For many people, working from home feels like the dream. For others, however, it's a struggle to learn to set aside distractions that make remote work a challenge. Regardless of the reason you will be working from home, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you are a productive and effective remote worker.
9 Tips for Managing Distractions When You Work at Home
For people transitioning from an office environment to a work-at-home environment, distractions are typically the biggest challenge they encounter. The fridge is calling, the kids are whining, and the dogs are barking. Your spouse is wandering around in his underwear, ready to make an accidental appearance in your video conference. With all that and more, one of the keys to an effective work-at-home environment is to, as much as humanly possible, free yourself from distractions and create a professional space. These tips can help.
1. Get Dressed for Work
You've probably heard that one of the best things about working from home is that you can work in your jammies, but should you? While your sweats may be calling to you from their dresser drawer, getting ready for work can put you in a professional mindset. As a bonus, it means you're camera ready should you need to have an impromptu video conference. While you don't need to get dressed to the nines, set up a morning routine that is similar to what you would do if you were headed to the office. This can set the tone for your day and help keep you focused during working hours.
2. Create an Office Space
The call of the couch or your favorite easy chair has a cozy appeal, but it's probably not the best spot for a distraction-free work environment. Instead, find a place in your home--preferably with a door--where you can shut yourself away from everyone else and actually get some work done. Avoid working in the house's common areas, such as your kitchen, dining room, or living room, and instead set up shop in a guest room, home office, or even a large closet or storage space. These feng shui tips can help you set up a home office conducive to productivity.
3. Set Office Hours
Another key tactic for working from home is to set actual office hours. As with getting dressed for work and creating your office space, having set hours puts you in a professional mindset. It also allows you to step away from work when you're done working for the day, since one of the issues many who work from home experience is how to leave their work behind them on their personal time. It also allows your employer, co-workers, and clients to know when you are available for video conferences, phone calls, and to respond to messages and emails.
4. Have a Family Meeting
It's important you set your expectations for your work hours with your family, and a family meeting is perfect for doing this. There are a number of items you'll want to include on your meeting agenda such as:
- Your office hours
- When it's appropriate to bug you during office hours
- When it's not appropriate to bother you during office hours
- Use of shared bandwidth during your office hours
- Expectations about noise and activity in or near where you work
- Expectations during meetings and video conferences
- Expectations regarding any shared office spaces
- Expectations regarding use of equipment or supplies you need for your office
- Any privacy restrictions your family will need to heed
5. Set Aside Time to Catch Up on Communication
Minimize distractions by setting specific times to catch up on your communication and then keep all non-critical communication platforms, such as email, Slack social channels, or social media, switched off while you work.
6. Schedule Breaks
Taking breaks is especially important when you work from home. Plan your breaks just as you would in an office environment and be sure to take them. Don't work through your scheduled break times. Taking breaks to eat, rest, stretch, move, clear your mind, or socialize for a few minutes allows you to return to your work with a renewed focus.
7. Add Ambient Noise
If things can get a little noisy in your home environment, then adding ambient noise can be a game changer for focus and concentration. Whether you use a white noise generator, play binaural beats for motivation and focus, or play some calming or energizing background music depending on your needs, ambient noise helps you to tune out distraction. Instrumental music works especially well since you won't be tempted to stop working and sing along. Do not use your television or something such as talk radio as your background noise; it's too distracting.
8. Honor Time Off
One of the greatest challenges for many people working from a home office is shutting off at the end of the day and leaving work behind since the lines blur between home life and work life. However, this is also the most important thing you can do when working from home. Setting office hours and scheduling breaks help. So does having a transition activity to go from work life to home life, such as going for a walk, engaging in a yoga session, or spending time with family or pets.
9. Set Boundaries
Along the same lines, it's important to set boundaries with your colleagues and employer, your family and friends, and even yourself. The more professionally you behave in setting up your home as a work environment, the more likely those around you will be willing to comply with the boundaries you set. Be firm in your boundaries. For instance, unless it's an emergency, don't let your employer talk you into a "quick task" once your work hours are over. Likewise, don't allow your teenager or spouse to interrupt work times for "just one question." How effective you are as a work-at-home professional depends largely on how firmly you set your boundaries.
10 Tips to Manage Young Children and Pets
Older children and spouses should theoretically be willing and able to understand and respect your boundaries when you work. Young children, on the other hand, may be a bit more challenging because they won't necessarily understand "mom is working", and their needs or wants are often seem pressing and immediate. When you have young kids and pets, consider the following.
1. If Childcare Is a Possibility, Use It
The ideal work at home situation with young children is to have childcare or help during your work hours. This can be in the form of an older child, a hired nanny, or even offsite childcare. Even scheduling a babysitter or pet sitter to come to your house for a few hours every day to take your kids or dogs to the park or play with them in the backyard can buy you some productive time.
2. Create Off-Set Hours With Your Partner
While it may not be ideal for your relationship, working when your partner is home to interact with children and pets - even for a few hours every day - can increase productivity significantly and keep young children and pets occupied so you can work.
3. Use Breaks to Interact
Schedule your breaks and keep them as hard stops during your workday. Then, during those break times, interact with young kids and pets in meaningful ways. Then, let your young children know you will be able to play with them soon and redirect them to other activities while you finish up your given task.
4. Your Door Is Your Friend
Whether you have young kids or pets, your office door is super important. Keep it shut to minimize distractions unless you absolutely must keep it open to keep an eye on young children. If pets scratch or whine at your door, resist the urge to open it and let them in, and let young children being supervised by someone else know that when the door is closed, you absolutely cannot be disturbed unless it's an emergency.
5. Plan Unsupervised Activities
Distraction is key when working at home with young kids or pets. Plan an array of unsupervised activities that you can make available throughout the day. For pets, this may be something as simple as a Kong filled with treats or a toy. For kids, choose quiet time activities such as coloring pages, play dough, origami, and books. Make sure you have plenty of such activities on-hand to keep kids busy while you work.
6. Use Meal Prep for Lunches and Snacks
Use Sunday afternoons to prep meals for the week ahead. That way, when it's time to take a break and eat, you'll have your food already prepared so you can use the majority of your break times to interact with your children or pets instead of in the kitchen preparing food.
7. Plan Your Most Critical Activities During Naps
If you have young kids who nap, then schedule your work that requires the most focus for when they are sleeping.
8. Split Your Shifts
Likewise, you can split your shifts and work in the early morning and/or late evening when your children have downtime or are asleep. This allows you significant time to focus while still giving attention to your kids when they are at their most energetic.
9. Create Snack and Activity Packs
Kids often pester parents trying to work because they are either bored or hungry. So creating a fun box or basket with a few self-serve healthy snacks and a few activities to pursue when they are bored allows you some additional time to get work done as your kids occupy their own time. Don't fill these full at the start of the day. Instead, include one or two activities in the morning and then refill the box or basket in the afternoon with another one or two activities. Make the activities you put in the baskets something special kids don't get to do any other time so they'll be excited to pursue them on their own during your work hours.
10. Enlist the Help of Older Siblings
If you have older kids in the house, then enlist their help in keeping younger children and pets occupied.
6 Work From Home Tips for Productivity
Some days when you work from home, you feel super productive. Other days, not so much. Help to maximize your productivity in your home office with the following tips.
1. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need
Stock up on what you need and keep it nearby in your workspace. This eliminates the need to get up and find things throughout the day, which can be a huge distraction.
2. If Possible, Upgrade Your Bandwidth
Having good internet is essential when working from home. Make sure your wired or wi-fi connection is the best it can be and arrange for the highest speed connection possible.
3. Use Collaboration and Productivity Tools - But Not Too Many
There are tons of productivity and collaboration tools available online for remote workers. And in general, these tools are extremely helpful for remote workers. However, there are so many available that these tools can become a distraction. Find a few that best suit your needs and ignore the rest. Consider:
- A communication and conferencing tool (such as Zoom or Slack)
- A collaboration tool (such as Google Docs)
- A task and project management tool (such as Trello or Basecamp)
- A scheduling tool
4. Find Your Most Productive Times and Work Then
If you're an early bird, then chances are your most productive work times are in the morning. If you're a night owl, late afternoon or evening may work best. Pay attention to when you feel your most energized and focused, and plan on working during those hours to maximize your productivity.
5. Schedule Your Tasks
Make a schedule for each day and try to stick to it as much as possible. When scheduling, be realistic in both the timeframes you allow and when you're best able to perform your tasks. Set aside chunks of time for things like communicating, reading emails, and meetings, as well time for performing essential tasks for your job.
6. Focus on One Task at a Time
Many pride themselves on their ability to multi-task, but studies show people are more productive when they focus on one task at a time. Eliminate the distraction of multitasking by narrowing your focus to a single task at a time, allowing for breaks to pursue other tasks after 30 minutes to an hour.
Effective Strategies for Working From Home
There's always an adjustment period when you move from working in an office environment to working at home. However, there are many methods you can use to maintain focus so you are an effective remote worker.