Well look at you! Humming “I’m Every Woman”, kicked back in your cozy pajamas— bringing home the bacon and scrolling through social media—all the while tossing back bon-bons and letting your toenails dry. Life’s a dream when you work from home, right? [Insert eye roll here.] Do your neighbors voluntell you to run carpool because you have more “free time”? Do the classrooms expect you to throw parties and attend PTO meetings because you have more “flexibility” working from home? I know. I’ve been there. Many times.
There’s a popular misconception about your value, your time, and your role in the business world. It’s tough, ladies. But there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The concept of working from home is a burgeoning experiment; and it’s gaining attention with the roar of a locomotive. In this almost-post-pandemic era, we have proof that work-from-home positions do have intrinsic value. We’ve learned to recognize non-value-added tasks. We’re now in control of pop-up meetings and momentum-crushing interruptions. Admittedly, we have developed a love-hate relationship with virtual conferences. Likewise, we acknowledge the imperative role of face-to-face collaboration. But take notice: working women across the globe are standing tall on the brink of a historical paradigm shift. Industry leaders are being forced to contemplate at-home opportunities—part-time, full-time, and hybrid adaptations. Corporations are assessing the value of maintaining brick and mortar properties, as we consider our own productivity levels and personal satisfaction in alternate settings.
Whether you’ve been working from home, were unwittingly forced into it, or plan to test it out, be aware of the common pitfalls that may stifle a smooth transition. Knowledge is key; and you will be best-prepared if you avoid a few significant, common mistakes.
No Dedicated Workspace
This seems like a no-brainer, but trust me on this. Your mobile lap desk and coffee mug warmer may seem like a luxury at first, but declaring a dedicated space is essential. Make it your own. Put flowers on your desk. Open a nearby window for fresh air. Try to find an area free of distractions, or at least make it clear to your loved ones that you are not to be interrupted while in your personal cocoon. Emergencies excluded, of course. It’s not about denying needed attention. It’s about creating a healthy boundary that will both protect and inspire your work.
Unrealistic Working Hours
Treat yourself like the valuable contributor you are. Don’t tack on a grueling work schedule before your family rises or after your loved ones go to bed. This is a guaranteed path to exhaustion and frustration.
Not Getting Dressed
True: jackets, stilettos, and even pants are no longer a requirement. But freshen up before you begin. Get dressed (if not to the nines). Splash cold water on your face. Dab on some lipstick if that’s your thing. Personal appearance can influence your mood. And remember, it works both ways. If you report to work groggy, yawning, and sporting terry cloth, you may have trouble seeing yourself as the game-changer you are. Try it both ways and decide for yourself.
Staying In or Skipping Lunch
While we all have the occasional lunch at our desk to save time, try not to make it a habit. Fresh air, change of scenery, and connection with a lunch date may just be the boost you need.
Taking Calls with Visitors in the Room
Many of us don’t have doors in our at-home work spaces. It’s a good idea to make a courteous request for quiet before you get on a call. There is an adjustment period in teaching your little ones (or significant other) that a business call is just between you and the other end of the line. This includes speaker calls and virtual meetings.
Finally, be aware of the tendency to isolate. Working from home eliminates the unwinding drive afterwards, and that can mean your work frustration walks right into the family room with you. It may seem natural to go from your office to the sofa after a long day. And that’s okay. But make time to keep your social schedule active. Join the kids on an evening walk. Schedule your hours to accommodate your child’s soccer game. Surround yourself with people who make you smile. Your loved ones will reap the benefit.
I hope you enjoy a rewarding at-home work experience. Be mindful that a new environment requires a new approach; and give yourself the grace of an adjustment period. You’re doing a great job, Mom! You really are every woman, and you’re pretty darn good at it.
Leandra Schwanda is an industrial engineer, communication specialist, stay-at-home, work-from-home mom who loves sharing laughs and life experiences with other women.