How to avoid distractions when working from home
When starting up a small business you might feel divided about whether or not to work from home.
Those in favour will typically welcome the low overheads, convenience and lack of a commute. While those against will point out that the encroachment of work on personal life and the familiarity of the working environment present a great many distractions.
While there are some great advantages to working from home, it's important to remain focussed while you do so and avoid distractions as best you can.
Here, we give you some of our top tips for working from home so that you can keep your head down and stay focussed on running your business.
Common working from home distractions
Before we take a look at how best to avoid distractions when working from home, let's take a bit of time to identify some possible sources of distraction.
Perhaps the most obvious distraction when working from home is the proximity of your personal life to your working environment.
Any work-from-home parent will tell you that distraction-free work is the number one challenge. Kids need constant entertainment, attention and care. Even if you are able to direct the rugrats to an all-consuming activity, it's unlikely you'll be able to have a fully productive working day without some kind of interruption.
The next major distraction to be aware of is digital interference.
Having the radio on in the background can add a certain ambience (assuming it stays in the background) and the absence of a boss to monitor your social media activity is a definite perk. But if you don't keep these things in check, it can be all too easy for digital distraction to heavily impact your productivity.
Elsewhere, from the pile of ironing to the dripping tap, there is no shortage of domestic distractions that can tempt us away from our work. The question is, how do we avoid them and concentrate on what we're supposed to be doing instead?
Top tips and tricks for avoiding distractions
These tips for working from home effectively will help you work out how to concentrate better during working hours:
Manage the presence of other people (and pets)
It's easier to avoid distractions when you're working alongside colleagues who are similarly focused on their tasks and targets to meet - perhaps under the watchful eye of a line manager. But when you are your own line-manager, and the ones watching over you are family members, it can be difficult to stay focussed on your work.
Unless you live alone, the simple fact that you're at home can imply that you are available to answer queries or get involved in family life. That's why it's important to have a separate space with your own door and make it clear what the boundaries are.
If you have children make sure there is someone else to look after them and agree certain hours during which you are available. Childcare is an additional expense but it can be a good investment, fairer on the kids, as well as on you.
A surprise pressure can come from pets – particularly dogs that want to be walked and cats that want to tread on your keyboard.
Again, boundaries are necessary as well as routine. Keep your door closed, arrange for a dog walker if necessary, or carve out specific times when you're off duty to attend to the demands of your best canine and feline friends.
Minimise digital distractions
Better concentration at work can also be aided by minimising the digital distractions available to you.
When you're working from home you can feel a little removed from the outside world, which is why it's tempting to pop onto social media.
As a homeworker you can go several days without talking to anyone other than via email, so it's important to carve out time to socialise and bring a little balance to your engagement with others.
Give yourself timetabled social media breaks for checking in – or better still, pop out to get lunch with a friend or family member.
Most importantly, turn off push notifications from your phone and leave checking the news to specific times. This will make a significant impact on the work you are able to get on with.
Hard work requires fuel, and there's less self-consciousness involved in snacking at home than tucking into the biscuits in front of colleagues. Because you're not being observed, it' can be tempting to pop to the kitchen at intervals for cups of tea, or to indulge in a snack.
If you find that you're spending more time in the kitchen that at your desk, try restricting meals to a schedule - as you would in any ordinary job.
Plan and prepare the meals and snacks for the day ahead of time. That way you won't be tempted to abandon the desk for the kitchen.
If the place in which you live and work is the same it can be easy to focus on the housekeeping tasks you've been neglecting instead of your work.
But even though the piles of washing, unchanged lightbulbs and build-up of cobwebs can all seem like truly pressing tasks, when you're at your desk during working hours that should be your sole focus.
To combat this temptation, try creating a neat minimalist working space and then closing the door on the rest of the house. And if you have an office room in the garden then better still. The further away you are from the domestic setting the more you can avoid day-to-day distractions such as chores and intrusive sales calls to the landline.
Distinguishing between work life and home life becomes all the more challenging as a home-based worker. In the same way that the domestic world can interfere with work, your work can similarly leak into home and family life.
When you're running your own business the chances are you might have to keep unsociable hours and put in extra effort beyond the 9-5 – particularly while you're becoming established. So be sure to set clear boundaries and manage the expectations of those you live with.
Make sure family members are supportive and on-side. Similarly, try not to contaminate occasions such meal times with business talk because you feel like you're still at work.
The best way to achieve this is to establish a routine, a separate location within the home and a limit to how much digital communication takes place beyond working hours.
Still struggling to focus?
If distractions are still proving difficult to overcome, then it might be worth taking a more strategic approach to your work. To do this, set some goals for your business, both in the short term and long term. Give yourself a realistic and attainable (yet still suitably challenging) list of daily tasks to achieve in order to meet those goals.
You could also improve your focus by adjusting your working schedule to better manage any business-related stress more effectively.
Give yourself time out and regular breaks away from the home: take the dog for a walk, go for a run or choose another physical activity to balance out the often cerebral work of the home office.
Rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by social media, take a look at the issues you are distracting yourself from, and decide whether you need a break. Often, simply returning to the problem with fresh eyes and renewed energy can help you to tackle it.
These working from home tips may help your productivity levels but ultimately a great deal comes down to mental self-discipline. Naturally, if you have set up a home business then you will have your business interests at heart, so what is good for you will also be good for it.
Once you've got your house and home business in order, it's time to turn your attentions to other important matters. Cover your small business against the biggest risks with Home Business Insurance from Direct Line for Business.