Isn’t working at home great? That’s why so many of us are either already doing it, or dreaming about doing it. We know it’s just the thing for creative types who don’t like structure and hierarchy. Working at home has its perks.
However, working at home also brings many temptations that can sabotage our productivity, creativity, sanity, happiness and even our health.
Below are what I consider to be the five most common pitfalls of working at home, why they’re bad for us, and how we can avoid or overcome them.
1. Working in Your Pajamas or Underwear
You have to admit, one of the best parts of working at home is never having to put on a suit ever again. Well, at least not every day.
However, some work at home professionals take this no-dress-code thing a little too far. Most people think all freelancers work in pajamas or, worse, their underwear.
Not dressing up for work can actually hurt your productivity. If you’re wearing a T-shirt with holes in it, even if nobody can see you, your sloppy appearance will affect your confidence and professionalism. This comes through when you talk to a prospective client on the phone, and even in your writing.
Another reason to dress in some form of regular work attire, even if it’s only jeans and a T-shirt, is that it puts your mind into work mode. It’s a cue that you mean business now and your mind boots up to deliver quickly.
So make up your mind what your personal dress code is. Make sure it’s presentable, but comfortable. My rule of thumb is to be presentable enough to open the door with confidence. And don’t forget personal hygiene :-)
2. Not Having Set Working Hours
When you work at home, nobody cares if you sleep all day and work only two hours starting at midnight — as long as you meet deadlines.
However, it’s still a good idea to have specific working hours, at least most of the time. For one thing, your working hours should respect your personal productivity rhythm.
For example, I can only write in the daytime. At night, my brain is too fried to write anything cohesive. I need to respect this and work when I’m most productive. Otherwise, I’ll be working against myself, taking longer to get things done and producing less than stellar work.
Other writers do their best work late at night, when the whole house is totally quiet. Others need to wake up before dawn. Know when you’re most productive and set your work hours accordingly.
Besides, when you don’t have set working hours you’re more open to distractions. You’re more likely to take a little longer on a phone call, or get lost on Twitter, or blindly turn on the TV when your time is “open” and unstructured.
3. Sitting on Your Butt All Day
Did you know that work at home professionals gain as much as 30 pounds during their first year of working at home? Especially if you work primarily at the computer, the temptation is too great to stay in your chair, only getting up to get a snack from the fridge.
Before you know it, your hips and butt are spreading. You’re getting flabby and — worst yet — you’re losing the edge and sharpness in your thinking.
Our bodies and minds need regular breaks. This is why it’s a good idea to work in time chunks of, say 50-90 minutes, and then take a break for ten minutes or so.
A related pitfall deals with vacations (or lack of them).
4. Never Going on Vacation
Freelancers don’t get paid vacation days, so we tend to never go on vacation. A big mistake!
It’s better to take short, frequent vacations than get burned out or seriously ill and be forced to take a long break from your work.
Besides, those frequent breaks will help increase not only your productivity, but your creativity as well.
It is possible to organize a vacation without going broke.
5. Working in a Non-productive Space
Because we work at home, we pretty much have perfect control of where we work. We could work in our garage, in the basement, in bed, on the couch, on the grass in the backyard. Or, we don’t even have to work at home. We can bring the laptop to the playground or to Starbucks or the woods.
This is perfectly fine, once in a while, when we need a fresh perspective.
But, most of the time, we need a regular working space that’s arranged to support our productivity. We need comfortable furniture, appropriate lighting, preferably away from the TV and boombox, and with a view of the outdoors.
Our physical space affects our productivity. Clutter gets in the way, making it take longer to find what we need. Clutter also tends to make our minds jumbled and unable to focus.
Working in the same place every day helps you get more work done. You’ll spend less time getting settled in a working mode. Instead, your brain will be ready to go as soon as you sit in your work chair.
I have to admit, I’m guilty of working on the couch or at the dining table too often, especially now that it’s too cold in the basement where the home office is. I’ve tried to remedy this by using a laptop table, which I move from dining room to living room. That’s my regular, albeit portable, working space.
How About You?
Are you guilty of any of these pitfalls? If you stopped doing just one thing from the list above, how do you think it would affect your productivity, creativity, stress level and work satisfaction?
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