It's easy to see the positive side of getting to work from home. Whether you're a freelancer or simply telecommute to a traditional job, not having to go to an office comes with some amazing perks.
In most cases, you don't have to dress up for work, and that can actually save you money. You're also spared having to spend time commuting. That means that you can work an eight-hour day in eight hours -- freeing up time for family, yourself, and anything else that might come up.
For those who work at home, however, there are also some traps to avoid. It's easy to be taken advantage of or to make mistakes that hurt your career (or just waste your time).
1. Beware of needs from friends and family
Because I work from home, I can use various delivery services to order groceries or be there to sign for deliveries. I can also let in a plumber or other service person whose work does not really disrupt my time much.
What I can't always do is pick up friends and family at the airport or take someone to a doctor's appointment. I may have the freedom to do those things and sometimes I may even want to, but in many cases, people will equate working from home with not working.
Protect your time. Make it clear to anyone who asks for a favor that any time you spend not working will be time you have to make up in odd hours. That doesn't mean you always have to say no. You just have to be the one making the decision.
2. Don't lose touch with workmates
One of the challenges of working from home is that it can be easy to become isolated. You may have meetings with coworkers, but it's much harder to build and maintain personal connections (especially if some of your team works in an office).
Staying connected takes work. Take advantage of any communications tools your office uses to make sure you engage in water cooler talk, not just work talk. It's important to ask about people's kids, talk about the game, or chat about mutually liked TV shows. If an opportunity to see people comes up, go out of your way to take it, whether it be a work event or a social opportunity.
3. Don't take advantage of those with regular hours
Just because you have freedom and flexibility does not mean everyone does. If you work with people who maintain a traditional office schedule (or actually work in an office) you should roughly conform to their hours.
That does not mean you can't do work at weird hours. It does mean that you should respond to email or calls when other people are working and at least be available during parts of the traditional workday.
It's all about flexibility and balance
As a work-from-home worker, you generally have a better work/life balance than someone who has to commute to an office. You may also have the opportunity to do things they can't easily do. That might mean ducking out for a school event or even swapping a working Tuesday for time put in over the weekend.
To make it work you need to be flexible and find the proper balance. For example, you may take a day off but still answer email or respond to messages. You might also attend a meeting or mix other work tasks into time spent not working because it's convenient for other people.
Be considerate and open-minded, but also make sure to protect your own interests. Working from home does not mean you're always working, any more than it means you're always off.
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