(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Lots of people work from home. According to the most recent American Time Use Survey, 21% of people do some or all of their work at home on the days they work. Of course, not all that time is used well. According to a recent study by Wakefield Research and Citrix, 43% of workers say they've watched TV or a movie while working remotely.
TV seems like an obvious no-no, but here are some other things people do when working from home that I think are big mistakes.
1. Work 100 hours a week. Yes, it's theoretically possible if you don't have to haul yourself anywhere to work all the time. Indeed, the only time log I've ever seen featuring a 100-hour workweek involved a self-employed person who worked from home (and yes, I've seen time logs from employees at major banks, consulting companies, law firms, etc.). Just because you can sit at your computer all day doesn't mean you should. Get out. Make friends. You'll be more productive and you'll be a better person if you actually have a life.
2. Laundry. Sure, you could throw in a load during a break, and fold it while you're on a conference call, but there are two problems here. One, if you have to pay so little attention during the conference call that you can do something else, why are you on that call? And two, you don't want to establish the assumption, in your family, that you should do the chores because you're at home. You're working. Unless other family members report to the office with a pile of shirts and an ironing board to get in a little ironing during meetings, you shouldn't do it either. If you want to do something to take a break, take a real break. Go outside. Go for a walk.
3. Skimp on childcare. Working from home is great if you have a childcare emergency. Many parents also find that they can build kid-time into a work-from-home schedule (I tend not to schedule calls at noon because that's when I eat lunch with my children). But that's a far cry from trying to work without childcare, or with minimal help. Sending emails furtively while you're "playing" with your kids on the playground isn't fair to the kids. Paying for high-quality childcare is an investment in your career, and being truly present when you're with your kids shows that you think they're important.
4. Dive straight from work to life. Commutes are awful, but they serve a purpose. They give you a break between the demands of your career and the demands of your family. They help you transition from one mindset to another. If you work from home, give yourself 10 minutes to decompress at the end of the day before emerging from your office.
What will you do -- and won't you do -- when you work from home?