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Working from home: the hidden dangers and what to do about them

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay | 19 September 2019

Working from home can seem like the perfect gig; getting to answer emails in pyjamas, avoiding the long morning commute, and best of all – having the day’s schedule all to yourself. 

It’s no surprise that one in 12 Australians now currently work from home, with the Federal Government continuing to push the setup among workers; aiming to have at least 12% of public service working remotely by 2020.
On top of the economic potential to save billions of dollars a year, telecommuting has been shown to boost productivity, decrease turnover rates and offer greater employment satisfaction. The positives are plenty, and a win-win for both individuals and businesses. Unfortunately, many also are subjected to from lesser-known challenges that come with the territory.

SkillsTalk dive into five hidden risks of working from home, and methods of avoiding them.

What are the dangers of working from home?

  1. Loneliness.
  2. Poor productivity.
  3. Your work and personal life pour into each other.

1. Loneliness. 

man in his 30s working from home

Recent studies reveal that 37% of the working population suffers from acute loneliness, driven by technological developments that allow for flexible and remote work. 

Sure, while “being your own boss” eliminates the need for early mornings, formal office clothing, and rush hour traffic; it does mean being away from the camaraderie, support, and workplace friendships that come. Remote workers therefore end up disconnected from their colleagues, and in more extreme cases, people in general. 

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, self-employed author Jane Green shares that once the novelty of “freedom” wore off, she found herself yearning for the collaboration, conversations, and sense of belonging that came with having workplace colleagues. This eventually led her to set up a co-working office space with other writers, regaining that sense of companionship. 

But if that isn’t an option, what’s a lonely home-based worker to do?

How to combat loneliness

According to a 2018 Buffer study, 21% of remote workers cite social isolation as the greatest challenge of their job. Fortunately, with the flexibility this setup offers, many lonely workers thus opt to switch up their working environments and take their business to varying new locations. This not only breeds new inspiration, but also gets you out of the house and in the presence of others.  

Harvard Business Review also recommends taking advantage of online communities. No matter the industry, chances are there’s an Internet forum or Facebook group dedicated to connecting like-minded professionals like yourself. Due to varying geographical locations, honest discussions can take place without unnecessary feelings of competition. 

And finally – video technology. With applications such as Skype or Whatsapp, business meetings can take place from the comfort of your living room, while being able to see the person on the other end of the call. 

2. Poor productivity.

With Netflix, junk food, and your video game console just within reach, home-based work can pose major challenges in achieving productivity. Apart from leisurely pleasures, many may also feel tempted to tend to “quick” chores like laundry or dishes – knocking out a few valuable hours of their day.

It’s easy to keep work on the backburner without a boss looking over your shoulder, or co-workers keeping you accountable. As such, tasks that would normally take a brief time to complete in an office can potentially take much longer when worked on at home. 

However, even taking a laptop to your local coffee shop can generate distraction – from loud background music and chatty customers to an unstable wi-fi connection. 

How to combat poor productivity.

One of the easiest ways to optimise your productivity is to set up a clean, effective workspace for yourself. This involves identifying your worst distractions, ensuring your new set-up is free from any such triggers. Maintaining a decluttered environment keeps you focused on your work, rather than household chores. 

Of course, having a set schedule can help you keep you on track of tasks. In an article by ABC Life, Perth-based freelance writer and photographer Nirrimi Firebrace recommends keeping a journal for all your weekly and daily plans, and using “time blocking” methods such as the Pomodoro technique

Social media addicts should also consider browser extensions that temporarily block access to such websites. Popular apps offering such service include StayFocusd, Cold Turkey, and FocusMe - restricting your activity on “distracting” sites to save you a few hours of productive work per day. 

3. Your work and personal life pour into each other.

young mum working from home while taking care of toddler daughter

Taking your business home can quickly blur the line between home and work life. In fact, a recent McCrindle survey shows that 15% of remote workers consider this a significant struggle, stating how the set-up negatively impacts their personal life, and vice versa. 

As a home-based worker, it’s common for others to mistake your flexibility as having more freedom than it does. Family members may ask you to run the odd errand or two. You may get weekday requests to pick friends up from the airport, or other mundane favours that wouldn’t be asked of a 9-5 office worker. Children off from school may largely demand your attention, simply because you’re home.

On the flipside, many wrestle with taking adequate breaks and establishing clear working hours. It can be hard to stop working, since it’s constantly accessible. Some even consider overworking as a means of career progression

It’s a common but damaging practice – studies show that plenty of home workers have trouble sleeping and are under constant stress from this mentality. Being in perpetual “work mode” can lead to eventual burnout and overall disengagement.

How to achieve proper work-life balance

When working from home, caring for your mental health should be a top priority. Learn how to switch your business off at a reasonable time in the day – this not only keeps you from straining yourself (both physically and emotionally), but also helps establish boundaries for your availability. 

Have set working hours, and communicate them to clients, employers, and co-workers. This prevents the expectation of you being constantly open for business.

At the same time, be clear on your work boundaries among family and friends. Ask them to respect your business hours and to not expect favours, errands, or casual hangouts from you within that timeframe.  Treat your home-based profession as you would a full-time job, and they’ll likely do the same.

Despite the pitfalls of home-based work, the model continues to allure both Australian and global workers; and who can blame them? The arrangement has offered a far more satisfying lifestyle for many, from alleviating “commuter stress” to the flexibility of juggling other commitments. With the right methods of self-care and time management, you too can reap the benefits of working from home – while steering clear of the hidden risks. 

Looking to build your skills? 

With the extra flexibility of a remote job, why not pursue an online course? Upskilled provides over 80 Nationally Recognised Qualifications in high-growth industries such as information technology, marketing and community services. With courses being delivered online, you can upgrade your skillset anytime, anywhere; offering a comfortable fit with the rest of your home-based work schedule. Advance in the field of your choice, and enquire on a course today. 
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