5 Ways to Survive Work-at-Home Hell

Most workers work from home occasionally at some point in their career, and some of us do it on a full-time basis. After all, if you’ve telecommuted at all, you know how your home-based environment can dramatically improve your productivity. Distractions are limited, and you’re able to focus on the project at hand. So, why do some companies forbid, discourage, or in other ways inhibit their workers from telecommuting? In short, it’s because there’s also a downside to working from home.

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(Photo Credit: Phil and Pam/Flickr)

Some employers worry that telecommuting means unreliable employees, or at least, less collaboration within teams. That was the inspiration behind Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting for all Yahoo workers. At the time, Yahoo argued that it was a move to improve their competitive edge in the marketplace, but what many people (particularly women) heard was that she was throwing flexibility for workers out the window. While the naysayers were very vocal, a few did see the benefits
of having all employees present and accounted for. 

There are definite advantages to having employees in the same room once in a while, at least. Beyond ensuring a team-approach to projects, everyone has had those conversations in the elevator or hallway that seemed to answer that critical question for a project. But, whatever side of the fence you ended up on, the Yahoo/Marissa Mayer controversy vocalized and complicated a reality that telecommuters have always encountered when they work-at-home. Even though telework has increased nearly 80 percent since 2005, workers find that they often have to prove themselves much more to receive recognition.

It’s something of a work-from-home hell, what Samantha Cole calls “the flexibility gap.” In her article for Fast Company, Cole talks about her personal experience with that hell: working incessantly from morning until late evening, and constantly checking emails, while simultaneously feeling the constant guilt that it’s never enough.

Here are a few ways to live with your work-at-home hell:

1. Be transparent.

You may be out-of-office, but you’re still an employee. You need to find a way to demonstrate what you’ve accomplished. In the busy, madcap schedule at work, it may not be easy to track what you’re doing (and make sure your boss knows what’s going on), but you may find that your transparency will help to transform your work-at-home hell into something more manageable and livable.

2. Schedule it.

Don’t leave your employer and co-workers guessing what you’re doing, or where you are. Of course, one of the reasons you may have chosen to work from home is because of the flexibility, but you still work with others, which means you need to rely on one another for project management, knowledge sharing, collaborative tasks, and customer-service management.

3. Maintain balance.

Even though you may feel stressed, like you need to prove yourself, you also need to keep your work in perspective. Working at home is attractive because of the flexibility, but if you burn out, or allow yourself to become frustrated and angry about how your work has taken over your life, you’re potentially affecting your work-life balance and productivity. Be sure to maintain a sense of balance.

4. Use technology.

This one probably seems like a given. We’re able to work at home and be more productive largely because of technology. But, you still may not be using the tools that are at your disposal. Some remote workers take advantage of Skype to regularly check in, face-to-face, while others use tracking and other project-management tools to more easily collaborate with co-workers.

Technology allows employees to work smarter, not harder. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is increased productivity; use technology to gather data proving that you’re doing more than you would at the office, and get the recognition you deserve.

5. Move back.

Telecommuting is not for everyone, or every company. It’s possible that your company will change the degree to which you can work at home, or you may decide it’s just not for you. You’ve probably heard friends and colleagues say that they could never get anything done when they worked at home, because the dishes, laundry, and kids can be distractions. If you find that you can’t be productive at home, don’t wait until your boss says something. Move back to the office, or find a way to split your time between your home office and the work location. It doesn’t have to be all one way or the other, but you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish at home, and whether it even works for you at all.

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