If you are going to Work From Home full time (or Work From Home a lot of the time) you will want to be aware of common pitfalls that homeworkers face. If you can be mindful of these challenge areas you can have better working from home experiences and more readily accelerate your career in your home office.
I have worked from home for many years. I have had ample good times and some tougher moments. At times Working From Home is very liberating. I don’t have to waste time commuting or dealing with silly office politics. However, Working From Home comes with some pitfalls. My time is less structured. I am more of “my own boss”.
Some people are out of sight, out of mind. In times past I would say “yes” to too many meetings because I was at home anyway and it was easy for me to attend. I want to aggregate my core learnings so that you can have a more pleasurable, less stressful, and equally impactful experience in your home office.
Skimping on communication
If you are not communicating with your colleagues, peers, and clients often you are likely suffering from hidden opportunity and financial costs. Communicate openly and broadly so you stay informed and know what is going on. Let me provide some examples of how I once skimped on communication and it came back to bite me in the butt. I was working to close a sales engagement with a company evaluating my firm’s products. Eventually the deal closed and the company deployed the solution. I was happy, afterall, because I retired my quota on the transaction.
However, I didn’t take the time to inform other sales stakeholders, and that turned out to be a large mistake. As it turned out, this client was part of a larger buying consortium. So when I closed the deal I wasn’t looking at the broader strategic picture. As a result, my sales management was unaware that one part of the larger buying unit was already using our product.
Had I sent an email or called a meeting to discuss the sale, I could have reduced a lot of future pain. I skimped on communication and it harmed my organization. So don’t do what I did – let me know often and when good and bad things happen; use a measured tone and keep relevant stakeholders in the loop. By communicating well you can more readily integrate the ideas and needs of others in developing feasible strategies to achieve goals. Don’t skimp!
Glazing over time and commitment
Time is especially important for home workers. As yourself: what does an “hour in the home office” look like? Make sure to explain how productivity is measured, whether that means the time it takes to complete each task, the level of service provided, or the number of items produced.
Getting distracted is a huge Work From Home pain point you need to be aware of. There are days when I start work and then eat lunch shortly thereafter. I ask myself: what have I accomplished this morning? If the answer is not very much, my system is failing.
Find technologies that enable you to provide timely responses to inquiries and let you solve immediate problems. Perhaps this is a dynamic calendar with reminders or a smartwatch. Even a sticky note might add value. Don’t lose sight of time and keep your commitments. If you start to slip in these domains it is hard to recover.
Try to give yourself a reasonable schedule and stick to it. If you can reduce time wasting, you will have a far better Working From Home experience.
Not creating boundaries and saying “yes” too often
What’s expected of employees when working from home? Coverage informs employees of what needs to be done and how that work happens, including their breaks. If possible, avoid taking meetings from all hours of the day. Treat yourself as if you were working in an office. A big mistake I have made is saying yes too often. A colleague wants to meet at 9pm my local time. Another colleague wants to meet at 8am my local time.
These meetings can lead to burn-out and exhaustion. I presume that you would rarely have a 14 hour day in your office; why should home office change that? If you don’t create boundaries your time will shrink away. This not only prevents you from completing your core work but may make you feel miserable as well. You can only sustain a crazy work period for so long. Protect your sanity.
Working From Home is a career marathon, not a sprint. If you get overextended you will not only cause yourself headaches but you will become less effective at your work. Larry Page, the founder and former CEO of Google, famously said he wanted to “put more wood behind fewer arrows”. In short, he wanted to do fewer things but do each individual thing better. Quality is paramount.
Don’t discount the advice your peers, boss, or clients can offer even if you don’t see them in person. Listen carefully to what each is saying and see if you can improve. A mistake that many home office workers make is acting too independently because there is often less oversight. I once had a manager who loved my bias towards action and team first attitude.
But I was struggling to manage my own remote team. My manager suggested that I ask for others’ ideas to improve quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. I thought I was too busy to learn from my team and, as a result, was unable to take into account competing priorities and objectives, or show flexible thinking.
Naturally this hurt my team and our abilities to make decisions on which goals should be prioritized. By not remaining open to new approaches to address needs or resolve issues I let my team down.
Failing to negotiate new benefits
If you are an employee, you should negotiate unique working from home benefits. In this article we discuss “Benefits to Negotiate You Should Negotiate For While Working From Home”. Simply by asking for additional perks you can likely change your compensation outcomes. Failing to do so is a mistake to avoid.
To put it mildly, your company is saving a lot of money when you Work From Home especially if productivity and output are held constant. When you are not in an office, your company is no longer paying rent and is therefore reducing its leasing obligations and overhead costs. The company is reducing its expenditures on space such as vertical monitors and laptop stands, supplies, food and beverages, taxes, and insurance obligations. In short, the savings of the firm can be an opportunity for you to obtain some added value for yourself. So feel free to ask to expense your docking station, ladder desk, or whatever you need to effectively work remotely.
This list has served me well and has come from years of experience. I have made mistakes and found solutions to each of the issues articulated above. I wish I had had this guidance when starting my own working from home journey. By passing on this advice perhaps your experience will be a little smoother.