If you’re blessed enough to be able to work from home, you know it has some great perks. Every day can be casual Friday. No long morning commutes or rush-hour traffic. But don’t be fooled. Working from home isn’t perfect. In fact, it presents some very unique challenges you’ll need to recognize in order to avoid them. Make sure you don’t fall prey to the some of these potential work-at-home pitfalls.
Pitfall #1: You’re available 24/7…or so it seems
Some people will try to make their agenda yours, simply because they think “home” means “always available.” Family and friends may call you during work hours “just to talk” because they know you’ll be around. Neighbors may ask you to sign for their packages or even pick up sick kids from school in an emergency. You will need to set very clear boundaries with those who know you’re home during the day.
Pitfall #2: Distractions, Distractions, Distractions
Whether it’s taking time to walk the dog or throw in a load of laundry, working at home presents us with a constant barrage of distractions. In some ways, being able to attend to those distractions can be one of the best perks of working from home. However, some distractions like television or Facebook can lead to serious time-management problems. Remember, if you’re not working, you’re not making money.
Pitfall #3: Kids at home
We all love our children. Being able to work from home when you have a family can be a real blessing. However, work can also be very difficult to manage with kids in the house. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you won’t need childcare, even if only occasionally. Screaming children and an important conference call with a client is a bad combination. If you’ll be working with small children or needy teenagers around the house, you’ll need to have a plan in place so that everyone knows when Mom or Dad are “at work” and cannot be distracted.
Pitfall #4: Lack of family support
Kids aren’t the only ones who may not buy in to your working from home. You really will need support from your entire family if you’re going to be successful. Your spouse must be on board, or you’re already set up for a struggle. Clear guidelines about what is expected from those who are home during your working hours are a must.
Pitfall #5: Not having a clearly defined workspace
No matter what work-at-home business you run, it is very likely that you will need a dedicated office or work space. If you have a clearly defined work area, such as a home office, it’s more likely that family members will respect your boundaries and realize when you’re at work and when you’re not. Even if it starts out as a small table in the dining room, make sure you have a working space that is yours alone. One important tip: make sure you have separate home and office phone lines, especially if you have teenagers!
Pitfall #6: Working too much
When you work from home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working all the time. Some people work best first thing in the morning. Others may work better late at night when the house is quiet. But none of us work best when we work 24 hours a day. Make sure you don’t overdo work, simply because it’s always right in front of you. Don’t let work and personal life become one and the same.
Pitfall #7: Isolation
Go ahead and prepare for it. No matter how introverted or extroverted, most home-based workers eventually get cabin fever. Occasionally, you’ll need to get out of the house to let your hair down and mentally relax a bit. Try meeting a friend for lunch. Or go out for a business dinner with a colleague. Join an organization related to your industry. Meet others and network. Even heading for the nearest coffee shop with your laptop can help. There’s no reason to isolate yourself at home just because you work there.
Pitfall #8: Not being taken seriously by other professionals
It’s sad, but true. There are people in the business world and beyond that will not take you quite as seriously because you choose to work from home. They may consider your job to be simply a hobby or an interest, not a real career. The best way to combat this attitude is to take yourself seriously. Don’t listen when they downplay your importance. And always present yourself and your business as professionally as possible.
Pitfall #9: Burnout
Burnout can happen to anyone. It just seems to hit you twice as fast when you’re working for yourself. Maybe it’s because home-based professionals wear so many hats. Or perhaps it’s just that entrepreneurial spirit that drives us to always push so hard – sometimes too hard. Give yourself occasional breaks. Take sick days as needed. And by all means, schedule yourself some vacation time.
Pitfall #10: Letting your health slide
When you start working at home, it’s common to pick up a few extra pounds. You’re not alone. Being home all day makes it easy to sneak into the kitchen for snacks and last night’s leftovers. Don’t let this perk turn into a problem. Try to keep set mealtimes and breaks, just as if you were in the traditional office setting. Make time to hit the gym or go for a walk. Taking the time for regular exercise will make you more productive, not less.
Congratulations on joining the work-at-home team. You deserve every benefit it holds for you. Now that you have the flexibility and freedom of working from home, be proactive about making smart decisions that will support you and your business.