Working from home has many advantages: You get to lose the commute, gain the conveniences of home and embrace flexibility and work-life balance beyond the traditional 9-to-5 grind.
“I love getting a workout in at lunch or running to the grocery store,” says Stacy Lindenberg, owner of Talent Seed Consulting. “I avoid the long wait times or lines and feel more in control of my day.”
Still, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Before you go down this particular flex work path, keep in mind that there are some things that -- to put it plainly -- telecommuting employees should NEVER do.
And here are six of them.
- Forget Structure
“Don’t veer from your normal routine,” says Andrea Berkman, founder of The Constant Professional, a personal brand development company. Basically, every day worked from home should “mirror” the schedule you’d keep in a regular office. So, wake up at your normal time, get dressed and take breaks as you normally would. It may make you more productive as the commute is no longer a factor.
- Care for Kids While Working
It’s tempting to try to “do it all” when working from home, but that’s neither realistic nor wise. Trying to watch your kids while working can lead to subpar performance on both fronts -- you’ll do less than stellar work and less than stellar parenting. Even though you’re home, you will still need a nanny or babysitter to watch your children while you get work done.
- Log Out
Though it might be tempting to withdraw from the world when you telecommute, resist. “Stay logged in,” suggests Berkman. This means keeping your email open and yourself accessible on an instant messenger, like Skype. “Making yourself available to your coworkers keeps you on your toes,” she says.
One way to remain engaged with the regular day-to-day happenings in the office is to schedule a daily meeting or call. By doing so, “you are forcing yourself to interact in a formal manner with your business colleagues and clients,” says Berkman, This helps to prevent “rogue” behavior like watching your favorite TV show in the middle of the day.
- Take ‘Work from Anywhere’ Literally
Working from home can definitely be more comfortable than working in an office, but that doesn’t mean you should get too comfortable. “Just because we have laptops and can work from the couch doesn’t mean we should,” says Berkman.
It’s a much better idea to create a space in your home dedicated to work and work alone. It doesn’t have to be a “home office,” per se. A “quiet room or area of the home where you can have a desk, files and anything else you need to do your work” will do the trick, says Lindenberg.
- Forget to Set Boundaries
Just because you work at home around your family doesn’t mean you’re always available to chat. “Let your family and friends know your normal working hours and be as consistent as possible,” says Lindenberg. Not everyone will understand why you can’t leave your desk at any time, but it’s ultimately up to you to establish these boundaries.
- Fail to Account for Noise
It may take some planning, but preventing as much “non-office” noise as possible will make conference calls a lot less stressful for you. “My biggest problem was conference calls and the dogs,” says Frankie Wood-Black, Principal at Sophic Pursuits, Inc. Her solution? Make the call from an alternative location, or just be upfront about the situation.
While you can minimize these sounds using a high quality wireless headset with a mute option, sometimes acknowledging you work from home is your best bet. It “may even be a good icebreaker,” Lindenberg says.
Telecommuting offers flexibility, and opportunity for work-life integration, that simply isn’t available in the more traditional office settings. But it can't be a free-for-all. Your best bet is to keep that in mind when evaluating flex work arrangements.