Steven Coyle said he finds working at home really appealing, but a lot people feel they can’t stay focused. He asked, “Do you have advice on working from home and staying focused? Does having your husband and son there ever get in the way of work?”
Our own Lindsay Bell chimed in and said she has a harder time focusing when her son is home from school or her husband has a day off of work.
For me, it doesn’t matter. If we have company (which tends to happen several times a month) or Mr. D is at home, Jack Bauer and I just go into my office and close the door. My biggest distraction is email, not other people.
Working at Home
Sarah took it one step further. She recommended three things:
- Have a separate office with a door (I agree – the door is huge).
- Invest in some good headphones (I agree – my Bose noise canceling headphones aren’t only great for the plane, but they’re fantastic when other people are around).
- Have snacks (I disagree for two reasons – one, if I had snacks anywhere in my office, Jack Bauer could get to them and two, I’m a big advocate of getting up and away from your desk every couple of hours of so, which going to the kitchen for a snack allows you to do).
Because of the two reasons I listed about snacks, I’d replace it with water. I have a 32 ounce bottle that I fill with water and I have to refill it at least once – sometimes twice – a day. But I don’t have to get up and get more water every hour.
Those aren’t the only reasons working from home might be better than in an office.
Getting Things Done
Jennifer Gosse, the chief marketing officer at Tracky, chimed in with an interesting study about how many times we’re interrupted when we work in an open door (or cubicle) environment.
In the few minutes it takes to read this article, chances are you’ll pause to check your phone, answer a text, switch to your desktop to read an email from the boss’s assistant, or glance at the Facebook or Twitter messages popping up in the corner of your screen. Off-screen, in your open-plan office, crosstalk about a colleague’s preschooler might lure you away, or a co-worker may stop by your desk for a quick question.
Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms. Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction.
We are interrupted every three minutes (sometimes by ourselves by checking email, social networks, text messages) and you wonder why it’s so hard to get things done?!
Focus and Expectations
The experts all say it comes down to focus.
How do you get focus? Have a door, invest in some headphones, make sure you have snacks (and/or water), and turn off the distractions.
In an office environment, it’s hard to turn off the people distractions, but I’d venture to guess your boss and your colleagues will respect your work time if it’s signalled by your wearing headphones.
And, at home, make it clear to any of the people in your home you are not to be interrupted if the door is closed or you’re wearing headphones.
For you, it’s about focus. For them, it’s about expectations.
What about you? Are you able to get more done when you work at home or in the office?