There are so many benefits to working from home. While the pluses of telecommuting are many, there are still work place distractions that everyone needs to be mindful of.
This is particularly true for mums and dads who make the move to remote work. When you are prepared for the distractions and take steps to reduce them, the benefits of working from home tend to far outweigh the negatives.
I want to address the top 12 potential pitfalls for working parents and give you some ways to deal with them.
1. When the Family Is Home
The lack of commuting time means that you get to spend more time with the family. This is great, except for when the children or spouse are at home while you are on the clock. Family distractions are understandably challenging for many people, especially if others are around for a significant part of your workday. The problem isn’t insurmountable, but it does take some forethought and perseverance. Here are a few things you can try that help to minimize the distractions.
Create a Private Workspace
One of the best things you can do is to locate your office in an area of the house that is removed from the daily traffic. If you have an extra bedroom, that is an ideal location for a home office. Since it has a door, you can shut yourself in when you need remain focused on your work. Using any room with a door or creating a place where you can put up some sort of partition are also options. If you use a privacy screen, you can fold it up and put it away when your workday is done.
Make the Most of a Flexible Schedule
If your job allows for flexible scheduling, you can use it to make the most of the quiet times in your household. Get up and get going while everyone else is still sound asleep. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in those early morning hours when stillness reigns.
You can take a break during the active morning hours to get the kids ready for school, and then return to your tasks once they and your spouse leave. Since you are splitting up your day this way, it means that you are likely able to end it by the time the children get home.
Establish Rules and Boundaries
If your spouse works from home, too, then the two of you need to establish and agree on workday rules and workspace boundaries. This is the best way to give you both the time and privacy you need to do your jobs. If you set up joint lunchbreaks and other short breaks, then you have the opportunity to touch base during your day.
2. When Your Pets Demand Your Attention
We all love our furry family members. They can bring us so much joy. They can also be demanding when they want your attention. When you first start working from home, pet distractions will likely be high. They’re used to you leaving for the day.
Now that they have you around, and all to themselves, they might seek your attention more. The cat will walk across your keyboard or lay on it, or it may keep rubbing up against your leg or getting in your face, demanding attention. The dog will want to play fetch, be petted or go outside every 10 minutes.
If you establish your boundaries and a schedule with your pets early on, they — and you — will get used to it. After an adjustment period, you can all coexist peacefully. Set times for breaks where you can pay attention to your pets. Animals can provide great stress relief, so if you take time out of your hectic schedule to play, pet or walk your fur family members, you may just find that you are more productive when you get back to work.
3. When the TV Is on
Many people get into the daily habit of turning on the TV when they are at home, keeping it on as background noise, even when no one is watching it. This can be a major work place distraction when you work from home. The sounds of people talking makes it harder to focus on the task at hand. This is similar to what can happen at the office when you get sidetracked with all of the conversations happening around you, or, worse yet, you get pulled into them. Likewise, when the TV is on, it’s easy to get pulled away from your work and get caught up in what’s happening on the screen.
Resist the temptation to turn on the television until your work is complete. If there is something you really want to see, watch it during your lunch break or record it to watch later. If you have a dedicated home office, keep it TV-free. That way, you won’t be tempted to turn it on in the background.
4. When There Is Good Food in the Kitchen
While the office can certainly have food distractions, it has nothing on what might be in your own kitchen. When you get that craving for last night’s leftovers or the fresh batch of cookies you just made, you know that you can fulfill it with just a few short steps into your own kitchen. That might be okay once or twice a day, but it can also become a habit that takes you away from your job too often.
Keep some snacks close at hand. If you make them healthy, that’s even better. Your body and your brain will thank you. When you eat things like nuts, berries and carrots, you satisfy your hunger and give yourself a mental boost. Save the cookies for a reward at the end of your workday.
5. When You Get Sucked Into the Social Media Vortex
You might think you’re just taking a quick break to check on those social media notifications that keep popping up, but before you know it, you’ve just spent a half hour scrolling through your timeline and catching up with a friend with instant messaging. It happens to the best of us.
When you work from home, slipping into social media mind can be too easy. Turn off those notifications on your phone so that you don’t see them pop up every few minutes. If you don’t need your phone for work, you might want to stash it out of sight altogether. Set a time during one of your breaks to check in on your accounts, and set a timer.
6. When Your Workspace Is Too Comfortable
One of the benefits that many people mention about working from home is that they get to work in their pajamas. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, if it causes you to feel too relaxed to be productive, it becomes a distraction. The same can be said for working in any space that makes you feel more inclined to nap or daydream than to work.
If you find that you fall into this trap, it’s time to make your home office a more productive environment. Prepare for work at home the same way you’d prepare for going to the office. You don’t have to be formal but do get dressed. Your workspace should also be conducive to work. Sitting at a desk and in an office chair is often the best choice for many.
7. When Your Friends Want To Talk
When you work from home, your friends may believe that you have more free time than when you worked in a formal office. You may find that they start texting, messaging, calling or even stopping by more frequently than ever before, especially if their schedules are more open.
Boundaries are important here, too. If you find that you are frequently getting disrupted, it is OK to let your friends know that you cannot be disturbed during your work hours. Should they forget, shoot them a gentle reminder, letting them know you’ll get back with them during a break or at the end of the day.
8. When You Are Tempted To Sleep in
A flexible schedule is a great thing, but when it translates to delaying work, it can become an issue. While sleep is incredibly important for our physical and mental health, and thus for work productivity, it can be all too tempting to hit the snooze button more times than you should.
Maintain a workweek schedule. It’s important to set a wake time so that you can begin work on time, rather than letting your morning slip away from you. Equally critical is establishing a bedtime and sticking with it. This way, you won’t be tempted to stay up too late and end up feeling like you need to sleep in to make up for it.
9. When the Urge To Procrastinate Takes Over
Procrastination can be a problem no matter where you work. When confronted with tasks you are not fond of, the urge to put them off can overwhelm your sense of responsibility. When you work from home, the number of available distractions make procrastination even easier. The tasks don’t disappear, though, and you may find that you end up having to work into your evening to complete what could have been done earlier.
Tackle your most challenging or important tasks first. When your mind is fresh at the beginning of the day, you are better able to plow through your list more quickly. You also have less time to think about how much you don’t want to do them!
10. When the Household Chores Are Staring You Down
Working at an office lets you escape the scene of your home, where the evidence of incomplete chores stares you down. It’s much harder to escape what you see in front of you all day long. You may feel compelled to take care of the vacuuming or deep clean the refrigerator during your workday, instead of waiting until the weekend.
Stick to your usual cleaning schedule. If you prefer to break it up during the week, establish the days and times for taking care of the chores and adhere to them. This is another instance when it is helpful to have a home office space that is removed from the rest of the house. Even a room divider reduces how much you notice the children’s toys that didn’t get put away.
11. When Motivation Escapes You
You will find that there are days when you completely lack the motivation to do your job. There is nothing unusual about this, and it happens to everyone whether working in the office or at home. However, it’s easier to give in to this feeling when you don’t have coworkers being productive all around you. The temptation to get out and enjoy a beautiful day can be stronger than your willpower to struggle through.
Remind yourself that the work you are doing is important and that people are counting on you to get the job done. It is also good to remember that the work doesn’t go away. It just continues to pile up, making it that much more stressful to do what must be done. Planning for a day off just for you can jump start your motivation.
12. When Work Keeps Calling After the Workday Ends
This last category has more to do with work distracting you from your homelife, rather than the other way around. I wanted to address it, though, because it can really be a problem for mums and dads working from home. There is a tendency for work to intrude on life after the workday ends, either through emails, text messages or phone calls, robbing you of one of the best perks of remote work.
Resist the urge to respond to those emails and let your coworkers know that you will answer any messages during your work hours the following day. It is equally important to make sure that you don’t give in to the compunction to finish just one more task on your to-do list. When your workday is over, put your work away and get on with your home life.