The ongoing pandemic has cast a shadow of uncertainty for individuals and businesses across the world. Many enterprise companies have implemented remote work policies to protect their employees. You may find yourself as one of those individuals suddenly working from home. But making the transition can be disorienting if you’re used to working in an office environment. You don’t have to be at work by a certain time, and you don’t have specific hours blocked for work and leisure time so it’s easy to mix your work and personal life. Additionally, you may find there are many distractors at home demanding your attention while you’re trying to work. To eliminate further procrastination and stay productive while working remotely, it takes discipline, scheduling, ground rules and technology. This article covers some of the common problems that remote workers face and provides helpful tips for overcoming these obstacles and staying focused and productive while working from home.
More Freedom, More Distractions: 4 Common Problems Every Remote Worker Faces
Working from home means you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck, but you still need to continue turning in your best work. If you don’t eliminate distractions at home, your productivity will suffer as a result. Here are a handful of the common problems that remote workers face:
1. Family, roommates and pets
In a 2018 survey, 80% of employees report being distracted in the office by chatty coworkers. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about coworkers dropping in to comment about the latest headlines when you work at home. But your distracting coworkers have now been replaced by your family, roommates and pets all competing for your attention.
2. Mind wandering and nonwork-related activities
Seeing others busy with their work can motivate you to stay on track. But without an office environment and coworkers, it’s easy to lose track of time doing nonwork-related activities like scrolling through social media feeds or watching TV or YouTube videos. You tell yourself that you’ll watch “just one” clip on YouTube. All of a sudden, it’s past noon and you haven’t completed any work.
3. Lack of a schedule
The daily rhythm of an office environment keeps things in order. You know when you need to be in the office, when you can take a lunch break and when it’s time to go home. In contrast, remote workers can end up without clear working hours and get easily distracted if they don’t have a schedule in place. Even worse, irregular work schedules can lead to greater stress.
4. Technical hangups
Finally, if you’re in a position where you can work from home, whether you're a teacher, call center customer service agent or one of the many jobs which have migrated online, your work is likely heavily dependent on technology. You’ll need to communicate with coworkers and managers via video conferences and chat-based apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack. Internet outages as well as hardware and software issues can all hinder your productivity while working from home.
Eliminate Distractions and Boost Productivity with These 10 Tips
Employees lose an estimated 759 hours each year per company to workplace interruptions like chatty coworkers, office noise, meetings and social media. Distractions are an even greater challenge for employees who work from home. So how do you stay focused and take back control of your time? Here are ten tips to help you boost your productivity and eliminate distractions while working from home.
1. Create a schedule and stick to it
Creating a schedule is one of the best ways to deal with distractions. Aim to wake up and be in front of your desk at the same time every day. Schedule your tasks and a to-do list the night before so you know exactly where to focus your attention the following day. But — and this can’t be stressed enough — you must stick to your schedule. Otherwise, you may find yourself wasting time on unproductive activities.
2. Take a lunch hour and frequent breaks
It sounds counterintuitive, but the most productive workers take frequent breaks throughout the day. The reason is simple — working for long stretches is mentally straining. Taking breaks can help you refresh your focus and improve your mood. The 52-17 rule is particularly effective: it says to work for 52 minutes and take a 17 minute break. Spend this time on whatever is distracting you or use it to grab a quick cup of coffee and catch up with a family member or friend.
3. Get some outdoor time (if possible)
Not everyone can get outside during the coronavirus pandemic, but if you can it will benefit your mental health and keep you focused. One study has even found that spending time outdoors is associated with lower levels of stress. During one of your breaks, take a short walk around your neighborhood or stroll through a park if there’s one nearby.
4. Keep your workspace organized
A cluttered workspace can make you feel overwhelmed with your workload. Declutter your desk and only include those items that you’ll need to get you through the workday. Put accessories and nonessential papers in storage organizers so they are readily available when you need them. Having a tidy and organized desk lets you focus on the work at hand.
5. Turn off desktop and phone notifications
It’s impossible to do your best work when you’re constantly being interrupted by notifications from Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Multitasking by being active on social media while also working can be detrimental to your productivity. Turn notifications off on your work computer or set your smartphone to “Do Not Disturb” during work hours.
6. Restrict time on your phone
If you just can’t resist checking your phone during work hours, one thing you can do is set restrictions. With Screen Time on iOS devices or Digital Welling on Android, you can see how much time you’re spending on your device and even set daily limits. If you exceed your limit, your phone will automatically shut you out of certain applications.
7. Establish ground rules with your family or roommates
If you live with family or have roommates, make sure they know your working hours and respect your workspace. Set up a signal to let others know when not to disturb you. An example could be if you have your headphones on or your door is closed, then you should not be disrupted. Additionally, share your work schedule with others in your household so they know what time you will take breaks, have lunch and stop working for the day. All nonessential questions and discussions should wait until those times.
8. Set daily goals and objectives
Another way to eliminate distractions is to divide your projects into daily goals and objectives and stick to them. It’s easier said than done, of course, which is why having a productivity system can help you stay on track. One system that has worked for The Muse, an online career platform, is the 1-3-5 rule. Here’s the gist: Set out to achieve one big task, three medium tasks and five little tasks every day.
9. Make sure your internet is reliable and speedy
You depend on a reliable internet connection to do your work. Any connection issues could hamper your productivity. To avoid any delays, it’s important to have a back-up plan. For example, you could use a mobile hotspot device like a MiFi if your home connection starts to slow down or you could head to a cafe to work. If you operate an online business, it’s worth investing in a fast web host to ensure your website can handle more traffic.
10. Use quality video conferencing software
Use high-quality video conferencing software to facilitate meetings with your team and to keep your manager updated on what you’re working on. This prevents any miscommunication and keeps everyone on the same page. Such face-to-face interaction is the closest experience to being in the same room with your coworkers and lets you pick up on nonverbal cues that are often missed with other forms of communication tools like email, audio conferencing and chat apps.
These are difficult times as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. Many companies have implemented policies to encourage their employees to work from home to prevent the spread of the virus. It can take some time to adjust to working in a new environment, especially if you’re used to working in an office surrounded by colleagues. Use these tips to eliminate distractions, stay productive and strike a healthy life-work balance.
To help you and your team stay connected during this time of uncertainty, Lifesize is offering free, unlimited video conferencing to businesses for six months. There are no time limits to your calls, and you can use the software to make an unlimited number of calls to coworkers and clients. Join meetings from any device, anywhere, at any time with apps for Mac, PC, Android, iOS and all major web browsers.
Eliminating Distractions FAQ's
Whether you’re working from home for the first time or you’ve been remote for a while, we all get distracted at some point. While it’s perfectly normal, it can be helpful to know a few tips that will help you stay focused throughout your work day. Here are a few frequently asked questions, answered.
What are examples of distractions?
Distractions can be social interactions, your smartphone buzzing every couple of minutes, unnecessary social media notifications, text messages and phone calls to name a few. Distractions take your focus off work and can delay you from getting back into your ideal workflow.
How do you eliminate distractions and stay focused at work?
The most effective thing you can do to stay focused is to create a schedule and stick to it. During times blocked out for work, make sure you do exactly that: work. Turn off notifications and close your email so you can focus on completing the task at hand.
How do distractions affect productivity?
When you are distracted, you end up having a longer work day as you try to recover lost time. It’s also easy to fall in the trap of doing the easiest tasks first and save the bigger, higher priority items for later. Instead, tackle the bigger items in the beginning part of your day when your mind is fresh and save the easier tasks for later.