Please forgive my clickbait-y title, my intention was simply to identify this article as something that calls out a number of the potential homeworking mistakes to avoid (ones that I’ve made in the last 20 years of homeworking) in the hope that it prevents others from making them too.This article by @StephenMann calls out a number of the potential homeworking mistakes to avoid in the hope that it prevents others from making them too. #homeworking #business Click To Tweet
For each mistake, there’s at least one piece of learning that I’ve picked up. Some learning came quite quickly; some took a lot longer to appreciate and implement. And please remember that I’m not a homeworking expert. I’m just someone who has done it for so long that I now find it hard to work in a busy office.
Homeworking mistake #1: Losing the dividing line between work and home life
It’s not the first homeworking mistake you’ll make but it’s probably the biggest one that you might make.
If you’re like me and used to start the commute into work before 8 am every day, then you’ll probably still start to work before 8 am because you’re still getting up and ready at the same time. The same might be true if you used to leave home at 7 am, 6am, or earlier. This isn’t bad in itself. It’s what potentially happens later in the day that is.What's probably the biggest homeworking mistake you'll make? Not having a clear divide between your work and personal life! #homeworking #business Click To Tweet
For example, you might find that lunchtime shortens as you don’t distance yourself from your work to allow for a mental “palate cleanse” before tacking the afternoon shift. When doing this, your ability to be productive in the afternoon will drop (especially when combined with mistake #2).
However, the real killer here is that it’s easy for the working day to continue well beyond 6pm (or whatever your usual “leave for home” time was). So, ensure that if you do work late, that it’s an irregular occurrence that only happens when there’s an important deadline that can’t be missed. If you can, shut down your working at a regular time each day knowing that you’ve already done a great deal and that finishing a piece of work the following morning will be better for everyone. Failing to do so will soon cause burnout and lower productivity along the way.
Finally, you’ve likely already been told this for workplace working – take regular breaks to ensure that you can keep up your productivity. The workplace kind of does this for you organically. You might walk to various meeting rooms throughout the day. Or chat to a colleague by the coffee machine. However, when working at home, it’s easy to lose this quick break and not to notice the adverse effect it’s having on your productivity.
Homeworking mistake #2: Thinking that working from home is easy from day one
I’ll make this one quick, so it doesn’t seem like a long whinge list.
There are so many homeworking factors to be aware of. Many might appear silly and simple, but they can still adversely affect your ability to productively homework. There’s, of course, the explanation that many non-homeworkers give for staying put in an office – that there are too many distractions at home to work. Which conveniently overlooks the many distractions in the workplace. From the non-productive (but sanity maintaining) conversations throughout the day to the many meetings where “the minutes are saved but hours are lost.”There are many things that can adversely affect your ability to productively homework, says @StephenMann. From what you wear to what you listen to! #homeworking #business Click To Tweet
So, accept that there will be distractions at home. Such that the ringing of the doorbell or the kids that want your help are simply part of the daily routine rather than something to get wound up about while focused on the important task at hand.
For me, there are more important factors to consider when starting to work from home, including:
- What you wear. Have you thought that dressing up or down might influence your productivity? At least in the transition. Now I’m not saying that you need to get dressed in office clothes, just that what you’re wearing might impede your brain getting you into work mode. Yes, it’s a potentially silly tip to offer but you might find that working in your pajamas might be a bad thing for your productivity.
- Ergonomic factors. You’ll likely be spending longer in your chair and in front of a screen when working at home (versus a day filled with walks between meeting rooms). So, the quality of your desk and chair – unless you’ve already jumped to a standing desk – will make an impact (and I appreciate for many it will be a case of making do as a temporary homeworker). As will ensuring that you’ve read the corporate computer use guidelines that are more relevant than ever. Simple things such as using a home desktop PC with a larger monitor instead, or attaching an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor to your corporate laptop will make a difference. Your eyes, back, hands, and potentially other body parts will thank you for it later.
- The sound of silence (if you’ve previously worked in a noisy office). When I first started to work from home the silence was deafening (and distracting). My noise of choice back then was the radio because the inane chatter between the music also provided a little human company. But then I changed jobs and I started to write. For this, the chatter – and the option of podcasts – just didn’t work because it interfered with my thought-to-keyboard process. Now, I just listen to music while I write. Although there are definitely times when silence is needed.
There are, of course, potentially other differences between working from your home and in an office. The important thing is to ideally think about them upfront. Or at least to be conscious of the differences while you’re working and to consider whether something needs to be addressed.
Homeworking mistake #3: Assuming that people will still come to the “virtual” you
When you work in a building, people know where you sit, and they can also see if you look approachable at any point in the day. They can also get an immediate response to their need (which may or may not be good for your productivity).
The same isn’t true when you work at home. But people will still require your help at certain points of the day. So, make sure that people know when you’re available and not (thankfully collaborative tools have long facilitated this). And on the occasions when you’re not available, ensure that expectations are managed in terms of when you can help/respond. If you don’t, people will stop coming to you for assistance. Which, on the face of it, might seem great. But when your colleagues start seeking out others for help it leads us onto the next potential homeworking mistake.
Homeworking mistake #4: Losing your workplace profile and perceived value
Notwithstanding that you might start to lose your position as the go-to person for particular queries or issues, there’s a bigger profile-related mistake awaiting you as a homeworker.
You’re probably aware of the management thinking that views hardworking people as those that come in early and leave late, rather than those who are actively undertaking value-creating tasks and activities. I know it’s crazy that someone could work slowly for twelve hours, achieving less than someone who works better in their contracted eight hours, and still be seen as the “high achiever.”Out of sight, out of mind can unfortunately still be a big deal (in the eyes of management) when it comes to homeworking, says @StephenMann. #homeworking #business Click To Tweet
This perverse thinking can be accentuated by homeworking, with homeworkers perceived as late starters and early finishers. And, even more worryingly, as “kicking up their heels” rather than working in between. Or just a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”
So, remember that – assuming that keeping your workplace profile is important – you’ll need to make extra effort to ensure that what you’re doing, while a home worker, is being seen by those who matter in your performance measurement.
I didn’t learn this for a long time, I just wanted to do a great job from day one. I learned it later from the misfortune of another homeworker who was let go based on the lack of their direct “tangible” outputs. I can’t comment as to what they were and weren’t doing but I do know that they were proactively helping sales personnel to win business – both virtually and in–person – but with no visible recognition.
It’s already a long article but I could probably think of at least another four, if not eight, homeworking mistakes that I’ve personally made. So, please let me know if this homeworking article has been helpful and it’s worth me writing another. Also, if you’re already successfully working from home, please add your tips in the comments too.
Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.
Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.