Clearing distractions from the home office
It might be a good idea to block off an hour or two if you have children coming home from school to spend time with them. Photo: Camilo Jimenez
One of the downsides of working from home is interruptions to your working day.
Domestic chores are left for you to do because you’re at home, the family comes into your office whenever they please, or a friend drops in for coffee because they’re in the area.
Sophie Andrews, of home based business consultancy the Soho Agency, says many home-based workers aren’t taken seriously by friends and family.
“I see it a lot with people that I coach and people that I know who work from home and that’s a huge problem, that a lot of people don’t take it seriously,” she says. “They think you’re just playing with a bit of a hobby.”
Here are eight tips to help you reduce interruptions to your working day.
BE CLEAR WITH PEOPLE
The first step is to let family and friends know that you’re serious about your work and that you expect them not to interrupt your working day. “You really have to lay down ground rules at the beginning,” says Andrews. “Have really clear limits and communicate that to family and friends.”
People should be told clearly when you’re working and when you’re free to do other things.
DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE
But, of course, interruptions will still occur and people will still ring and drop in from time to time. Andrews’ advice is to ignore them. “It’s also being strict with yourself and not answering the phone or answering the door if people come round during those times,” she says.
CREATE A WORKSPACE
You can’t expect not to be interrupted if you’re working at the kitchen table or in the living room. So create a dedicated workspace, says Mandy Brasser of Balancing Australia, which promotes work-life balance. Ideally there is some space in your house such as a spare bedroom that you can turn into a home office. The more professional you can make this space look and feel, the more others in the house will take it seriously as a workspace and leave you to work in peace.
“You want to try to create a space where you can minimise noise as much as possible and your family can live the life they’re living and they don’t have to walk around on tip toes,” says Brasser.
WORK AROUND THE FAMILY
It might be unrealistic to expect that you won’t be interrupted at certain times of the day, so it might be easier to work around the family as much as you can instead. “Maybe it’s getting up a few hours earlier before the kids get up so you can get some good solid work done without interruptions going on and then you can spend the morning and have breakfast with them,” she says. “So it’s really about structuring your day around them.”
Tracey Harris, of human relations consultancy Amovita, says that many people work better either early in the morning or later at night anyway, so it’s worth taking advantage of this.
PLAN YOUR DAY
People who work from home have to make the most of the limited amount of uninterrupted time they have, so it’s important they plan their days and work efficiently, says Harris. For instance, Harris says she spends a lot of time on the road and sometimes has downtime between appointments, which she uses to get work done in the car.
SET ASIDE TIME FOR CHORES
If domestic chores are getting in your way, set aside specific times to do them, so they don’t end up interrupting your working day. Likewise, it might be a good idea to block off an hour or two if you have children coming home from school to spend time with them, says Soho’s Sophie Andrews.
LOVE WHAT YOU DO
It’s much easier to be distracted if you’re not enjoying the work you do, says Andrews. “If you do something that you’re really passionate about and really believe in then you’re going to find it a lot easier to be strict about these sorts of things,” she says.
It’s worth remembering why you’re working from home in the first place, if you’re doing it to get a better work life balance. So the occasional interruption from a child telling you what they did at school or a partner with a quick hello or goodbye isn’t always such a bad thing.