Telecommuting has made great strides over the last decade. U.S. Census Bureau statistics have identified key telecommuting trends, noting that 45 percent of the American workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least part-time work from home. Based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69 percent increase from the current level. As more people work from home, more people need to find ways to be productive outside of the office environment. That productivity may hinge on avoiding distractions.
Many people telecommute in an attempt to make their lives easier and more affordable. Working from home carries with it a number of benefits, but also quite a few challenges. Some people who work from home find it more difficult to separate work life from home life, and distractions in the latter can sabotage the former. Recognizing your biggest distractions and remedying them can lead to more productivity and better job performance.
One of the more popular reasons employees work from home is to be more available for child care. Telecommuting gives working parents a schedule that is flexible enough to meet work deadlines while also being able to pick the kids up from school or to attend school-related functions and extracurricular activities. Telecommuting also allows new mothers to nurse longer or stay home with infants for a longer period of time.
However, the same reasons people work from home also can prove to be the biggest distractions. Imagine being several paragraphs into a report when the baby wakes up from a nap and demands to be fed. Conference calls can be disrupted by a child who needs homework help or a toddler who needs the channel changed on the television. Some trial and error may be required to develop a system in which you can work effectively and be able to pull away to handle child-related issues.
Social media connects people to the world around them. Smartphones and tablets enable people to check their email, update their status and tweet messages at a moment’s notice. Working from home affords unrestricted access to social media sites and other forms of communication that may not be so readily accessible in a traditional working environment. It can be tempting for you to constantly click over to Instagram or LinkedIn during the day. However, telecommuters should set specific times of the day when they use social media and restrict usage to only these times. This way they can more fully immerse themselves in work. This may involve shutting off instant messaging services or logging off personal email until the workday is through.
Friends and family members may not understand that telecommuting is the same as working. Phone calls or texts answered at all hours of the day can be distracting. Working from home does not give friends or family unlimited access to you, so discourage unexpected visits or phone calls. Others should understand that they must respect your work hours, whether those hours are being spent at home or in an office.
It can be difficult to take telecommuting seriously if your work area is a folding table and a laptop stuck in the corner of the living room. Others in the household may infringe on your workspace, and daily life can produce many distractions. It is best to have an area specifically dedicated to work, and this area should be closed off to others who won’t need you during the day (children should be able to reach you in case of emergency). Your work desk shouldn’t be a place that the children do their homework.
Try to set up your desk in an area that doesn’t get much foot traffic or inspire you to daydream. If you are close to a television or facing an open window, you may spend too many hours gazing aimlessly instead of focused on the tasks at hand. Very often you can be your own worst enemy when it comes to distractions. Buckling down and paying attention requires effort.
Know your limits
Taking breaks from time to time can quell boredom and refresh your level of concentration. Periodically step away from your desk to grab a snack or drink, just like you would at the office. Go outdoors for a few minutes and breathe some fresh air. These tactics can keep your head clear.
Resolve problems before logging on
Attempt to handle any concerns or tasks related to your personal life before you start your work for the day. Otherwise, you may be focused on tackling one problem when your mind should be on something else. While home and work issues will inevitably cross paths, do not use work hours to pay bills, schedule medical appointments or run house errands.
Reducing distractions is a key to telecommuting successfully. As more companies recognize the benefits of allowing employees to work from home, workers should step up to the challenge with dedication and focus.