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Work from home? Watch out for these 3 traps

There was a time when it was rare for someone to work from home full-time. That is rapidly changing. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.8 million people work from home full-time. The same report found that 20 to 30 million people work from home at least one day a week.

This is good news: Workers are often more efficient when they’re writing reports, making phone calls and designing new products from home. They don’t waste time on long commutes, unnecessary meetings and office chitchat.

This doesn’t mean, though, that working from home is all positive. There are plenty of potential negatives that come with working out of a home office, too. And if you’re not aware of them, you might fall into bad habits that decrease your productivity.

Here, then, is a look at three of the most common pitfalls that face stay-at-home workers.

Not in sight? Forget that promotion.

It’s human nature. Your boss will naturally think of those workers who are in the office each day when it’s time to hand out promotions. If you work from home, you might find it difficult to move up the ladder at your company, no matter what quality of work you turn in.

A solution? Make sure to stay in regular contact with your superiors and co-workers, whether that’s by scheduling chats on Skype, phone calls or e-mail. And make sure to pop into your office at least two or three times a month. That face time could help when it’s promotion time.

The unending work day.

Workers sometimes stay late in the office. But when they finally do come home, they typically end their work days. That doesn’t always happen with those who work from home. When your home is also your office, it can be difficult to turn off the workday.

You’re always tempted to answer a few e-mail messages after dinner or type up a short report before bedtime. These long workdays can lead to exhaustion even if you’re not commuting into the office each morning. To fight this, force yourself to set a definite quitting time for your workday.

Loneliness.

When people get the opportunity to work from home, they only think of the positives: No commute, no boring meetings, the ability to work on their own schedule. They forget, though, that working from home can be a lonely endeavor. Even if you hate office gossip, you might miss at least some of it when 2 p.m. rolls around and you realize that you haven’t spoken to another person in more than three hours.

There is a remedy for this loneliness: Mix it up. Sometimes it makes sense to work from a public library or coffee shop, somewhere where people are surrounding you. Don’t forget to schedule phone calls and meetings. Not only will these keep you in the loop at your office, they’ll also keep some of that work from home silence at bay.

Photo Credit: Ben McLeod

Dan Rafter Dan Rafter has been writing about personal finance for more than 15 years. He is an expert in mortgages, refinances and credit issues. Dan's written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Phoenix Magazine, Consumers Digest, Business 2.0 Magazine, BusinessWeek online and dozens of trade magazines.
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