What does the “perfect” work-from-home setup look like? Well, that depends on which setup helps you most. Investing in a standing desk is just as valid as working from bed if that’s what you need, and how you manage your productivity, workflow, and output is going to vary depending on your job and your day-to-day. Really: Sometimes it’s okay to do less on a given day. It’s impossible to expect that you’d maintain the same level of productivity every single day!
Even so, there are ways to set yourself up for disaster when it comes to a work-from-home space, in ways you might be able to avoid. No one knows that better than career coaches and hiring managers who are also working from home. Not only do they walk the walk, but they see the honest mistakes people might be making day in and day out. Here are five of the most common working-from-home habits that might be causing issues, and how to fix them.
Not Having a Dedicated Workspace
You don’t need a dedicated home office with four walls and a door you shut every night when you log off, but having some space where you know you can get your work done is important. “One of the biggest makes I see people make is not having a designated workplace,” Stephanie Alston, the founder and CEO of Black Girl Group, tells Apartment Therapy. “By failing to do so, you are setting yourself up for failure.”
Your workspace can encompass the portable desktop you use to accommodate your needs, a favorite space at the dining room table, or your beloved desk setup. (For me, my dedicated workspace includes the seat cushion I use to make my dining chair slightly more ergonomic.) By having a few go-to tools and accessories, you can better help your brain switch to “working” mode when you sit down at your space.
I don’t know about you, but working from home makes it that much easier for me to plug in, push work out, and forget to look up for a break until hours later. Maybe it’s because I have fewer distractions around me, or the erasure of my commute means I start my day without needing to go outside. Whatever the reason, factoring in breaks as small as five minutes and up to a lunch hour can do a world of good.
“If you’re able, factor in two walks; one in the morning, one in the evening,” career counselor and content creator Jazmine Reed-Clark tells Apartment Therapy. “Leave your house and refresh your eyes, mind, and body.”
Not Having Dedicated Off-Hours
“My clients and I have fallen prey to ‘living at work’ rather than ‘working from home,’” Reed-Clark admits. Yep, even career professionals make mistakes — what matters is being able to identify, learn from, and adjust the problem.
According to Reed-Clark, adjusting the “always-on” mentality “comes down to: prioritization; setting expectations with yourself and others; scheduling work, rest, AND play; [and] accountability.”
Whether you’re peeping at your work email long after your agreed-upon work hours, or delaying a project until the last possible second, she recommends doing a bit of internal homework to adjust the issue. “I advise others to look at their ego, motivations, and fears when planning or self-sabotaging,” Reed-Clark says. “Why does your ego beg you to disrespect the boundaries you’ve set for yourself?”
Alston gave similar advice. “The key to success is knowing when to stop working and to not allow working from home to consume your home life,” she says.
Not Baking Flexibility into Your Schedule
Whether there’s a construction crew jackhammering away in front of your home, or a family member interrupts an important Zoom for an equally important reason, there are going to be ups and downs when it comes to working from home. Or, you might find that what worked for you a few months ago no longer serves you now. To that end, Alston recommends auditing your situation and adjusting accordingly.
“I think at this point, many of all have learned that even if you have a ‘perfect’ approach to working from home, it will still need to evolve overtime without burning out,” she says.
Not Treating Working From Home Like the Hard Work It Is
Sure, you’re no longer commuting or strategizing with coworkers in person. But working from home is still work — and deserves to be seen and honored as such. “There’s a common myth that when you work from home you aren’t really working,” Alston says. “Honestly, I have discovered that I work 10 times harder being at home.”
Working from home also means it’s as important as ever to advocate for your needs, and to check in with yourself and your goals whether you report to a company or are employed. “Ask yourself more introspective questions about your career and work,” Reed-Clark says. “How do YOU want your relationship with work to evolve?” She also recommends speaking to your boss about a work-from-home stipend if you report to an organization, and booking vacation time like you would if you went to the office every day.
“Book the vacation,” she says. “Even if it’s a staycation. Get away from work.”