How to avoid the top 10 distractions when working from home

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 29 Jun 2012

It may seem like a luxury to work from home – no expensive, tiring commute, making small talk with colleagues or spending all day in meetings. But out-of-office working comes with its own set of challenges, and it’s easy to get distracted away from the task at hand when you’re not in a business environment. Our survey asked 2000 people what distracted them when working from home, and we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 bad habits – and how to avoid them next time you spend the day in your home office.

10 – Watching movies all day

With most of us now in possession of a hefty DVD collection, it’s easy to stick a film on “in the background” and realise 8 hours later that you’ve accidentally had a mini James Bond marathon and that all the days’ emails have gone unanswered.

Avoid it by: Treating your work-day exactly as you would if you were in the office. There aren’t many workplaces that would allow you to watch a film whilst doing business, so to avoid temptation altogether it’s best to not log into Netflix in the first place! If you need a little bit of background noise, try the radio instead.

9 – Daydreaming

Many of us stare into space when we should be working – whether at the office or not – but at home you’ve got your comforts all around you and it’s easy to slip out let your mind wander for half an hour or so.

Avoid it by: Daydreaming occasionally, and for short periods of time, can help you become more focused but use it as a reward rather than making it a regular occurrence – tell yourself that once you’ve finished the task at hand you’ll let your thoughts drift for a couple of minutes… and set an alarm to bring you back to reality on time.

8 – Working from bed

This is a bad habit I’m sure most of us wouldn’t want to admit to, but 27% of the people we surveyed said they often worked from bed. The vast majority of us now own a laptop or tablet we can work from, and this can make the lure of the duvet irresistible. Don’t get too comfy though, or you might find yourself napping through a deadline!

Avoid it by: It might be tempting to luxuriate in bed for as long as possible when you know you don’t have to leave the house to start working, but getting yourself up first thing in the morning and finding somewhere you can sit upright to work will ensure you stay in a productive frame of mind for the whole day.

7 – Making snacks and drinks

Without a set lunch time or designated breaks, you might find yourself snacking or having hot drinks throughout the day. We all need to eat and drink, but preparing these at home can be much more time consuming than pressing a few buttons on the office vending machine.

Avoid it by: At the beginning of the day, decide what time you’re going to have lunch, and factor in a couple of coffee breaks too. Make sure you don’t prepare yourself anything complicated to eat or drink outside of these, and there will be fewer reasons for you to become distracted throughout the day. If you like to graze, prepare enough to keep you going in the morning – or even the night before.

6 – Housework

When you’re in your own space all day, it’s inevitable you’re going to notice the little things that need doing to spruce the place up a bit, and if your partner or family are in at the same time as you, it’s even more likely that you’ll find yourself downing tools and giving the house a deep-clean – even if all you really meant to do was put a load of washing in the machine.

Avoid it by: Choosing a dedicated workspace in your home, and making sure that it’s free of mess and clutter so that there’s nothing that can catch your eye and start you thinking about the jobs to be done.

5 – Staying in your pyjamas all day

Although it might be the ultimate in comfort, staying in your pyjamas all day isn’t conducive to a productive day of home-working. As with working from bed, it might encourage you to take naps or lounge around all day – and even if sitting in your sleep-wear doesn’t actually make you feel sleepy, it’s probably not going to see you in the best frame of mind for getting things done!

Avoid it by: The only way to avoid this really is to simply get out of your pyjamas first thing! Laying out some clothes the night before can make getting dressed in the morning hassle free, and if you choose professional dress it’s more likely that you’ll feel like you’re ready to work.

4 – The TV

35% of those surveyed said that the TV was a distraction when working from home. It’s always a bit exciting to watch daytime TV when it’s not part of your usual routine, but getting stuck into Loose Women at lunchtime can quickly spill over into the rest of your day.

Avoid it by:  Ensuring that your designated work-place doesn’t have a TV in it so that you can’t work and watch at the same time. If you decide to head to the living room and put the TV on during a break, use the timer function that most have now to automatically turn it off at the end of your break, or set an alarm to remind you it’s time to get back to work.

3 – Children

If the kids are about when you’re working, it’s inevitable they’ll provide some distraction. Nearly 50% of the people we surveyed said their children had distracted them from work in one way or another, often by nagging to be played with!

Avoid it by: If you can’t schedule activities to keep children busy while you’re working, it’s worth setting some ground rules for interruptions during the work day.   As one of the advantages of working from home is that you can spend more time with your loved ones, you can’t be too militant about this and younger children may have to share the same space with you, but try and make sure they know you’re busy and that they need to play quietly.  Having a designated working space is a good way of defining that you are otherwise engaged and you would prefer they were quiet.

2 – The internet

With so many of us working online these days, it’s all too easy to sneak a peek at Facebook or do a bit of online shopping when we’re meant to be researching a report or updating the company website. In the office, this might not take up too much of our time – either because of internet restrictions, or the boss looking over your shoulder! But at home your browsing is un-monitored, and before you know it, you’ll be looking up from “five minutes” reading the days’ news to find it’s already 5.30pm.

Avoid it by: There are programmes you can install on your computer that will stop you using certain sites at specified hours of the day. You could use one of these and list any sites you know would tempt you to procrastinate. Additionally, it could be worth disconnecting your computer from the internet for a few hours a day when you don’t need to keep on top of emails or use any websites for work.

1 – Partner interrupting

There might be nothing better than spending the day at home with your beloved, but perhaps not if one of both of you are meant to be working! Almost everyone surveyed said that one of the distractions when working from home came in the form of their partner – from asking with help to find something that’s been misplaced, to the more well-intentioned offering a drink or snack. 75% of people surveyed felt that their friends and family thought they weren’t “really” working when working from home, which could explain constant interruptions from those around them.

Avoid it by: Ensuring you’ve told your partner when you’ll be taking breaks throughout the day, and asking them not to interrupt you outside of these times. You could even plan something nice to do at lunchtime together so that they don’t feel neglected.

Despite the potential distractions, the majority of those we surveyed enjoyed working from home, and with a rising number of over 50s turning self-employed or starting up their own business, it’s something that a lot of us may be doing in the future. There are lots of benefits to working from home – saving time and money are just a couple; being able to spend more time around your family is another advantage to this lifestyle choice. And as long as you can maintain a good work ethic by getting in the right frame of mind for business – which includes dressing the part and having a designated work zone – working in your own space can often be even more productive than working from an office.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.