We’ve all been there: you’re working from home and are stressed out by the very sight of laundry piling up or floors that could really use some cleaning. And that’s not to mention your kids, partner, or roommates that come and go throughout the day, chatting and bustling around, creating distractions. If focusing during the work day has become a significant challenge for you and going to the office every day just isn’t an option, you’ve come to the right place.
Before we dive into what to do to prevent distractions, let’s review exactly why distractions can have such drastic effects on our work.
Distractions and Their Effects
Did you know that the average worker is interrupted 50-60 times a day and 80% of those distractions are unimportant? No matter how you work and how much music, ambience, or social connection you enjoy while working, distractions can significantly impact your results in these ways:
Increasing forgetfulness: there’s nothing like that incredible moment when you have the best idea and are set to bring it to life. And then suddenly, your co-worker comes up and tells you about their fun weekend and bam, the idea is gone. Distractions can make you more forgetful and harder to concentrate on what you’re doing.
Favoring inattentiveness: it’s very hard to do two things at the same time, let alone three or four. And if you’re trying to listen to your favorite podcast while reading an email from a client, you’ll find it hard to focus your attention on the email.
Reducing productivity: it will be nearly impossible to complete your tasks and responsibilities if you’re constantly being distracted and losing focus at work. In fact, the brain requires more energy and power to switch between tasks than focusing on just one and you’ll accomplish less if you’re constantly multitasking.
As you can tell, minimizing distractions is key to getting your work done and ensuring you’re not wasting energy on remaining focused. But what are the main distractions we face while working remotely? Let’s discuss.
Common Distractions While Remote Working
Being home means that you (probably) don’t have a space dedicated to work, surrounded by others doing the same or similar work. This means that distractions are abundant, as this survey found:
33% of remote workers say their biggest distraction is their children
18% are distracted by their pets
18% view their roommates as distractions
16% have trouble focusing due to noisy neighbors
Remote working brings a certain amount of freedom to your daily life; there’s no boss looking over your shoulder or nosy coworkers giving you that look when you open your personal email. But with this advantage comes a challenge: remaining focused and tuning out distractions.
Your neighbors might not realize you work remotely and do a loud, 10 am Zumba class right in the middle of your morning meeting. Or after finding out that you’re home all day, they might stop by for a chat or to borrow something. As friendly and neighborly as you’d like to be, your priority during work hours is, well, work; try to have a polite yet firm conversation with them and anyone else who is interrupting your work day and explain that despite the fact that you’re at home, you’re still working and need to be left alone.
Just because you’re home all day doesn’t mean that you’re free to walk your dog or be the primary caregiver for your child. Plan for childcare/dog walkers as if you were heading to the office; your work hours should be dedicated to work and not other responsibilities. If, for whatever reason you are left in charge of a child or pet during the workday, make sure you have a plan in place to entertain them while you get some work done: toys, TV time, and books work as great distractions for kids.
The dirty dishes might be piling up in the sink and it’s probably time to change your sheets, but not during the weekday! Just like you wouldn’t walk out of the office to take care of personal responsibilities, remote work is no different; as tough as it can be, remember that your only job during the day is your job! Everything else can wait.
Avoiding Distractions While Remote Working
Now that we’ve covered some of the main distractions people face while remote working, it’s time to give you some key tips and tricks to help you maximize your workday and eliminate pesky distractions.
Pick your space carefully
It may feel tempting to set up your workspace in your bed or right in front of the TV, but will those places help you be as productive as possible? Probably not. Pick a space where you have space for all your materials, natural light (if possible), can close a door and have peace and quiet, and aren’t tempted by other things to do (think dishes, laundry, or cleaning).
Our other tip for your workspace is equally as important: select a location that is separate from your normal life at home. What does this mean? Well, one of the hardest things about remote working is creating boundaries between your work and personal lives and if you put your laptop right in the middle of the family room table where you spend most of your time anyways, you’ll find the lines between work and home blurring quite a bit. Choosing a specific location for your workspace and respecting that outside of work hours is incredibly important.
Be realistic about what distracts you
The perfect recipe for remote work varies significantly from person to person and we can’t tell you what exactly will distract you; however, if you know that you’re tempted to turn on the TV during the day and watch just one episode of your favorite show or pick up your phone too much during the day, you need to be realistic and set yourself up for success, not failure. Stay away from the TV during the day and leave your phone in another room if these prove to be serious distractions for you.
Focus on your work during work hours
Blending work and personal time can be challenging when working from home, but it’s important (for both sides!) that you set boundaries and stick to them. Leaving your work computer open on the couch all day will mean you’re answering emails when you should be off work or watching TV while assignments come rolling in. Stick to a schedule that clearly separates working and personal time.
What About Good Distractions?
Yes, good distractions exist! No one can spend eight hours staring at a computer screen and taking breaks and getting distracted every once in a while is a good thing, we promise. If you need, take a walk or go grocery shopping during your lunch break. As long as you still respect your work hours and what needs to be done gets done, you’re free to mold your remote work life to fit your exact needs.
Being efficient and productive may seem nearly impossible at home, but the flexibility and other benefits of remote work are so worth it–if you can make it work for you. Review our above tips and think about how you can apply them to your life. You’ll see changes in no time.