrounded by busy colleagues than when you're home alone with the TV or gaming console a few steps away.
There are many different approaches to fighting procrastination. Perhaps the most important thing is to remember to be kind to yourself. Keep in mind that procrastination often results from anxiety, which is something all of us are feeling these days.
6. Lack of tech support.
If you're accustomed to calling the IT department whenever something's not working, you may be in for severe frustration if your home computer, software, or internet connection fails. If that happens, you may be able to get remote support from whoever would have helped you back at the office. Or you may be on your own.
The best way to solve this problem is by giving it some thought before it happens. If your computer or internet connection fails, what will you do first? Redundancy is your best protection--have a laptop as well as a desktop, or add a tablet that you can work on in a pinch. And have a hotspot ready to go on your phone, or with a separate device, in case your internet connection fails.
You may not think of it this way, but your workplace is a big part of your social life. And your other usual social activities, such as school events, club meetings, or musical events (normally a big part of my life), could be curtailed as well because of the pandemic.
It's important to make sure you don't become isolated, which is not only bad for your morale, it can also lead to depression and even shorten your life. So, difficult though it is these days, make your social life a priority. Meet a friend or colleague for a socially distanced stroll. Or schedule a virtual happy hour. (We have one with some of our friends every Sunday.)
Socializing, even by video chat, is a lot better than spending all your time alone, and it's better than leaning on your family or household members for all your social interaction. So make sure to make the time and effort to keep up as much social interaction as you can. Your productivity, your health, and even your mood will all benefit.