Working from home is often linked to increased productivity. But while distractions in the home office are different from the distractions in a traditional office, they still exist. Work-from-home distractions require a concentrated effort to ensure you stay on track. Here are 7 remote workers face and ways to combat them.
When I work from my home, even if I corner myself in my spic-n-span office space, I find something that’s out of place or needs washing as soon as I step out to make coffee, use the bathroom, cook lunch, or some other activity.
How to combat it: It’s not a fun answer, but keeping anywhere I’ll travel during my work day clean — office, bathroom, kitchen — eliminates the distraction. Having a clean workspace can also increase productivity and lower stress. It also ensures you know don’t waste time looking for papers or supplies when you need them.
It’s such a simple task that involves a lot of downtime. But even laundry can pose a lengthy distraction when you decide to do multiple loads or fold everything and put it away.
How to combat it: Time the cycles with parts of your day: Start a load of laundry before you begin your day, switch clothes over during lunchtime or a short break, and fold clothes once you’re done for the day.
anything that vibrates, beeps, or otherwise notifies
Notifications aren’t exclusively a problem for work-from-home employees. When I see the “Inbox (1)” — because it never gets to 2 before I check it — I compulsively stop what I’m doing to read the email, losing my train of thought and requiring extra effort to get back to the task at hand.
How to combat it:
- Disabling mobile notifications. My coworkers know to call me if there’s something pressing. Otherwise, I’ll check my phone when I’ve reached a good stopping point in my work, before lunch, or every couple of hours.
- Minimizing email. By having email in a separate window and not as one of the tabs I’m currently working in, I can minimize the email window, while still having easy access when I want to check it. Like phone notifications, I check email when I’m at a good stopping point. For one client whose email can’t forward to my Gmail account, I put up an out-of-office message letting colleagues know I check that email at 10AM and 3PM, along with a list of ways to get in touch with me faster.
- Removing the Facebook app from my phone. If I need to access Facebook for a work project, I can do so from my desktop. The mobile version invites mindless scrolling even more so than the desktop version.
- Keeping my phone close by, but out of arms reach. This combats mindless app surfing. If the phone rings, I’ll hear it and have enough time to answer.
When you have access to a kitchen, it’s tempting to multi-task. The problem is, it’s impossible to actually multi-task. Going back and forth between laptop and stove isn’t efficient. Stepping away from a task means it’ll take me extra time to get back into it.
How to combat it: Even if you don’t like meal prepping, ensuring you have leftovers, easy meals, or some other quick dishes you can prepare is crucial to staying on track. I love being able to eat healthy, freshly prepared food, but opt for omelettes, burgers, or stir-fry recipes that are easy and fast.
cats (or children, or a spouse …)
I’ve had innumerable meetings where my cat jumps on my lap or starts meowing loudly. It’s as if the sound of my voice talking to anyone besides her is unacceptable.
How to combat it: The best method I’ve found is locking the cat out of my office when I’m on a call. There are still scratches on the door, but it’s less distracting than colleagues sidetracking a meeting over a cute feline.
Unfortunately, I can’t stay locked in my office forever, nor can I lock the cats in a room without feeling inhumane. A cat jumping on and off my lap is one distraction I’ve learned to deal with.
As for my husband, constant communication is key. If I have a call around a time I think he may enter the house, I’ll notify him to ensure he doesn’t interrupt the meeting. I’ve also compiled a list of things my friends should know about remote work to help them understand that just because I’m home doesn’t mean I can ditch work.
Working from a four-season climate, I’m always tempted to skip out on work once temps break 70.
How to combat it: Luckily, I have a small balcony that I’ve turned into my “outdoor office.” If you don’t have an area where you can comfortably work outside and still reach your Internet, try downloading everything you need to work offline for an hour or two. Bonus: You eliminate Internet-based distractions.
It can get quiet in the house. It’s tempting to put Friends on in the background to make it seem like you have, well, friends. But multitasking is terrible for efficiency and productivity. Focusing on one task at a time helps you remain attentive, learn, and stay mindful.
How to combat it: Don’t turn it on. Opt for classical music if the silence bothers you.
When in doubt, I head to the library, cafe, or coworking space. While these venues bring their own distractions, they’re a nice break from the distractions of the home office.