Amid this coronavirus lockdown lots of folks who’ve never worked from home before are finding it a challenge to adjust, especially if there are spouses or partners, or children around. I’ve been working from home for the last 25 years so this is just my usual day-to-day way of operating so it’s nothing new for me..

A working mindset

Years ago, a former accountant of mine, who worked from home, made it a point to dress for his home office just as if he were going to a regular office. He said dressing up in a suit every day not only helped him get into a working mindset, but he wanted to “look the part” to his clients who came to his home office. He had regular office hours and stuck to them.

Now, you might not have to dress in a suit to go to work, but you should get up and dress appropriately for whatever your work is. And if you do nothing else, establish regular working hours and stick to them. You’ll feel ready to work, everyone in your household will know you are “at work” and you’ll find yourself being more productive overall.

And, there’s no denying that working from home offers many advantages. In many ways it’s the ultimate freedom; you get to set your own hours, working when, where and how you want. However, there are also a number of potential pitfalls you need to be aware of, and watch out for, or you’ll risk turning your home-based job or business into an unproductive nightmare.

Here’s just some of those pitfalls…

Failing to keep business and private life separate
This is one of the most common issues for people who work from home, especially those who are self-employed. When the home office is “right there”, it can be hard to stay away even if you should really be off work for the day. Before you know it, you’ll have spent another few hours of your precious evening or weekend on work. This is the fast track to burning out, and something you must learn to avoid if you want to be successful working from home.

Not planning your work
Before coronavirus, this mostly applied to people who are self-employed and may not have a boss telling them what to do every day. But even if you have a boss dictating what to do, you’ve still got to plan how you’re going to get it all done. When you’re working on projects, planning is an absolute must. If the first thing you ask yourself when you start your day is “Okay, what am I going to do today?”, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s much better to plan out the next day before you finish work in the evening, so you’re ready to get started first thing in the morning.

I call this planning tomorrow, today. Even if your schedule goes mostly off the rails, you still have a plan that will get you started.

Working at irregular times
When you’re free to set your own hours, it doesn’t mean that you should only work “whenever you feel like it”. Chances are after a few weeks or months that you’ll rarely feel like it at all, especially when there are so many fun distractions around the house. That’s why it’s better to try to stick to working the same hours every day, even if it might resemble a “real job” a bit too much for your liking. You can always take breaks during the day if you need to recharge, but try to at least go into your office around the same time if you want productivity levels to stay high. Like I said earlier, set up regular office hours and stick to them.

I’m friends with a woman who is a rather famous author and who writes a lot about the freedom of setting your own hours. She chided me for keeping regular “corporate” hours. But I found that working those hours worked best for me and for my clients. I work with people all over the world and in various time zones. I’ve only had to make a few adjustments over the years but for the most part, I’m able to stick to my “corporate” working hours. Choose hours that work best for you, keeping in mind the hours that your clients are available.

Not getting out of the house regularly
When you work from home there is usually very little motivation to go outside. You’ve got everything you need at home anyway, right? That’s true, but after a whole week you’ll most likely be feeling isolated and lonely, and that’s perfectly normal. That’s why it’s so important to make time for little things like grabbing lunch with a friend — something as simple as that can really boost your energy and make your working week easier and less lonely.

Now, with coronavirus and most of us being in lockdown, you likely can’t go out and have lunch with a friend, but you can go for a walk or you can walk the dog. If you aren’t a regular walker, now is a great time to start, if for no other reason than getting yourself out of the house. When I walk, I listen to some of my favorite podcasts. I likely walk longer because I want to hear the whole thing. If music is your thing, put in those earbuds and walk away!

For a lot of folks, working from home is not an enjoyable experience, especially when you’re being forced to. Be grateful you still have a job and an income and try using some of these tips to help make the most of your situation. You may find, after time, that you absolutely love working from home. I’ve been doing it for a long time now and I sure love it.