When I tell people that I work from home, most people tell me I’m lucky and that it must be nice to be able to work from the comfort of my own home. I’ve written about the pros and cons of working from home in previous posts, and for me, remote working is definitely the best option for juggling work and family life. But one of the things I had to deal with in the early days of remote working was the work-from home guilt.
What is work from home guilt?
Remote workers often feel the need to prove to office-based colleagues that they are actually working when they’re at home and not just sat in their pyjamas or watching daytime TV. I’m first to admit that, in my case, a lot of the guilt I had was based on what I thought people were thinking. I felt I had to be constantly online, feeling guilty if I took time out for a coffee break or going for a run in my lunch break. I felt a real need to show that working from home didn’t mean I was slacking.
In fact, the reality of working from home turned into the complete opposite. The work from home guilt lead me to working longer hours and taking fewer breaks – a certain way to reach burnout. And I’m not alone. Many remote workers I speak to feel the need to prove themselves in the same way.
How to deal with work from home guilt
Change your mindset – One of the main ways to deal with this feeling of guilt is to change the way you think about working from home. I realise now that a lot of the guilt was just in my head and based on what I thought people were thinking. If you are getting your work done, productively and efficiently, there is absolutely no need for you to feel guilty or to feel the need to prove yourself. Remind yourself of this every time the guilt starts to creep in.
Switch off – Set yourself boundaries for your daily work schedule. These boundaries will be determined by your own schedule and responsibilities, and there will be times when this needs to be flexible, so if you have to work around the school run for example, then factor that into your schedule. When you work from home, the boundaries of work and home life can quite easily start to merge, especially if you feel the need to prove you’re hard at work. So set your schedule and switch off the laptop and email when you’re done – and don’t feel guilty about switching off!
Remember the benefits of working from home – Working from home isn’t for everyone, but for those of us that thrive from remote working, it offers flexibility in where and when you work, and has been shown to increase motivation, productivity and job satisfaction. By turning those negative feelings of guilt into the positive benefits of working from home you start to remodel the way you perceive the situation, leading to less guilt.
Don’t worry about what others may think – As I found, a lot of this guilt was in my own head. Colleagues really didn’t care that I was working from home. All that time I spent worrying about what people thought was redundant and of no benefit whatsoever. So focus on you and whether you feel remote working allows you to do the job you need to do.
Deal with negative comments – If you’re in a position where you are on the receiving end of negativity from colleagues, or even your boss, about the fact you work from home, then talk it out. If you’ve accepted a role where remote working has been agreed, the company will have considered the benefits and potential pitfalls to them before signing off remote working. Communication is key to uncovering the underlying issues leading to the negativity and to addressing those issues.
Remote working is becoming more common place, and companies are seeing the benefits to them and to employees in offering more flexible working set-ups. The key to making remote working work is to make sure it’s working for you and your employer. If you really are struggling with work from home guilt, particularly if it’s distracting you from the real the benefits of remote working, speak to your boss about it. If nothing else, it may just confirm that there really isn’t a problem and you can finally stop feeling guilty.