Working from home has many great benefits: fewer distractions, less external stress and greater flexibility are just a few. (And yes, I’ve enjoyed these benefits working from home for the past 11 years.)
But you rarely hear people talk about are the potential risks of working from home. If you’re not careful, these dangers can be damaging to both your career and your health. I know, because I had to learn each of these lessons the hard way.
Here are four warning signs that working from home may be hurting you, and tips on what to do instead.
1. Your co-workers forget your name.
Even as more and more companies develop their work-from-home policies, few extend this benefit to every employee. Since you likely have in-office peers, know that their relationship with each other and with your manager has a different dynamic compared to yours.
Sure, the social interactions you're missing are part of what's helping you be more productive. But being invisible in the office has its repercussions. Many who work from home rarely go into the office unless required to.
Find creative ways to stay visible. If your employer allows it, make plans to work in the office a few days per month, and schedule these visits in advance so you can ask your co-workers to join you for lunch and dinner during your visit. If you are self-employed, find ways to connect with freelance employers and others in your field of expertise over lunch or coffee. In short, don't underestimate the importance of staying connected with others!
There’s much to gain from being able to see other individuals' faces and non-verbal cues on a regular basis. And there is much to lose if you ignore this, such as lowering your chances for career advancement opportunities.
2. You spill lunch on your keyboard.
When you’re working from home, It’s easy to get in the habit of spending long hours sitting in front of your computer and forgetting to set boundaries between work-time and me-time.
For me, those long hours also including bringing my lunch and snacks into my office while catching up on emails or other tasks. I’d get caught up in my work and would pay little attention to what or how I ate. This habit contributed to frequent indigestion and weight gain.
When it’s time to eat, whether you work at home or in an office, for that matter, it's time to eat. And that’s your excuse to get up from your chair and give your eyes and back a break. Eating in the moment will help you stay focused on eating healthier foods and chewing your food well.
3. Something is always hurting your body.
Most companies provide ergonomic furniture in the office, but few have policies that extend to remote workers. Ergonomic chairs, stand up desks and related items are costly but worth it. If you’re like I did, you greatly increase your chances of developing chronic back and neck pains.
Make sure your using a good chair and that your keyboard and monitor are at the proper height. As important is practicing good posture habits and standing up at least once per hour. I recommend using an alarm or wearable tech like the Fitbit that alerts you automatically when it’s time to stand.
4. Your motto is, "It's five o'clock somewhere" ... but it's only 12:30pm.
Before I became self-employed, I worked with colleagues and clients from all over the world. I often worked late at night, and to deal with my stress and pressure to perform, I’d have a drink or two. The more unhappy and stressed I was at work, the more I started to drink.
Before long, it didn’t matter what time of day it was. I started keeping a bottle in my desk drawer and soon became a high-functioning alcoholic. As much as I tried to deny it, this had a big impact on the quality of my work and my life. I was fortunate to have someone close to me that intervened.
Don't keep alcohol in your desk and if necessary, keep it out of your house entirely. Exercise and meditation are two great alternatives to dealing with stress that have been effective for me. are alternatives to dealing with stress that don’t involve consuming alcohol. Drinking green tea and other healthy beverages has helped me replace bad choices with ones that actually make me feel hydrated and energized.
After so many years of enjoying working from home, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I wish I’d known what I know now, as my ignorance impacted my life in many different ways.
Do you see any of these warning signs in your life? If so, start by making the right choices before it has a lasting impact on your career and your health.