Working from home is great. Until it’s not. This is something that most remote working vets have known for years, while the rest of the world has only just found out over the last couple months.
Yes, the freedom is amazing. And who doesn’t want the option to work in pajamas? But, as many people are now discovering, there actually are some real downsides as well.
While most companies are looking for ways to reenter the office, many are considering expanding (or introducing) work from home capabilities. The truth is, many employees may not return to the office at all. That said, those new to the home office should know some of the drawbacks.
You need to set boundaries, or else you may start to feel like you’re never really working and never really at home.
While most people have a love/hate relationship with their workplace, the environment is at least predictable. Sure, there might be an unexpected meeting. A chatty coworker might pop by without notice. Or there might be an afternoon parade to the break room for birthday cake. But more or less, you know what you’re going to get. That all changes at home. Kids, partners, and pets. Chores, YouTube, noisy neighbors. Distractions can pop up constantly and divert your attention. Time to invest in some noise cancelling headphones and maybe a productivity-tracking app on your iPhone.
Working from home can get lonely. You may start missing your favorite coworkers and friends in the office. It’s important to recognize how extended periods of time without real human interaction may impact your productivity, fitness, or general mood. Humans are social and working remotely can distance you from your normal circle of colleagues. Make sure to look out for your mental health by scheduling regular time with family and friends, either digitally or in-person from a safe social distance.
The office can either be a huge help or a huge detriment to healthy eating habits. Depends on what snacks your company stocks in the break room. The same is true for your home. When 2:30pm rolls around, those Cheetos in the cabinet start looking like the perfect afternoon boost. And hell, sometimes they are! But meal-prep, routine, and eating snacks in moderation will all help maintain your physical health and your mental acuity. If you have personal fitness goals (and, let's be honest, who doesn’t?), just be aware that the proximity to your favorite food at home increases the temptation to indulge. I promise that frozen pizza will taste even better on Friday night when you celebrate a successful work week and your self-discipline.
There’s a delicate balance to successfully working from home. Most people want to keep their work-life and their home-life separate. Because of this, your home may not be well-set up to accommodate your productivity. Like Goldilocks, pajamas and the couch may be too comfy while sitting at the dining room table may be too stiff. To optimize your productivity, take some time to define your workspace within your home. It’s helpful to have a destination for your laptop, charger, coffee, video conferences, etc. Even if your commute has been cut down to a slow walk between your bed and your desk, it’s important to feel like you’ve started your day and can tackle your agenda.
The freedom of working from home is just that: freedom. With it comes a sense that no one is overseeing your work throughout the day. You can do and not do as you please... to an extent. If you’re a self-starter, this will be an easy transition. But if you’re someone who needs oversight in order to stay on task, you may need to anticipate that and give yourself strict parameters as you work. Set your goals, start small, and hit them one at a time. Before you can finish that big project looming over your head, focus on making your bed, cleaning out your inbox, and setting yourself up for success on your own.
Separating work-time and home-time is, admittedly, hard when you work from home. Under normal circumstances, you can head into the office, get done as much as you can, and then head home to enjoy your evening. Kick off your shoes, shake off the day, and keep rewatching The Office. Your commute generates a natural divide between work and not-work. That difference is important to your mental health — and it’s difficult to manage when you work where you normally relax. If you’re not careful, you can forget to ever truly log off. That limbo is not sustainable in the long-run. You need to set boundaries, or else you may start to feel like you’re never really working and never really at home.
So, above all else, look out for yourself, acknowledge the ups-and-downs of your new “office” and be prepared to love (and sometimes hate) your newfound freedom.