Remote Work Mistakes
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15 Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

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Remote Work Mistakes
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Can Your Commute

Working from home, remote employment, telecommuting — whatever you call it, there's a surge in many companies and across all occupations, beyond just the self-employed. Even without coronavirus outbreak health concerns, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the practice of work remotely has grown by 140 percent since 2005 and continues to rise. Today, 4.3 million people work from home at least half of the time even when there's not a health emergency, and no wonder: It has its perks. But it's not always fun and games when you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder. The following are some mistakes common to remote-working for the first time, and some advice on how to avoid making them yourself.

Related: 37 Jobs with Flexible Hours and Great Hourly Rates

Procrastinate
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Procrastinating

If you're finding yourself coming down to the wire on every assignment, it's likely that you've fallen into one of the biggest mistakes of working remotely: procrastination, whether it's with chores or constant checking of social media, or, well, almost anything else. "This doesn't apply to all home workers, but a combination of flexible hours and not being monitored can bring out the worst in some people," says Ben Taylor, founder of Home Working Club, an advice portal for current and aspiring freelancers and remote workers. "I've experienced staff habitually leaving everything until the last minute, and even if they still achieve all they need to, this leaves no room for unexpected developments."

Having a Schedule
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Not Having a Defined Schedule

Part of your procrastination problem may be a schedule problem. Before you even start your first day working remotely, you should know what is expected of your schedule by your employer. Are you expected to work 9 to 5, or are you allowed to set your own hours as long as your work is getting done? The latter is harder to manage. If there are no clear expectations, you will be responsible for deciding what hours work best for you and communicating that to your employer. "There's every chance your employer might be fine with you working evenings and weekends instead of traditional office hours, especially if it fits better with your personal life," Taylor says. "However, it's important that it's compatible with the company culture, and understood by your coworkers."

Not Developing a Routine
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Not Developing a Routine

A routine is essential to the employee who works remotely. It's a good idea to make it a habit to get up at the same time every day, shower and get dressed for your day as if you are going into an actual office. You'll be much more productive as opposed to getting up when you wake up and sitting in front of the computer in your pajamas.

Related: Top 25 Companies Offering Part-Time Work-From-Home Jobs

Leaky Dishwasher
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Mixing House Chores with Work

It can be easy to get carried away with home life distractions while on the clock when working remotely. You walk around and see that pile of laundry sitting there, or the sink full of dirty dishes, but indulging in home tasks while on the clock shows in your work. Layne Kertamus, founder of Asperian Nation — which aims to maximize neuro-diversity in the workplace — points it out as one of the biggest mistakes he sees remote workers make. "Don't multitask work stuff with home distractions, because it will show up," he warns new remote workers.

Not Creating a Proper Work Space
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Not Creating a Proper Work Space

It's very tempting to take the laptop to the couch and work with the TV on, but how productive is that? Having a proper home office space set up allows you to separate out the distractions and focus on work. It also makes it easier for you to disconnect when work time is over. "If it's possible, claim a quiet room in your home as your office," says Brittany Metzler, director of HR at Very, a group of software development and design experts. "Once you're done working, try not to go back into that room until you have to work again — out of sight, out of mind. If you live with other people, make sure they know you are at work and can't be distracted." (It can also make a good, professional backdrop for a video call.)

Embrace Organization
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Being Disorganized

Along with having a designated home office workspace, it will help to set up space for your work stuff. Instead of just shuffling papers from work spot to work spot, have a small desk in your designated workspace with a to-do list and organizing system (or filing cabinet) to keep what you need organized and within reach so you aren't searching frantically for something when you need it.

Investing in the Wrong Tools for the Job and Not Taking Care of Them
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Investing in the Wrong Tools for the Job and Not Taking Care of Them

Instead of running out and buying the latest and greatest technology just because you're working from home (or even from a formal home office), it's worth it to first see if you will be provided with equipment that you won't need to buy. If not, find out what your needs are first to stay productive and buy equipment based on the job's requirements, not on what you personally want. Along those lines, you should back up our data consistently, keep software updated and run antivirus programs as directed, Taylor says. If you've been given company technology to use, ask how to keep the software up to date. Don't just guess.

Not Having a Backup Plan
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Not Having a Backup Plan

Power lapses happen, internet connections get lost, but these small inconveniences shouldn't send your day into a tailspin. Instead, it's a good idea to have a firm backup plan in place to get work done so if there's trouble you can pack up and calmly employ your plan B (perhaps a portable charger,  Wi-Fi hot spot, or, when it's an option despite the coronavirus outbreak, a nearby coffee shop with free Wi-Fi) to continue to work.

Relying on Only One Form of Communication
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Relying on Only One Form of Communication

Sure, email is easy, and it can become habit to rely on one form of easy communication, but that won't always work. It's important that remote workers use multiple forms of communication. Over-communicating is always better than not communicating enough. "Over-communicate using all channels, like text, email, and conference call, on complex issues," Kertamus recommends. A smaller video chat such as on Google Hangouts may also have its place in the day; social media could be a backup plan for a remote team in an emergency; and don't forget about instant messaging.

Not Being Proactive with Communication
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Not Being Proactive with Communication

Don't just sit around during work hours and wait to be asked if you'll meet a deadline — speak up if you're running behind. The ability to communicate well is a top skill Metzler looks for in remote employees. "You must be able to clearly communicate with others," she says. "A lot can be lost in translation when working remotely. People need to know what you are working on so there is no overlap or things being forgotten about."

Give 'Em Face Time
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Not Connecting Face-to-Face Occasionally

Working remotely doesn't mean never showing your face. You should make an effort to stay connected and be seen on a regular basis, whether that means going into the office weekly for meetings or doing regular, face-to-face video chat calls. Since you don't have regular access to the water cooler, this will go a long way in helping you form relationships and boost camaraderie with colleagues, which can make working more productive and fun.

Not Breaking for Exercise
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Not Breaking for Exercise

Not going into the office means you aren't even getting the walk from the parking lot to the office. You will need to make an effort to be more active before the pounds creep up on you. Take time before work to take a walk around in the fresh air, or break for lunch and take a walk to keep yourself active despite working from home. Try to fit activity into your work hours one way or another — not that you shouldn't be exercising in your home life already.

Becoming Isolated
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Becoming Isolated

It can be easy get work done day in and day out from the comfort of your own home, but that is how remote employees become isolated. "You can get sucked into a vicious cycle and realize you haven't left the house in a week," Metzler says. To avoid this burnout she recommends getting up early and hitting the gym or getting more of that fresh air by going for a walk. Likewise, turn off the work computer at the end of the day, go out into the world whenever possible, and be sure to connect with other people in the outside world daily.

Not Using the Mute Button
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Not Using the Mute Button

The bottom line here is when you're on a work call your coworkers don't want or need to hear the dog barking, family members talking, a child crying, or music playing. Your coworkers might find it just plain unprofessional. Find a quiet space — or use your designated work space for calls and put yourself on mute until it's your turn to talk. It's just one of the ground rules.

Not Disconnecting
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Not Disconnecting

One trap that remote workers often fall into is working too much. "With phones, computers, and tablets, it's easy to find more work for yourself, even when you don't want to," Metzler says. "Some people have a hard time not responding to that Slack message or email. If it's the weekend and it's not urgent, put down the tech." That goes for messaging people, too. Don't message other employees on the weekend — everyone needs the chance to unwind.