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How to Deal with the 3 Biggest Problems Plaguing People Who Work From Home

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Joanne Poh

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To an office worker, being allowed to work from home is a dream come true. But if you don’t actually have an office to go to and are forced to work from home every day come what may, this blessing can turn into a curse, as many freelancers will tell you.

When 100% of your work gets done at home, it’s easy to get sucked into the abyss of YouTube and Facebook, only to realise you’ve accomplished nothing with your day. Without structure, your 8 hour work day can stretch into the wee hours of the morning.

Here are three of the biggest problems people face while working from home, and how to tackle them:

1. All your time gets swallowed up by work: Always start and end work at a predetermined time

When you work from 9 to 6, unless you’re one of those folks who hang around the office till late at night “showing face”, the entire day is basically a race against the clock to finish your tasks so you can leave on time and have a life outside of work.

When you’re on a flexible schedule, it’s all too easy to lose sight of that kind of urgency in the absence of time pressure. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself taking frequent breaks or working inefficiently and distractedly, thereby prolonging the amount of time you spend at work.

You can recreate the time pressure of the 9-6 work day by enforcing a start and end time for your work. Go ahead and build some flexibility into your schedule if you need to—give yourself an hour to pop out for a run in-between tasks, or allow yourself to start whenever you wake up naturally. But when you do start work, know how much time you have to accomplish x number of tasks, and then work with that deadline in mind.

2. Back, neck and shoulder problems: Always work at a table

When you first start working from home, it’s tempting to take your laptop to bed with you and stay in pyjamas all day long, or to sprawl on the sofa as you deal with your daily tasks.

That might be fun for a few weeks or even months, but keep that up for much longer and you could find yourself falling prey to a host of back, neck and shoulder problems.

To compound the problem, unless you’re disciplined enough to stick to an exercise regime, you’re likely to be less mobile than someone who has to pluck his ass out of bed, get on the MRT and walk from the MRT station to the office every day. When you work from home, you can go directly from your bed to your computer, and stay there all day. You don’t even get the reprieve of leaving the house for lunch if you cook at home.

While there’s no hard and fast solution (you’ll eventually have to start forcing yourself to be more active), simply always making sure you work at an actual table makes a world of difference if you’re used to being slouched on the sofa or stretched out on the bed. At some point, you might want to consider getting a proper, adjustable office chair.

3. Being distracted and inefficient: Learn how to get into the zone

Working inefficiently is more destructive when you operate alone at home. With no colleagues around to pick up the slack, and no option to go home at 6pm, any distractions eat directly into your free time and personal life.

That’s why it’s in every freelancer’s best interests to learn how to get into the “zone” as quickly as possible—you know, that state of mind when you’re 100% focused on your work, time just flies by, and before you know it you’re done with your tasks and ready to have a life.

Some people find that listening to music with headphones on helps to block out distractions, while others need complete silence. Others find a system like the Pomodoro Technique helps to break their work up into bite-size chunks. Or you might find that beginning your day with a run or workout helps you to focus later on the in the day.

The sooner you figure out how to consistently get yourself into the “zone”, the more of your precious personal time you’ll be able to free up.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.