Working from Home: Avoid These 3 Pitfalls

I started working from home eight years ago. During the COVID pandemic, many people joined the bandwagon, and I’m optimistic for the future of work as hybrid models are being introduced.

I love working from home, but it’s not for everyone. It requires self-discipline. If you are disciplined, you can easily set schedules for yourself in line with work demands, and you will learn over time how to streamline your workflow and communications.

It’s important to note that there can be growing pains with transitioning to remote work, and the various adjustments that need to be made will vary depending on your needs and your company’s needs.

From my experience, there are three primary pitfalls to watch out for when transitioning to remote work. I focus on these three because they can be mostly under your control, so if you keep them in mind, you can improve your professional life.

Pitfall: Overworking
If your company is split between telecommuters and those who come into the office, there can be tension between those two groups. Teleworkers could develop a tendency to work harder than they would when they are physically present in the office because they feel the need to show an excess of evidence that they are working. This can be a psychological trap.

I invite you to take a page from the two gurus of “getting things done,” Stephen Covey (“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) and Peter Drucker (“The Effective Executive”). I have three key takeaways from them.

One: Put first things first. In other words, prioritize.

Two: Don’t aim to be busy. Aim to be effective. This means getting the important things done, and delivering them on schedule. Don’t waste time by creating busy work for yourself. And if someone tries to give you busy work, speak up for yourself and ask them if the work is necessary.

Three: Don’t get sucked into pointless meetings. A meeting should have a goal and a time limit. Everyone’s time is limited, and you should be wise about how you spend your time.

Pitfall: Not Setting Boundaries
When I started working from home eight years ago, I developed a bad habit of checking work email during all of my waking hours. This habit provoked anxiety about work due to constant exposure.

For the sake of your health, you have to be able to power down and turn off at the end of the work day. To do this successfully, you have to set boundaries.

I recommend establishing both physical and mental boundaries. For instance, I have a dedicated space for work in my home, and that enables me to corral my work life appropriately.

I also stick to working only during business hours. I don’t check email outside of business hours. This keeps my work life from encroaching into my personal life.

Pitfall: Focusing on Drama
I admit, I have had plenty of previous instances of being a drama queen at work. Fortunately, I eventually came to the realization that I was self-sabotaging.

I have a new rule: No drama. I don’t want drama at work. Your job should remain what it is: a job. As a professional, you should always aim to do your job well, but your job shouldn’t be the end all and be all of your life.

Working off-site gives you a chance to step off the drama train, if you choose to. It gives you physical distance from the workplace, and it can lead to mental distance in a positive way by allowing space for a larger perspective on work and life.