At first glance, telecommuting looks like the best thing ever. You don’t have to wake up as early, can dress in comfy clothes, and your commute is only as long as it takes to get to your home office. That’s all well and good, but telecommuting isn’t a job, it’s an aspect of a job. It could be a big mistake to focus more on the “telecommuting” part than the actual “job” part.
Telecommuting can be a big adjustment for people who never worked from home before. That isn’t to say anyone should expect a negative situation when they make the move to work from home, only that it requires balance, dedication, and focus.
Today we’re going to discuss some of the mistakes people can make when they first begin telecommuting. Knowing what you’re getting into before you begin working from home, and preparing for every situation can help you to succeed from the get-go.
4 Big Mistakes People Make When They First Begin Telecommuting
1. Focusing on the perks
Telecommuting perks abound and I’m not going to minimize any of them. For me, there’s nothing better than knowing I don’t have to commute to an office, and I can work anywhere I want. I especially love working in my quiet house when no one is here to distract me. Because I’m an independent contractor, I have no boss to answer to — and that’s the best perk of all. However, those are perks. Those aren’t the job.
If I were to make the day more about the benefits of telecommuting rather than the job itself, I’m not focusing on what really needs to be done. For me, meeting client deadlines are more important than the ability to work from bed. There are valid, non-work related reasons for telecommuting. For example. wanting more flexibility to spend with family. But if your reasons for working at home become more important than the actual job, you’re already setting yourself up for setbacks. It’s important to remember: Job first, perks second.
2. Thinking you can do it all
When you work at home you feel like you have all the time in the world. You may take on carpooling or baking for a class party. You may schedule workout time in the morning or pause work to run a vacuum or throw a load of laundry in. Thing is, you still have to work. So if you’re doing school stuff, working out, or cleaning the house during the times you’re supposed to be working, when will you work? And if you work later at night or earlier in the morning just so you can do those other things, what are you giving up during that time?
I look at telecommuting this way: If I wasn’t telecommuting I’d be working (at least) 9 to 5 at a job, with maybe my lunch hour as free time. So I treat my daytime hours as business hours and try to avoid taking on too many extras that can keep me from my work. Sure, telecommuting gives me more flexibility but is it worth it if I have to work until midnight because I decided to bake cupcakes and do laundry during the day?
3. Not setting boundaries and limits
Telecommuters tend to work more hours than people who commute to a traditional office job. They usually start earlier in the day and work later in the evening. Many telecommuters are often called to their desk on nights and weekends, simply because it’s there. Many people who work from home don’t leave work behind at 5:00. Making a habit out of leaving work at a specific time every day can help with that.
If you’re someone who works longer days simply because you’re at home, the people who you work for might expect you to be at your desk at all hours of the day and night. If you’re not careful you may find yourself on the receiving end of 10:00 p.m. Skypes. This isn’t fair to you or your family.
Stick to a schedule and set some sort of business hours. If your teammates or clients know you knock off work at 6:00 p.m., they won’t bother you after that time. Moreover, if you stop working at the same time every day it will become a habit and you’ll learn how to do what needs to be done within that time. Finally, when you set firm business hours, clients and bosses are less likely to take advantage of your time.
4. Doing too many fun things during working time
A morning coffee date? Lunch with the girls? Mani-pedis? Morning golf? Sure, many telecommuters can schedule some fun stuff during the day because they have that flexibility. However, it goes back to point #1. If you’re scheduling fun stuff during the day, when will you be doing your work? There’s nothing wrong with doing things if your job allows it, just be careful it doesn’t take you away from your paycheck. Making up for time spent away is fine once in a while, but if you’re scrambling every night to make up work – is it really worth it?
It’s all about balance
Telecommuting is all about balance and time management. If you prioritize, follow a schedule, and don’t take on too many extracurricular activities, you’ll have a successful career. If you find you’re missing out on family relaxation or extra-curricular activities because you didn’t budget your time properly, the work from home experience probably won’t work out as well as anticipated.