In many ways, the need for the brick and mortar office is being eliminated. So much of what so many companies do, can be done online or on the phone. Unless you are a vendor of some kind who needs a physical space to display and sell items, you don’t really need a physical location to work anymore. And even then, we know how many vendors are shutting down their brick and mortar locations in favor of a cyber store. With Wayfair, Amazon, and similar platforms, a lot of vendors are choosing to just have a warehouse somewhere, rather than any busy office space with phones ringing and coffee pots brewing and sales associates greeting clients.
So the remote worker, the telecommuter, the work-from-home employee—whatever you prefer to call this role—is becoming more and more common. I personally work fro home, and I love it. I don’t burn any time on a morning commute, or a long drive home in rush hour traffic. I don’t worry about coworkers eating my food out of the fridge—I’m the only one here. Well, besides my boyfriend, who does sometimes eat my food. But he’s off the hook. There is, however, something nice about being in a real office to do your work, surrounded by colleagues working for the same company.
For all of the inconveniences that come with going to a real office (coworkers chatting your ear off, little choice over the music that’s playing), there are many perks, like the camaraderie, and the general sense to stick to a schedule because at 5pm, the janitor is coming through and locking those doors. Working from home isn’t really natural. Most humans aren’t built for it, and quickly find that they are prone to some habits that aren’t conducive to getting things done. On that note, here are work-from-home habits that kill productivity.
The first rule of the work-from-home club is you don’t talk about the work-from-home club. Okay, sorry, corny, I know. But really, the moment you tell people that you work from home is exactly when they start calling you, asking if you want to get lunch in the middle of a Wednesday, or if you can take their dog for the afternoon, or if you can drive them to the airport at 3pm on a Friday.
Working in your bedroom
You have that cozy lap desk that’s padded and protects your legs from the heat of the computer. You’re already right there, when you wake up. Why not just open your laptop and get to work? Well, there’s something about the bedroom environment, plus the posture in which we sit in bed—legs sprawled out—that tells our brain, “You don’t need to be entirely alert right now.”
Not getting dressed
You don’t have to put on a full pantsuit and stilettos, but get out of that robe and sweatpants. Wash your face. Brush your hair. When you leave these self-maintenance tasks hanging over your head, it sends subliminal messages to your brain that the day hasn’t fully yet begun, which can leave you sluggish.
Running mid-day errands
I don’t care what it is or how much it’s bugging you. You need coffee filters. You need to pick up the dry cleaning. You need an oil change. The moment you leave your home for these errands, you’re basically screwed. You tell yourself it will take 20 minutes, but it takes an hour. And then, while you’re out, you decide to run another errand—you were in the neighborhood. Your work momentum is completely destroyed. Do your errands on the weekends or after work hours like everybody else does.
Not having a dedicated desk
Your dining room table is not a desk. Nor is your coffee table. Or the kitchen counter. Not that side table by the couches either. You need a real desk and a real desk chair. Something about sitting at a desk, with nice posture in a good chair, tells your brain that it’s time to work.
Never taking in-person meetings
Go ahead and take some meetings in person. It can be good for you to meet the people you work for or with. It can be motivating to remember that they’re real people with passions and ambitions and full lives. And, it gets you out of the house. So resist doing everything on Slack or over email.
Or at least FaceTime/Skype meetings
If you can’t meet your colleagues or clients in person, then have a Skype or FaceTime meeting. This improves that connection, and gives you a reason to brush your hair and put yourself together. This also adds structure to your day because you can’t multitask while on these calls, so you know you have to do your other tasks around them.
Not having a lunch time
Set a lunch time. Even if it isn’t the same time each day, don’t just try to go the entire day, never taking a proper break, all so you can save time. You don’t wind up saving time. You wind up wasting it, getting up to make a snack every hour. Just take a dedicated half hour or hour to have a meal.
Getting right to work
If you were going to go to an office, you’d likely take a little time, just for you, each morning before starting your work. Don’t skip that step, just because you work from home. Go for a jog. Meditate. Journal. Have a morning routine that’s just for you, rather than diving into work first thing when you wake up.
Failing to create an office space
If you take the step of getting a desk, go the extra step of creating an office space. Get good lighting—not gross fluorescent light but pretty light that will keep you awake and happy. Your physical space affects your moods so much, so it’s important to create it consciously, especially if you’re somewhere that gets the true four seasons.
If you have a personal phone and a work phone, put your personal phone on the other side of the home. Put it on silent. Ask friends and family to only call you during work hours if it’s an emergency. Do not open any social media pages. Don’t even have them lingering in the background.
Only working at home
You might want to give yourself an office space that isn’t at home. You can pick a quiet coffee shop or shared workspace that’s for rent for a low monthly or daily cost. It may be worth it, since you won’t be surrounded by those home distractions like unopened mail and things that need cleaning.
Failing to set a schedule
Have real office hours. 9 to 5. 10 to 6. Whatever works for you. Really try to stick to them. That means getting up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night. Now, make plans after. Sign up for a workout class at 6:30 pm or arrange to see friends for dinner at 7pm. This keeps you accountable to your work schedule.
Doing the bare minimum
Just because you don’t go into an office and meet your colleagues and supervisors doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t try to climb the ladder. Ask to be looped in on the company newsletter so you can know what’s going on, and what opportunities are arising.
Taking off-hour correspondence
The trouble with responding to work-related emails and calls after your office hours is that it tells your brain, “I don’t need to get everything done during the day—I can get work done any time I want. Even at 10pm on a Saturday.” But that’s not good for your productivity during regular work hours.