How can you avoid distractions when telecommuting or working from home?
It’s a valid question, as more and more of us are choosing to working flexibly from home or work remotely out of necessity. There are many advantages to working from home, but many report that they have difficulty adapting to the arrangement, and find it easy to succumb to distractions around the home
Guardian Professional Matthew Jenkin recently came up with a list of key things which the remote worker should bear in mind in order to kiss procrastination goodbye and boost creativity and productivity!
Find a designated workspace
Emma Busk moved with her partner to the countryside so they would have more space to run their public relations company Extra Cover Media from home. With horses and dogs vying for her attention, she understands the need to time manage efficiently. Dedicating an area in the house solely for business has removed many of the most common distractions, such as television, and improved their work-life balance. “When you have your own business and you work at home, it can be very hard to switch off at the end of the day,” Busk explains. “Before we had our own office space, we could be working until late at night and on Saturday mornings.” She adds: “It’s very important to say, ‘That corner of the room is work and that’s where we sit. If you’re not working, you don’t sit in that corner’. You need to delineate your time between work and home life.”
Make sure friends and family know your business schedule
While an impromptu visit from your sibling or well-meaning neighbour can be a welcome distraction sometimes, learning when to invite them in and when to wave them goodbye is vital if you want to remain productive. For Busk, living in a small village means she has her fair share of surprise guests to contend with. It’s hard when you’re working at home on your own, she admits, because sometimes you don’t have that interaction with other colleagues. She says: “If you’re on a deadline or have a lot of work to complete, you have to turn around and tell them to come back another time. I think most people will understand.” Rebekah Harriman runs her own social media consultancy, Rebekah-Harriman.com. With dogs, chickens and children to look after, she admits she has become very good at getting distracted. She says you need to be clear with family members that you won’t answer the phone during working hours. She says: “That’s why a lot of people I know have separate business numbers, so when that rings and I am not working, I won’t answer it. I refuse to give my mum my work number, otherwise she’d just call me on that if I didn’t answer the phone.”
Establish a routine
As a busy entrepreneur, Harriman says managing her day carefully around her work and family commitments is essential to remain productive. “It’s about managing my own time, but also my workload,” she says. “I am also quite strict and don’t do domestic chores between 9am and 3pm when the kids are at school. As soon as you start thinking, oh I’ll just empty the dishwasher or put the washing out, then you’re not working.” Jaye Cowie, the founder of Major Marketing, says sticking to a strict routine is the best way to juggle family and business. She says: “Working from home, you never know when to stop. With an office, you have a time that you leave work. Even if it is 11pm, you are leaving a physical building. Whereas at home, I always feel like I could do slightly more.” With the creation of smartphones with emails on them, you also have to be really careful not to overdo it. Cowie adds: “If you are in your non-work time and you get one of those emails which you know needs an immediate response and puts you in a terrible mood, it affects the rest of the family.”
Limit time for chores
Working from home and seeing housework which still needs to be done piling up can leave small business owners with pangs of domestic guilt. Cowie bemoans: “I have found it really hard to move past the fully loaded dishwasher and not do something about it. Another thing is food. You constantly want to eat because it’s a distraction from what you’re doing, especially if it’s a task you want to avoid.” Keeping track of the time you spend doing household chores or non-work activities means you are less likely to waste precious minutes and hours of the day on just one task, Harriman finds. “Everybody has their own way of working, but I like to work in short intensive bursts,” she says. “So, I have a timer which I set for 20 minutes per task. I also do the same for those which are non-work related chores such as doing the washing up. As soon as my time is up, I stop and go back to work.”
Content commissioned by Guardian Professional on behalf of Direct Line for Business.