10 Biggest Mistakes Remote Workers Make

Working outside the office comes with its own set of guidelines. While they often are self-imposed, following them may help your remote job (and your life) run more smoothly.
Updated April 3, 2023
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The COVID-19 pandemic brought change to traditional office jobs with more workers working from home, either full-time or part-time. This offered some a more flexible schedule and no commute — two perks that many didn’t want to give up. A lot was learned about remote work in the past two years, and those learnings came from some common mistakes.

Yes, a remote job has plenty of positive attributes, but it could also have downsides. If you’re a remote worker or thinking about going remote, here are the biggest mistakes to watch out for (and try not to make).

Bad workspace set up

stokkete/Adobe businesswoman working on the sofa late at night

The couch with a lap desk or the kitchen table might not be the best place to work every day. A bad set-up may become a factor in not completing your work properly, acquiring back pains, or increased disorganization.

Investing in a good desk and chair, and having a dedicated area to organize could help get you through each day with more ease. If your home is limited on space and you’re using your dining table to work, try to create a place where your laptop and notebooks “rest” when your work hours are complete. This could help you truly unplug from your job after you've put in your hours.

Creating too many distractions

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You may think it’s great to work from home so you can do your laundry or wash your dishes during the workday. But while the temptation to fold towels while listening in on meetings might be great, staying focused is advisable. It not only could make you a better employee, but could also help you get your tasks done quickly so you can sign off sooner in the evening.

Working in pajamas

TheVisualsYouNeed/Adobe frustrated and tired Asian Japanese university student

It might be nice to not have to work in business clothes while at home, but pajamas may be a little too casual for remote work. There’s something about getting dressed for the day that may help you perform better at your job.

You don’t have to wear a suit at your desk at home, but changing out of the clothes you slept in is often a good idea. With the uptick in remote work, loungewear became a big thing. It’s a great merging of the coziness of pajamas and the crispness of basics — a good choice if you crave comfort but may need to have a video call with clients during the day.

Pro tip: Remote work can help you save money on things like commuting and daily lunches out. You may want to consider using some of that saved cash to purchase some comfortable but professional clothes for your work days.

Forgetting co-worker connections

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One of the drawbacks of working remotely is not being able to see those you work with in person on a regular basis. In fact, according to a recent FinanceBuzz survey, almost half of the respondents said it was harder to build relationships with co-workers when working remotely. Those relationships are sometimes vital for quality of work, understanding each other, and working together well.

You could put some time into cultivating those relationships outside of work hours. Perhaps you could invite local team members over for a barbecue or party. Plan a happy hour — either in person or remotely — to have time to socialize outside of work time. If you are geographically far from your teammates, you could send each person a food sampler and try these things together during a video call get-together.

No boundaries on work hours

eggeeggjiew/Adobe Man looking stressed

When working in an office, looking at a clock seems to be routine. And if most workers complete their day at the same time, people leaving is the ultimate signal that the day is done. That doesn’t always exist when you’re working remotely, and you may find yourself working outside your typical work hours.

Having clear boundaries on your work hours, and then sticking to those boundaries, isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. Think about turning off your work phone after a certain time or setting an away message on your email to reinforce to co-workers, clients, and yourself that you have a clear break between professional and personal hours.

Multitasking too much

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Working from home might mean you can multitask better compared to if you were in an office. Perhaps you’re able to answer emails while on a conference call or juggle several projects at once without distractions — something that may have proved more challenging in a traditional office.

There is such a thing as too much multitasking, however, and that’s counterproductive. Trying to find the right balance may help you focus on the pressing tasks and get the most out of your workday.

No routine

Andrey Popov/Adobe calendar schedule agenda

Scrambling around from assignment to assignment without a routine doesn’t work well at any job, but the issue could be harder to manage when working remotely. If you want to stand out as a remote employee, creating a daily routine may be a good option for you.

Your co-workers or supervisors could rely on you more knowing that you’re at your desk at a particular hour or signed on and ready to work. It also can help you budget your time throughout the day to complete tasks within a deadline. And a good routine might improve your mental health and help you sleep better, so you’re more alert at work.

Unreliable WiFi

Chaay_tee/Adobe top view of young asian woman employee working from home

Communicating with colleagues while working remotely can be challenging sometimes, but those issues could be made worse by a bad WiFi connection. You may not want to be known on your team as the person who can’t be understood because of a spotty internet or your phone calls dropping. Instead, think about upgrading your smartphone service or internet speed to stay on top of work.

Pro tip: If you’re working on how to save money, check with your employer to see if they have an employee discount for phone or internet service that you could share with your provider. The costs of these services may also be factored in when you do your taxes.

Forgetting conference call manners

Jacob Lund/Adobe woman having a video call with family

There is often a different energy when you’re on a remote call from the office versus when you are home. But basic conference call manners can go a long way toward having a professional reputation with your virtual co-workers.

Remember to mute your microphone to cut down on background noise and have a presentable appearance if you’re going to be on a video call, including being mindful of potential background distractions.

Not adapting to technology

Asier/Adobe young man working in a call center confused

One of the ways that working from home can be successful for a company is if their team is on the same page — and the same platforms. Creating avenues for communication could be a sign you’re at one of the best jobs, where priority is placed on proper connections.

That means using programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams to stay in touch while doing projects or weighing in on the daily workload. It also might include task manager programs or project management tools that allow all team members to follow the flow of assignments from inception to deadline.

Not understanding these programs, or willingly shunning them, could not only affect your ability to complete your work, but may also have a negative impact on co-workers who are trying to follow along to get things done.

Bottom line

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Work-from-home jobs may be a good way to make money or benefit from things such as no commute and working in your own space. But it can also be difficult to adjust to what is expected of you outside an office environment.

Take a look at your office set up, daily routine, and how you approach your job to see if there are ways you can avoid potential mistakes common when working remotely. Consult with your co-workers for their tips on how they manage their days. Sharing insights with each other may help you stay connected and create better remote work habits.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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