Avoiding distractions when working from home

OrganizationTelecommutingTime ManagementWork From HomeWorking Remotely

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: working from home is awesome. You can work in yoga pants on your patio, avoid a traumas of a long commute, avoid the distractions of your co-workers at the office, accept a mid-day delivery, and much, much more. But that’s not to say there are no distractions at home. In fact it can often be the very opposite. You can also be tempted to watch “just one episode” on Netflix, prepare everything on your “#EAAATS” Pinterest board, or talk yourself into a mid-afternoon nap.

So how do you strike the right balance between the freedom of remote work with the responsibility of being employed? Where does a break end and a distraction start? And what distractions are okay in moderation and what are simply inappropriate while on the job?

This one is hard and honestly, really varies based on what you do, who you work for (working full-time for a big company versus running your own business from your house are two very different things), and your personal work-style. Here’s my take on 5 specific distractions I’ve recently been asked about:

  1. TV. This is a don’t for me. I’ve written before about taking breaks and will say that watching a short program can be a part of my lunch sometimes. But I draw the line at having television on at any other point of the day. Maybe you’re one of those people who needs noise. I will never fully understand that 🙂 but I do understand that everyone works differently and some people may need light noise. Still, I say music is a much better option since TV is not only a proven distraction but call me old-fashioned, watching television simply doesn’t seem like something you should be doing while being paid to do your job. So whether you’re employed by a big company or have a couple clients in a business you run on your own, stay away from your flat screen while in work mode.
  2. Naps. This is another one I personally say not to do. Or at least spend some time really making a judgement call based on your situation. While some companies are beginning to encourage power naps during the day, to me sleeping at your own home is an activity that should reserved for when you’re not on the clock. With this said, everything is case-by-case; if you’re a salaried employee and tend to work 10 hour days starting at 5 am a mid-day nap might be just what you need. Again, use your judgment and gauge your personal situation.
  3. Social media. Ten years ago there’s no way you’d imagine checking Facebook or Twitter to be something that’s okay to do occasionally at work. But as these outlets evolve and increasingly become our news sources how we use them changes too. I would never advocate to have Facebook open all day (and will always say to use your own device versus your company computer!) but quickly checking to see what’s trending, reading an article tweeted about your industry, or even posting the occasional #tbt isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Using another personal device. In moderation I say this is fine. Checking the news via Twitter or on CNN.com, sure but editing photos on your MacBook or playing games on your tablet not so much.
  5. Doing other work. No. No, no no no no. One more time: no. Maybe you run a side business or write a blog (both like me!), if so read carefully: your slated time to work is to work. If you run your own business there may be more blurred lines and you have the discretion to toggle from one project to another, but if you are employed by a firm and are expected to work from 9-5 or bill hours do not use this time to do anything else.

There are some boundaries clearer than others but generally speaking if you have a company modern enough to be employing you as a remote worker you likely have some freedom. It comes down to the fact that you need to be a responsible, working adult. So keep that in mind before engaging in a behavior.

Still unsure? Try this: if you’d have a difficult time explaining your behavior to your manager (or it feels wrong to you!) then don’t do it.

How do you balance the distractions of your home office? Have you created any “rules” for yourself that you find particularly important or helpful to follow? Share in the comments below!

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