The Dos and Don’ts of Virtual Employment

The Dos and Don’ts of Virtual Employment


Virtual employment, or in my case—working from home—is awesome. It’s a privilege that not everyone has the opportunity to take, so those that can work virtually are really lucky. Back when I was freelancing, I worked from home for about a year. I was motivated and determined to be successful, but I have to admit there were some things I wish I had been told beforehand instead of having to figure them out myself. These are the things that I finally learned by the end of my year of working from home… just in time to go back to an office! Hopefully those of you who are seeking virtual employment or struggling with any of the following can relate and save yourselves!

Do get dressed every morning. This sounds so simple, but it’s so effective. When I stayed in my pajamas (and trust me, there were many mornings I did), I was more likely to cut the day early because I didn’t have that professional feeling of, “I have a job to do, and I look the part to do it.” Getting dressed every morning put me in the right mindset and prepared me for a successful day of work at home. I’m not talking dress pants or a suit, but jeans or some cute leggings with a nice top were still an improvement from pink flannel PJ pants and oversized t-shirts. Getting dressed in the morning also makes you feel good when the UPS guy comes to deliver a package, or your neighbor drops by unexpectedly to borrow a Band-Aid. Answering the door looking like you’re working, not lounging, lets people know you might be in the middle of something and it isn’t just a “day off” for you.

Don’t get a second untrained, house-peeing puppy.   Especially not three months after you get your first untrained, house-peeing puppy, thinking you’ll be “working from home” and you’ll have “time to train them.” Now that we’ve re-homed one puppy and our second is housetrained, life (and days I work from home) is great. But for awhile, I was constantly getting up from my desk to clean up accidents, take them outside, give them toys to keep them quiet, etc. I wasn’t able to focus fully on the task at hand, and therefore it took me much longer to respond to an email than it would have if I only had one little fur baby.

Do make time to exercise. It’s not only healthy, but it’s a great way to get your heart pumping and energy kicking to get you through your workday. I liked to work out mid-morning because stepping away from my computer screen gave me some perspective on my projects.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t clean the house. Yes, if you can throw a load of laundry in while you’re on your lunch break or waiting for a document to load, okay. But often times that first load of laundry turns into a second load of laundry, which turns into cleaning the laundry room, which turns into reorganizing the laundry room, and well… you get the picture. Work for your job or business stops getting done and instead, you’re working for free— for your house. I struggled with this the most when I was working from home. I felt guilty if my husband came home from work and the house looked exactly the same as when he left because “I was home all day.” But going into an office everyday, as I do now, the house looks the same after work as it did in the morning when I left. That un-vacuumed carpet or cereal bowl in the sink is still just as I left it. Don’t think that because you are working from home, you are a housewife. Being a wife and working out of your house doesn’t negate the fact that you are a working professional with a job to do.

Do make and keep a schedule. So important! Setting your hours sets your level of sanity. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you never leave your office. Make sure to outline when you will be available versus when you are off the clock. Schedule in your exercise, lunch breaks, start time and end time.

Don’t invite your neighbors in. This may sound crass, but bear with me. I had this one neighbor who must have thought, “Oh, Dani is at home all day just like me, we can hang out!” Mind you, I had only been introduced to her in passing, so the day she knocked on my door and literally tried to push her way into my house to “get to know me,” I was quite taken aback. I had to explain to her that a.) Even though I was home, I was working; b.) I couldn’t “hang out” during working hours; and c.) I just don’t like unanticipated company. Once you open your doors to nosy neighbors, it’s much harder to close them. Even when you make friends with your neighbors, be sure they understand that you’re a working professional and that you have office hours just like everyone else.

Do enjoy it while you can. Whether you’re working from home temporarily or long-term, enjoy it. You have flexibility that not a lot of others have. Don’t be surprised if your friends or family seem jealous of your gig! It’s only natural. Before I started working virtually, I was so envious of the people who worked from the comfort of their home. In the year that I was freelancing, every day was a gift, and I never took it for granted. So have fun with it, enjoy every minute of it, and “whistle while you work,” just because you can!

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  • Great post…and all of it true! The getting dressed part does mentally put you in “work” mode. It’s easy to work 10 hours, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my Mac, and wonder where they time flew! lol Love the article, Dani!

  • Erin Wolf says:

    How can I find out about online employment that does not require me to become an independent contractor? I just really want to work from home, but I want to work for a company so that I don’t have to deal with all that tax stuff that goes with being an independent contractor.

  • Samantha says:

    I am looking for a work at home job, any suggestions? I have 8 years of dental assisting experience so I was hoping for something in dental insurance, but have been unsuccessful at finding anything.

  • Thanks for posting. I plan on sharing this with our virtual work-at-home contractors and our internal staff. One of the biggest issues for me is house cleaning and exercise, so I appreciate the great suggestions!

  • You nailed these tips on the head. I would not only have to get dressed in the morning working from home i would actually put suit and tie on just so I could “feel” like a professional again. And the hard part I think about working from home is the exercise. One would think that having the time off to work at home one would exercise more, but most of us working from home will testify that we really have to get out and go like to a gym where other people are doing the same things. There are only so many things you can do alone before it turns against you — we really do need other people in our lives to motivate us and keep us feeling energized and charged. Thanks for a most great post, they are great reminders and came right when I needed to hear them. Regards, RTerry USMC