Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Combat Common Work at Home Problems

Many people dream about working from home on a part time or full time basis. You get to skip the commute, dress however you want, avoid unnecessary interruptions in your day, and set your own hours. What's not to love, right?

While I love working from home, I'll be the first to admit there are drawbacks.

1. Lack of structure can equal no productivity.
2. Errands, phone calls, chores and other interruptions can take over your day.
3. Lack of "watercooler" chit-chat can lead to loneliness.
4. Others don't see your at-home work as important as the business you conduct at a place of employment.
5. Most at-home jobs involve sitting for long periods behind a computer.
6. Work spreads beyond the normal work day, often creeping into weekends and nights.

I've always been independent. Setting deadlines and goals and actually achieving them comes naturally to me. However, I also work hard at keeping our home running smoothly and managing our household. This can lead to a conflict in priorities.

The things I struggle with the most on the above list are #2, #3 and #5, but I've fought with every item up there at one time or another.

How to fight the drawbacks:

1. To be successful working from home, you need to be productive. To be productive, you need to meet your work goals. To meet your work goals, you need to set them first. Using whatever tool works best for you (a day planner, phone calendar, scrap of paper...), write out your most important tasks for that day. Make them specific. Vague, grandiose goals will get you nowhere.

2.  Errands and chores make you FEEL as if you're tackling necessary tasks, but they're not contributing to your job. Striking things off your to do list gives a false sense of accomplishment. Your work suffers. Deep down you know you should be devoting that time to work, but errands and chores don't require the brainpower your job does.

If possible, set specific days and times for ongoing chores. Delegate any you can. I don't like crowds, so I grocery shop at a certain time on a weekday. I also don't like laundry. I plan one mega laundry day every week rather than doing a load or two each day. 

Guard your work time. Do not answer phone calls unless they are work related. You wouldn't gab on the phone with your best friend for thirty minutes at the office. Treat your home office the same. 

3. Working from home day after day can be extremely isolating. And the desire to be productive can get in the way of staying connected to other people. I get weird (talk 200 miles per minute, have pent up energy ready to blow) when I've been home by myself too many days in a row. I've found that meeting a friend for coffee once a week helps me maintain relationships and not get as spazzy. I also nurture friendships with other writers online, and check in on social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email help me feel connected.

4. People will think what they want to think. Rather than getting defensive, I let my work speak for itself. Passive aggressive statements tend to reflect the person saying the words. Maybe they're jealous they don't have the work at home option too. Or maybe they just are unhappy. It doesn't matter. Be proud of your work.

5. Sitting for hours on end? This is a big deal. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods is unhealthy. I try not to sit for more than two hours at a time. I have a lot of twitchy energy, so I hop up often to get a cup of hot tea, take the dog out or whatever. If I think of it, I might march in place for 30 seconds or do a few stretches. Depending on the weather, I'll take a ten minute walk at lunch. I'm still working on this one!

6. This is another tough one. You want to get your work done, but you also need to make dinner, go to a meeting Tuesday night, pick up dry cleaning, vacuum and buy three birthday presents. What happens? You try to do too much, and soon you're finishing up work tasks at seven o'clock at night and polishing off a quick project Sunday afternoon. It's VITAL to set limits. 

Have a planning session and determine your ideal work schedule. It doesn't have to be nine-to-five, but it should allow for clear divisions between your work and your life. Once the parameters are set, guard them. If work is creeping into your free time, step back and evaluate why. Are you frittering valuable hours when you're supposed to be working? Maybe you underestimated how much time a project would take. Or maybe you're trying to do everything--remember, you're juggling home life with work life. It's not easy! You don't have to do it all. 

With a little planning and a lot of discipline, I've made a work at home life that works for me. I hope you create the ideal life for you too!

How do you balance everything?

Have a fun weekend!!


  1. Great tips, Jill! One thing I started doing this summer - when bebe was home from school and RadioMan's workload was light - was using the 'chores' as those little breaks from writing. It's amazing how many little tasks (like folding a load of laundry, unloading the dishwasher or prepping dinner) you can get out of the way, without taking away from writing or promotion or other business-y stuff.

    1. Great tip! And this fights the sitting for hours on end issue. I like it!!

  2. I work at the office for my day job and at home for my "other" writing job. LOL! So I guess I have experienced the pros and cons of both. Working at home definitely takes an amount of self-discipline I don't always have. On those days, I have to force myself to go write at a coffee shop or at least pick up my laptop and move to a different room.

  3. Changing locations makes a big difference for me. When I move from the living room to my office, I'm so much more productive!! :)

  4. I can really identify with this! I get spazzy, too, when I haven't had social contact in too long. I'm the one who gets overly friendly in the grocery store. LOL! I've been approaching things in a very similar way lately--work time is work time, dishes can wait until my creative energy is dry, and getting out once a week to be social. It's working very nicely! Thanks for the post--you say it all very well. :)

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one acts weird when alone too much!! You have a good process. Isn't it great when you find something that works?? :)


I love to hear from you!