7 common mistakes we make when working from home

Man eating at table while working
Man eating at table while working (Image credit: Getty Images)

Since the pandemic, remote or hybrid working has become the norm for most of us, with many employers deciding to ditch the traditional, five-day office work schedule.

And while remote working seems like the dream flexible job — not having to join the rush-hour commute, no office distractions, and tons of money saved on overpriced lunches, it can also be challenging in its own right. In fact, once the novelty wears off, many remote workers often feel stretched, non-productive, or struggle to find a work-life balance. 

Be it not having a proper work set-up, structuring your day or simply developing unhealthy habits, many different things can impact on our mental health and work productivity. 

So if you feel like you’ve lost your "mojo" and need motivation, be sure to avoid these 7 common mistakes we make when working from home.

1. Not setting up a designated workspace 

Woman working on sofa

Woman working on sofa (Image credit: Getty Images)

While it might seem tempting to work from bed or snuggled up on your cozy sofa, not having a proper workspace is a common mistake remote workers make. Even if you don’t have a spare room to create a home office, you should create a boundary between home life and work. 

If you can, allocate a specific area such as a corner in your living room, or even unused space under the stairs that could be converted into an "office nook." In addition, invest in one of the best desks or best standing desks to suit your space and needs. Since you’ll spend most of the day sitting down, one of the best office chairs will help you get the right posture and work more efficiently. 

That said, you could work in a library, local coffee shop or even a designated co-working space if you don’t particularly feel productive some days. Our work environment plays a major role in how productive, healthy and successful we are. 

2. Not establishing a proper routine 

Man in home office

Man in home office (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When working from home it’s easy to take the more relaxed approach or get distracted by ad-hoc things, (the laundry pile-up, going to the gym, deliveries, and so on). However, these only waste valuable time in the day, preventing you from focusing solely on work tasks. 

It’s important to establish a work routine or schedule that will make you more productive during the day. Also, set specific times for everything, whether it’s exercising before your day starts, scheduling meetings in the morning, or allocating coffee breaks. This will maintain the structure and flow of your day better so that you’re better organized. Plus you’ll feel less stressed and not always like you have to scramble for time by the end of the day!

3. Eating food at your desk (while working)  

Man eating at table while working

Man eating at table while working (Image credit: Getty Images)

A perk of remote working might be that you're close to your fridge and have a constant supply of snacks, but always treat the day as if you were in the office. Eating at your desk can be a distraction and make you less productive and focused. Plus, who wants spilled food or crumbs messing up your workspace?

In addition, avoid taking lunch by your screen and make it a point to eat elsewhere so you can switch off from work. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you have to forsake your one-hour break where you can relax your mind.

4.  Not taking breaks outside of the house  

Woman walking in park

Woman walking in park (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, another common mistake remote workers make is not creating a healthy routine. This means getting out of the house for fresh air, going for a daily walk, jog or even a bicycle ride. Since you’re not commuting as much and sitting down for eight hours, it’s not uncommon to feel sluggish and more tired due to being inactive. 

Going for short walks and getting fresh air can make all the difference to your moods and physical health. And even on the days when you can’t go outdoors, be sure to stand up, walk around and stretch your legs.

In addition, it’s easy to binge on unhealthy foods, so ensure you have healthy snacks in the kitchen, with a water bottle at your desk to keep hydrated throughout the day. A balanced diet and regular hydration are great for keeping focus and motivation, without that mid-afternoon crash.

5. Thinking you can balance childcare and work  

Remote workers with a child

Remote workers with a child (Image credit: Getty Images)

As a parent, another perk of working from home is not worrying about childcare. However, if you have young or active children, it can be challenging to balance childcare, and still be productive with your work. 

If your partner also works from home, it is possible to organize a flexible schedule where you can both alternate childcare needs, and still have the quiet space and time to focus on work. 

Alternatively, you might have to consider strategic childcare a few times a week around your work schedule, during school breaks or just on super busy days. After all, you don’t want your Zoom meetings always interrupted by a noisy (or crying) child in the background!

What’s more, your child will benefit from seeing you less stressed and anxious about work tasks, so it’s a more relaxed environment. 

6. Messy workspace 

Messy desk

Messy desk (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s very easy to allow your desk or workspace to become cluttered with piles of stuff. Be it loose paperwork, notebooks, stationary or old receipts, ensure that you have a clear and clean workspace. Not only will this create a tidy area, but it will keep you more motivated and productive. After all, a cluttered house is a cluttered mind!

There are plenty of clever home office ideas to help declutter and leverage your workspace so that you can be more productive. And if you do have a small home office with limited storage, you can also wall mount floating wall shelves or cabinets to free up precious space.  

Plus, get rid of these 7 things that don’t belong in your home office to ensure a clutter-free workspace. 

7. Isolating yourself from colleagues 

Woman on Zoom call

Woman on Zoom call (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Just because you work remotely, doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself or not socialize with colleagues. Many companies are encouraging virtual "coffee breaks," which are a great way to just relax and unwind with colleagues, without talking about work. 

You could also participate in online team-building activities, or after-work events. Regular interaction with colleagues is healthy and important for building a sense of teamwork, community and camaraderie — even when you’re miles apart. 

More from Tom's Guide

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!