Millions of people around the globe are working from home right now in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Remote work under these kinds of circumstances comes with its own special challenges. Millions of kids are home too, for one thing. And, there are also difficult emotions like fear and uncertainty to contend with. These aren’t your typical remote-work conditions to be sure.
In these difficult times, remote work mistakes are bound to happen. So, it helps to be prepared. We can navigate these challenging waters by learning from the experiences of remote workers who’ve come before us.
7 Common remote work mistakes
1. Something slipped through the cracks
Are you juggling a lot these days? You’re not alone. Many workers are attempting to tend to professional tasks while also homeschooling their kids. With everyone at home all at once, it’s more than a little hectic.
It’s easy to let something slip through the cracks. You may miss an important appointment or deadline. Or, you could fail to attend to a task properly.
When you make remote work mistakes like this, own the error. But, don’t dwell on it. Bosses want you to take responsibility when you make a mistake. But, they also want you to move past it quickly and learn something for the future. So, if you let a task or appointment slip thought the cracks, start by apologizing to those impacted for your mistake. There’s no need to explain yourself too much or go on and on. Simply say that you’re sorry and that you won’t let it happen again.
Then, do some investigating internally about what went wrong. Did you forget to write down the instructions? Did you neglect to double check your calendar? Understanding what happened will help you to not make the same mistake again in the future. And that’s what matters most. Finally, let it go and move on. You’ll waste precious energy if you keep beating yourself up over it.
Remember that your coworkers are likely in the exact same situation as you are. Be kind to yourself, as well as to others. Remote work mistakes are common at the best of times — and these times are challenging, to say the least.
2. You don’t have the right set up
Working from home is a great way to learn about the importance of having a designated workspace. If you don’t set up a proper area just for work, you’ll likely start to experience some negative consequences fairly quickly.
First of all, sitting at a desk or table is actually pretty important. If you try to work on your bed or the couch, it probably won’t take long for your back, shoulders or neck to start to hurt. Similarly, you could get a headache if you try to work in an area that’s too dark. Keep in mind that there is a wrong and a right way to sit at a desk for an extended period of time. And, your body will thank you for proper posture.
Also, be sure to take the time to organize your desk and work at the end of the day. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation if you know where everything is. You don’t have to have a large designated work area to make this happen either. Use folders or files to help you keep track of everything.
3. Your relationships with other professionals are suffering
Working remotely can be isolating professionally. It’s often one of the things remote workers say they like least about the arrangement. And, this kind of separation can actually add up to some real professional consequences, too. A phenomenon called distance bias indicates that remote workers pay a price for being less connected. This is the tendency to place lesser value or importance on people that are further away. It’s easier for managers to forget about the people working remotely when considering folks for a raise or promotion, for example.
You might find yourself feeling pretty removed from others after a stint of working from home. But, know that it’s never too late to invest in forging stronger connections. Consider making an appointment to meet with your manager to catch up about important priorities and goals for the future. Or, do a little online networking. You could reach out to a few folks you’ve lost touch with by email, for example, and see how they’re getting through everything that’s going on in the world right now.
Remember that there are lots of good reasons to prioritize strong connections with other professionals in your industry. And, not all of them are strictly career-related. Building and maintaining strong ties with others can help you in your life in all kinds of ways.
4. You’re working all the time
There tends to be more blending of your personal life and your professional one when you work from home. A lot of good comes from this. For example, it can be a real time saver. Perhaps you can get started with work earlier in the morning, for example, without having to commute. However, there are some drawbacks associated with this kind of flexibility, too. Namely, it’s easy to get into some bad habits of working basically all the time. It’s easy enough to check your email and then pop over to your laptop to attend to something even very late at night, for example.
Remote workers do have more flexibility. But, it’s also really important that you set boundaries when working from home. Consider deciding on the hours you’re going to work at the beginning of the week. And stick to your plan. Try not to check work email after hours. And, it’s also perfectly fine to let a work call go to voicemail and get back to the person later during your designated times. Otherwise, allowing your job to infringe on your home life too much could lead to burnout.
5. You overcommitted
One of the most common work mistakes is trying to get too much done in too little time. It’s easy to misjudge how easy it will be to work remotely. For this reason, there’s often the tendency to overcommit yourself at first, assuming you’ll be able to get more done than is actually practical.
Hopefully, you can notice the problem before actually missing a deadline. If you notice that you’re overbooked, try reaching out to a boss or a manager to ask for a brief extension. Simply explain (and be succinct) that some extra time would help you to get everything done to the best of your ability. Then, try not to make the same mistake again in the future. Be realistic about the limitations of your schedule. And, take a pause before saying “yes” when confronted with a request. This knee-jerk reaction can get well-meaning workers into trouble, despite their good intentions.
6. You’re super distracted
It can be really difficult to focus when working remotely, especially with so much else going on at home and in the world right now. It’s frustrating to find yourself reading and rereading an email in order to understand it, for example. It takes a lot longer to complete tasks when you’re distracted.
There’s only so much you can do to limit distractions. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. Instead of trying to cut out distractions throughout the day, try carving at an hour or two during the day to really hone in. Constantly battling the kids the settle down will probably just lead to more frustrations. Instead designating smaller blocks of quiet time is probably more achievable.
Also, limit your own distractibility as much as you can. It’s tempting to shuffle laundry around or do some meal prep during the workday when you’re working remotely. However, all of those tasks take you away from your work. And, it will take some energy, and some time, to refocus when you sit back down to work. So, try to keep these kinds of interruptions to a minimum as much as possible, too.
7. You try to stick to the same routines
There can be some internal pressure to keep up with the same work routines you had when you were in the office when you start to work from home. But, that’s totally unnecessary and probably not in your best interest. Instead, it makes sense to adjust your daily routine to better serve your needs when working remotely. The process of settling into a new schedule will take some time though. So, be patient with the process. Be prepared to make adjustments every week or so as you learn more about what would work best.
Setting a schedule that works for you and your job and your family is essential when navigating this challenging time. But, it’s really key for anyone who works from home. Establish and modify your routine so that it works for you. You may want to factor in more time for communication with your manager than you would have before, for example. Or, you might start earlier in the day but take a longer lunch. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. There’s no reason to hold yourself to the same routines you had before working remotely. Instead, embrace the opportunity to do things differently.
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