Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

15 Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

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Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

Can Your Commute

Work from home, remote employment, telecommuting: These are all modern workforce buzz words. Why? Because working where you also happen to live is an upward trend across all occupations and not just for the self-employed. In fact, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, working from home 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 — and no wonder. Working from home definitely 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 common mistakes remote-work newbies often make and some advice on how to avoid making them yourself.

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Avoid Procrastination Station


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 from home: procrastination. "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 HomeWorkingClub.com, 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."

Be a Schedule Stickler

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," says Taylor. "However, it's important that it's compatible with the company culture, and understood by your coworkers."

Develop a Routine

Not Developing a Routine

A routine is essential to the remote employee. 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

Do the Dishes and Take Out the Trash

Mixing House Chores with Work

It can be easy to get carried away with home distractions while on the clock when working remotely. You 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, MA, SPHR, and 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.

Design a Proper Work Space

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 workspace setup allows you to separate out the distractions and focus on your 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."

Embrace Organization

Being Disorganized

Along with having a designated 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 an organizing system (or filing cabinet) to keep what you need organized and within reach so you aren't frantically searching for something when you need it.

Have the Right Tools for the Job

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, 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 and purchase 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, says Taylor. If you've been given company technology to use be sure to ask how to upkeep the software. Don't just guess.

Plan for Emergencies

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 have a firm backup plan in place so that if you do happen to lose power or internet at home you can calmly pack up and head to plan B (perhaps the nearest coffee shop with free wifi) to continue to work.

Diversity Your Communication

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 utilize 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," recommends Kertamus.

Proactively Communicate

Not Being Proactive with Communication

Don't just sit around and wait to be asked if you'll meet the 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

Not Connecting Face-to-Face Occasionally

Working remotely doesn't mean never showing face. You should make an effort to be seen on a regular basis, whether that means going into the office weekly for meetings or doing regular, face-to-face calls. This will go a long way in helping you form work relationships and boost camaraderie with your colleagues.

Break for Exercise
miodrag ignjatovic/istockphoto

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, or break for lunch and take a walk to keep yourself active despite working from home. Try to fit activity into your day one way or another.

Avoid Isolation

Becoming Isolated

It can be easy to work 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," says Metzler. To avoid this burnout she recommends getting up early and hitting the gym or going for a walk. Likewise, turn off the computer at the end of the day and go out into the world. Grab a bite or otherwise visit with friends, sign up for a book club — just do something to make sure you are still connecting with other people in the outside world daily.

Employ the Mute Button

Not Using the Mute Button

The bottom line here is when you're on a work call your co-workers don't want or need to hear the dog barking, a child crying, music playing, etc. It's 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.

Find Ways Not to Work

Not Disconnecting

One trap that remote workers often fall into is working too much. While yes, it's probably better than not working enough, there can still be problems that arise. "With phones, computers, and tablets, it's easy to find more work for yourself, even when you don't want to," says Metzler. "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.