Working from home is an ideal situation for those who desire a more flexible schedule. The benefits are many, including substantial savings on commuting costs, work attire, meals and time.
Yet there are also a few potential pitfalls that are a cause of concern for many who are new to remote work, and who worry that they can’t be efficient or effective outside of a traditional office environment. Add in the inconvenience of working from a tiny apartment, and it’s easy to see why some urbanites feel that the dream of working from home is simply impractical.
Getting past the obstacles is often just a matter of thoughtful organization of your space and time, and a commitment to making it work. The following are five common work-from-home worries, along with a few ideas for getting past the hurdles.
No Space for a Workstation
If you barely have enough space to live in, how can you make room for a desk, printer, files or other office equipment? This is where the commitment part comes in. If you are serious about working from home on a regular basis, you will need to make some changes to your space. Take some time to consider the pros and cons, and decide whether the benefits are worth sacrificing premium living space to work equipment. It may be as simple as a few tweaks to your current living space — a bit of decluttering and rearranging the furniture that you have.
If you’re in it for the long haul, it’s worthwhile to invest in furniture that can fold away at the end of the workday or that can double-duty as storage. If, on the other hand, you only work from home on occasion or are not sure if it will be a long-term arrangement, working from a dining table, kitchen counter, portable desk or lapdesk can be a temporary fix (switch it up every couple of hours to make this approach work). Or consider joining a coworking space, or splitting up your day among local Internet cafes, libraries, public spaces or restaurants that provide wifi.
If you’re a highly social person who thrives on face-to-face interactions during the day, working from home is probably not a good fit for you. Feeling lonely and isolated is often cited by former telecommuters as a key factor in their choice to return to the office.
To combat the isolation during the workday, keep in touch with office colleagues with collaboration tools. If possible, try a change of scenery. Take your work to a local Internet cafe or coworking space. Joining a networking group of other remote workers in your area can provide a longer-term solution. You can find groups of telecommuters who get together regularly for coffee and to share ideas on Meetup and LinkedIn.
Losing Out on Career Opportunities
Many career-minded professionals feel that, once they go home to work, they are out of sight and out of mind. There is the fear that, if they’re removed from the day-to-day developments that take place in the office, or are not physically within eyesight of the higher-ups, they will miss out on promotions and other opportunities to grow their careers.
To stay visible with the key people where you work, frequent communication is critical. Take advantage of face-to-face time to build positive relationships within your company. When attending meetings via conference calls, make sure that you’re actively participating by contributing your thoughts and ideas.
Too Many Distractions
Distractions in the home environment exist in many forms—neighbors, street noise, family, pets, television and other electronics. Working from home definitely requires self-discipline and focus.
If a noisy neighbors or loud street noise are making it impossible to concentrate, a $20 box fan can provide an even humming sound that muffles disturbances. If you want the fan sound without the wind, white noise machines and apps can fill the bill. Playing ambient music can also provide a buffer for noisy apartments, but some may find the music itself to be a distraction. If that’s the case, noise-cancelling headphones or earphones are a worthwhile investment.
Work Intruding on Personal Life
Most people believe that the ability to work from home provides the flexibility for better work-life balance. But, for many remote workers, the lack of separation between the work and home space means that their work tends to encroach on their personal lives. It makes it difficult to physically and mentally leave the office at the end of the day.
To help you make the switch from working mode to relaxation, make sure that your workspace has storage that allows you to clear your workspace and remove all papers, files and desktop clutter from view. Creating an end-of-the-day ritual also can help to signal your brain that you have left the work day behind and now it’s time to relax.