…and the IDEAL solutions to help you stay focused when working remotely
This just in; we are one distracted workforce. A survey recently published in HR Director Magazine reveals a list of what has British home workers ‘shirking from home’ most often during this extended, Government enforced period of home working, and it makes for all too familiar reading from where we’re sitting.
Yep, we realise this irony of bringing this up whilst you’re most likely distracted from your deadlines reading it, but we’re on a roll now, so stay with us. Otherwise, we’ll likely get sidelined, too.
Where were we? Ah yes! Distractions…
Fortunately, wisdom comes from experience, as the old saying goes, and as such we’re in a privileged position to reveal the ideal solutions to what’s got you doing anything but your work. With that in mind, here are 7 of the worst working from home distractions and the IDEAL solutions to help you stay focused.
CLEANING THE HOUSE
It comes as no surprise that ‘cleaning the house’ tops the list of most common distractions for lockdown home workers. We must confess that we got up in the middle of writing that sentence to dust a shelf, and evidently, we’re not alone. Cluttered desks and a sink full of dishes can be incredibly distracting when you’ve deadlines to meet, and it’s best to stay on top of the cleaning so it doesn’t eat into your day and sap productivity.
But how to stay on top of it when there’s always a speck, spot or blemish lurking in your peripherals that needs seeing to? Well, firstly, in such cases, out of sight really is out of mind. Designate a specific place for working away from ‘mess’ and other distraction, physically fenced off from chores.
You should also fence off your time from doing chores, setting aside a short, strict window each day for when you tidy up, comprehensively. Half drunk coffee mugs and half finished crowsswords are simply not conducive to a productive day. With the prospect of cleaning far more imposing than the actual effort given to doing it, you’ll find real benefits in taking 10 – 20 minutes out of each day to make sure your space is clear of clutter and dirt before you begin work. It’s about entering the minimalist zone, trying to get rid of any and all distractions that threaten to take your eye off the work in hand. Because once you lose focus, it can be difficult to regain it.
CHECKING SOCIAL MEDIA
Checking social media is another huge distraction for home workers. And here’s some totally unsurprising but still fascinating research; studies have shown that even just seeing your phone nearby can mess with your concentration, with the temptation of doom scrolling, connecting with friends and arguing with strangers too much to resist if you’re even reminded of your phone’s existence.
First things first, then, is to make sure you place your phone away from your eye line when you’re working, preferably in the other room if you don’t need it for completing tasks or receiving work related calls. Having a separate phone dedicated only to work, without any social media apps installed, can go some way to helping with the distraction of Instagram, Twitter et al, too.
Now that your phone’s placed out of sight, mind and reach, it’s a wise move to log out of (or delete!) all of your social media accounts on your laptop or desktop, making impulsive, mindless clicking and checking more difficult to do. Ideally, you’ll change the password to something impossible to remember which only your phone logs, not your work computer. Though this might seem drastic, smartphones and social media are deliberately addictive, and somewhat extreme measures are necessary to prevent you from losing your whole day to them.
The lure of online shopping has also been listed as one of the main distractions for home office workers during the coronavirus pandemic. With retail currently shifting its focus online, and bricks’n’mortar shops primarily closed, the pull of Amazon, H&M and others can feel greater than ever.
Rather than having your shopping cart tab open all day and tinkering with it constantly, allocate a specific, short ‘browsing window’ each day when you get your shopping done. To prevent the impulsive purchases stacking up (so easy to do online), experts recommend leaving a 24 hour window before you actually click ‘buy’, allowing you to sleep on the decision and consider it more laterally. Should your online shopping tendencies verge on the uncontrollable, then freezing your card each morning (available on most mobile banking apps) can serve as a jolting reminder to think twice before spending.
SNACKING & TOO MANY TEAS
How many times have you looked in the fridge today? Suddenly, the office kitchen is a only few steps away, full of all your favourite snacks (without the need to label them) and free from another awkward intrusion of your personal space by Derek from IT. The temptation for home office workers across the UK during the pandemic has been to spend more time in the kitchen and less at the desk, in the name of both distraction and deliciousness.
Like most people working from home right now, we’re guilty of opening the fridge door whenever we’re feeling bored or stressed, whether we’re hungry or not, and indulging in zombie-like mindless munching. Here at IDEAL, we’ve been prone to making a sandwich when we’re suffering from writer’s block. If we’re dealing with a tricky client (you know who you are), we need a cup of green tea and a biscuit to soothe our nerves. Or, if we’ve just landed a new advertising client, well, that calls for a walk to the shop and a celebratory snack. Indeed, it’s hard to resist the call of the refrigerator, especially when we’re working from home.
Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re all for snacking. However, there are specific snacking practices you should follow when working from home, which when done right can keep your body healthy, happy, satiated, and your mind distraction free.
Set meal times can help keep your cravings at bay and your belly satisfied, making you less likely to turn to snacks. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a key defence against snack cravings, too. Consider creating a snack box full of healthy bites like carrot sticks, edamame beans and nuts. Finally, if you feel like you need a break, step outside, take a walk and have a proper break to clear your head instead of one simply to fill your belly.
According to a report by the Independent, more than a fifth of Brits are now cooking every meal from scratch, compared to just one in eight before the lockdown. Indeed, many of us are finding comfort in cooking, which is a wonderful thing. However, whilst our meals have certainly benefited, our productivity hasn’t.
To enjoy wonderful homecooked food but still keep on top your deadlines, it’s wise, then, to do some carefully meal planning and prep, and batch cooking at the weekend, freezing food for later in the week. Check out our IDEAL strategies for meal planning for some really useful advice on doing just that.
THE PULL OF VICES
Well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world…
Working from home, away from the prying eyes of management and the expectation to uphold the company’s proud image has left many of us tempted to let ourselves go. The pull of vices, particularly having a cheeky drink with lunch and smoking with abandon at our desks, has certainly felt strong in these troubling times.
But succumbing to urges and impulses is unlikely to help you tackle this topsy turvy 2020 with the clear head it requires. As such, it might be beneficial for work based productivity to not keep booze in the house during the working week, and in terms of your health, prioritise less harmful alternatives to smoking, too.
According to the NHS, a landmark study found that ‘’long term vaping (is) far safer than smoking.’’ Though of course the health benefits are welcome, switching will also mean you don’t have to step out to have a cigarette each time that craving hits, helping productivity, too. Modern vapes like JUUL are sleek and portable, and if you feel like working outside in the garden, or in the kitchen, you can.
However, you should be aware that vaping is not entirely risk-free, and the fluids still contain harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, although at lower levels. Other nicotine replacements are effective, and more medically approved too. These include gum, nasal spray, lozenges or an inhaler.
Finally, the seduction of switching on the TV for ‘just one episode of Friends’ or to check in on the news has got the UK shirking from home rather than working in 2020.
It might sound counterintuitive, here, but taking more breaks and striving to make the most of them is the best way to counter TV’s temptation. Indeed, studies have shown that ‘’a series of microbreaks can have a powerful effect on your mind’’.
So, take regular, more meaningful breaks, set them at a specific time each day, and use that time to exercise, study a language, go for a walk, do a yoga session… the trick here is to maximise the potential of break time to get refreshed, reinvigorated and regain focus; and let’s face it, TV just isn’t doing that.