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Improve Productivity: Decrease Distractions When Working at Home

By Dr. Geri Markel On 

The Challenges of Working From Home

Mr. Kelly is working at home and beginning a television interview. He’s dressed in a most professional way and his image and demeanor are flawless. Then “OOPS!” His two children come bouncing into the room. This was a major distracting interruption. Although not as visible to the world, interruptions and other distractions sabotage your productivity when working at home.

The numbers of those who work off-site are rising. According to one report, “On the days they worked in 2015, 24 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home. The share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. Workers in managerial and professional occupations were more likely than workers in other occupations to do some or all of their work at home.”

At home, you lack the time structure, space limits, and defined work processes imposed in the traditional business setting. At home, it is easy to get distracted and interrupted by others or to fritter away the hours in any number of non business-related activities.  It is important to set “ground rules” about your availability to those with whom you live, as well as those with whom you work.  Perhaps you’ll need to talk about the positive and negative consequences of interruptions and your productivity. In addition, it is necessary to organize your workspace to reduce distractions.

How to Stay Focused – A Checklist

Do you need to avoid or reduce interruptions and distractions? Review the following list, and check the tactics you are willing to try in the next week or two.

___ Place a lock on your home office door when you are conducing important calls or television interviews. As long as there is someone watching others who live with you, you need to protect yourself from interruptions.

___ Post a message or voice mail to business colleagues or customers. For example, “Business hours are from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. Responses to email, text, or other contacts received after business hours will be attended to within the next business day.” You decide if you are available to your customers or clients 24/7. Of course, if you have a job that requires your constant availability, you need to be creative about carving out some time to think, not just respond to calls or emails.

___ Hang a sign on the door to your workspace, for example, DO NOT DISTURB: Genius at work. Visitors are welcome during breaks at 11 A.M. and 2 P.M. It is important to have signals about when you are available to those in your home/work setting.

___ Prepare a positive, but firm way of handling interruptions when you are working and a loved one interrupts you. For example, “Although I’m crazy about you, I need to focus on work. Let’s get together at lunch when we can have each other’s full attention.”

___ Reduce distractions around your work area by clearing the clutter and filing papers at the end of the day or week. Think about the ways in which a window helps or hinders your concentration. You may feel comforted by outdoor scenery, while another may be distracted.

___ Praise those who follow your requests and help reduce interruptions. Explain the positive effects that resulted from their considerate behavior.  For example, “I appreciated the think time. I was able to finish the proposal on time. Now I can meet the deadline.”


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