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March 2021: Distractions in the Modern Workplace & How to Overcome Them

Publication date: 30 March 2021

After the outbreak of COVID-19, the workplace (as we know it) changed drastically. The physical office became remote; and as it seems, it is here to stay. Consequently, company leaders and managers feared that employee productivity would take a hit, but Work From Home actually proved to be quite beneficial.

On the other end, it didn’t come without certain challenges. In Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, remote workers list numerous reasons for being distracted in the home office – from household duties and homeschooling kids to the “inability to unplug” and not having a fixed work schedule.

In this article, we explore the most common distractions for remote workers and how to overcome them to improve at-work productivity.

Most Common Distractions for Remote Workers

Non-fixed work hours: Now more than ever, remote workers have to juggle busy work schedules with their personal needs and family lives. However, this flexibility may just be a “blessing in disguise” – more on this below.

Longer work hours: As a result of the non-fixed schedule, another big struggle for remote work turns out to be the “inability to unplug,” meaning that employees spend more time working than usual – most of the time exceeding the standard 8-hour shift.

Family and kids: Separating personal life and work is very challenging for remote workers. Family members are often the number one distraction for those who work from home. When the kids are running around, talking loudly, watching television, or fighting with each other, it can be challenging to get any work done. Even a spouse may be distracting if they come to chat with you during your working hours.

Household duties: People who work from home are often tempted to set their work aside to do some chores. For example, when working in the living room and seeing the dishes overflowing the kitchen sink, most people will undoubtedly have an urge to get up and wash them.

Screen time: Smartphones are not just one of the top distractions for employees who (used to) work in the office but at home as well. Checking a message from a friend or scrolling through the news feed for just a few minutes can often turn into wasting too much time. Losing productivity due to the overuse of smartphones is a common problem.

How to Minimize Distractions in the Modern Workplace

Create a daily schedule: Managing daily tasks, work time, and break times is step one to minimizing distractions in the home office. Breaks, meal times, and the time to do chores (which should occur outside the work hours) should all be planned in advance.

Minimize multi-tasking: When switching from one task to another quickly, the human brain functions without being fully focused on any particular task. Prioritizing one set of tasks e.g. urgent projects vs. other ones e.g. emails and meetings is another great way of “saving time” out of your work day and improving productivity in the long-term.

Create a schedule that suits ‘you’: If possible (if the company’s rules allow it), remote workers should aim to work during the hours they feel the most productive. For some, this may be the standard 9-to-5; for others, this may be several blocks of time during the day e.g. working on urgent tasks in the morning, conducting meetings in the afternoon, and emailing and planning new tasks in the late evenings.

The Pomodoro technique: A great idea to divide your day into different tasks is Pomodoro. In practice, you should have specified working hours, but also allocate time for breaks and socializing. Furthermore, schedule the “busy” and “available” hours for other people living with you. Speaking of which…

Set clear boundaries for family time: To minimize social interactions “on the fly”, it is vital to talk to family members and remind them that you need space, peace, and quiet to do your work. Those who have a separate office in their home can make small “free/busy” cards and hang them on the closed door, so their family members are aware of their availability during the day.

“Lock up” the smartphone: Yes, it sounds exactly right. The issue of screen addiction can be quickly resolved – simply set your smartphone in a designated spot, away from your desk, so you won’t get tempted to use it. This way, you’ll be able to focus on more important tasks and get the job done in no time.

The key thing with everything mentioned above is: practice daily! Without doing so consistently, your remote office routine will start to look more and more like a mess one day at a time. Just remember that – and keep putting in the work daily to improve your productivity and become a master of the home office. Good luck!


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