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There are many work-from-home (WFH) distractions that sabotage one’s efforts to meet office deadlines: long bathroom breaks, telemarketing calls, spam emails, package deliveries, etc. Unfortunately for employers and professionals, work interruptions are costly, and that doesn’t help when companies are trying to onboard new customers in a tough, downtrodden economy.
Shockingly, according to a 2018 study by IPSOS, employees who work in open-floor spaces lose 86 minutes daily due to distractions. Refocusing on the task at hand can also be a challenge. Researchers from the University of California at Irvine found it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to work after an initial distraction.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a lot of time. No worries, though. Hre’s how to best prevent interruptions and stay productive when working from home.
1. Block out distractions
Establish boundaries that keep you effective. During business hours, your time belongs to an employer or client — not telemarketers or neighbors. Well-intentioned, yet highly chatty, family members and friends will need to take their conversation to the backyard or away from your workstation.
To better concentrate, turn off the television and all other potential digital distractions. Recognize that unnecessary devices are merely time-wasters that prevent you from fully realizing client- and team-specific goals. Maintaining a separate phone number for personal calls is also a good idea.
Focus is key to acquiring the right mindset and, like sports athletes, you’ve got to eliminate distractions. Avoid rationalizing that you can multitask and keep yourself entertained with social media (Twitter is often the biggest culprit) at the same time.
Unfortunately, multitasking has become a pretense for not getting important things accomplished. Good news, though: A 2018 Udemy report found that 70% of workers said conscious, organized training helped them better avoid distractions and achieve focus.
If you want to change, you can.
2. Keep a healthy routine
Intense, deliberate efforts towards essential tasks are what get things done. That requires maintaining proper energy levels and individual determination for sustained periods of time. To remain locked in, give yourself regular, 10-minute breaks — ones that are well-deserved, of course.
Breaks can help, but above all else, a healthy routine is what makes or breaks the effort you bring to your home office. Eat a salad every now and again, and drink plenty of water. There’s much that’s already been said about the importance of eating healthy. Still, the challenge for many people is execution — actually doing what they already know is important.
But there are workarounds. As a recent blog post by vitamin company Manna explains, “The foods we eat should supply a majority of the nutrients that we need to stay healthy, but often nutritional deficiencies can lead to adverse effects on health. Nutritional supplements and vitamins are often used to combat deficiencies and to boost the intake of nutrients that offer preventative benefits.”
Downtime, exercise, water, healthy food or even supplements can all seem like one giant hassle, especially when there’s plenty of work to be done both inside and outside the door to your home office. But it’s always worth it.
Years ago, researchers at Brigham Young University found that employees who ate healthily were 25% more likely to have higher job performance. Absenteeism for such workers was also 27% lower. Conversely, an unhealthy regimen is costly for businesses. Productivity losses related to health problems cost U.S. employers $225.8 billion annually, according to the American Productivity Audit (APA).
Furthermore, there are other proven, age-old health practices that can keep you both productive and sane. Consider stretching exercises once or twice daily to improve overall blood circulation. Stretching also reduces fatigue, prevents muscle strain and alleviates stress. During a break, take deep breaths to increase oxygen intake, lower blood pressure and maintain proper energy levels.
3. Maintain regular hours
It was management guru Peter Drucker who once famously said, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” A routine will keep you engaged. By maintaining a regular business schedule, even from home, managers or co-workers can reach you for urgent requests. Remember, when working from home, there’s no such thing as overcommunication.
Unfortunately, due to the innate comfort and convenience of the work environment, the WFH movement often produces complacency. Blaming delays on Covid-19 might’ve worked (and been truthful) in recent months, but in the not-so-distant future, that excuse will fall on deaf ears.
It can be difficult for remote managers to take corrective action when teams are geographically spread out. This puts a premium on an individual’s initiative to get things done. Nobody’s perfect, but consistently working regular, set-in-stone hours certainly helps.
4. Be a professional at home
Nobody’s looking, but it still helps to wear business-casual attire when working from home. Rocking sweatpants or pajamas might be more comfortable, but the attitude that accompanies them often follows suit, i.e. slothfulness and a lack of precision. Looking the part means you’re serious about getting things done.
Ultimately, you’ll perform how you feel; clothing plays an important role in that.
Another way to keep things more “professional” in your home office is to put weekly objectives near your computer screen. Also, be more deliberate with your communication. Schedule periodic calls with co-workers, as well as stay in touch with customers and stakeholders.
Only respond to non-urgent emails or requests at certain parts of the day, all things you might be more inclined to do if you were working alongside others at the office. Do work that matters, not work that merely creates the facade of business.
The big takeaway….
For the vast majority of WFH workers, being more productive isn’t about discovering some magic formula. Instead, it’s simply about adopting a few proven, common-sense practices that get the job done. Or having the mental fortitude to make ‘em happen, at least.
Rest assured, the more you’re able to block out common, often self-imposed distractions, maintain a healthy body and frame of mind, work a consistent schedule and keep things professional, even when Zoom meetings are about as “formal” as things get, your productivity won’t dip in the slightest. In fact, it’ll likely improve.