Working from a home office isn’t all fun and games. There’s more to it than having extra flexibility with your time (like being able to sleep in) and not having to dress up for work. Working from home poses a series of problems, or home office distractions, that can keep a home-based business owner from their work, hurting their productivity. In order to overcome home office distractions, you need to understand what they are so you can plan your own ways to come when you’re working in your home office.
Here are some common home office distractions:
Whether you have a spouse who can’t understand the boundaries of your home office and time at work, or children that demand attention, you have to be prepared to say “no.” It’s often difficult to say no to family, but to run a successful home business you have to know when it’s OK to be distracted and when it’s not. If it’s a quiet afternoon in your office, and the kids want to go to the park, it may be all right from time to time. But if you’re in the middle of a client project and on a tight deadline, you’ll likely have to say no and stick to your work schedule.
Friends and Neighbors
It can be hard for others to understand what it’s like to work from home. Friends who don’t work might stop by expecting you to be able to socialize at a moment’s notice. Again, you have to know when to say no. Some people really won’t understand what your days are like and how important your commitments are until you explain it to them, and others honestly won’t care. You’ll always run into the occasional person who doesn’t consider working at home to be “real work,” making it hard for them to take respecting your boundaries seriously. It’s up to you to enforce them.
If you have attention-demanding pets, you may want to find a way to keep them out of your home office, whether that be simply shutting a door or letting your dog stay outside while you’re taking an important phone call. Having a cat walking across your desk or keyboard can be a bad enough distraction, but it can be worse. Imagine being on a call with your largest client with a barking dog next to you. It screams unprofessionalism. However, if your best are exceptionally well-behaved, they might be comforting company in your home office. If not, you can always spend time with them during lunch or a quick break if they act up when they feel neglected.
It can be hard to ignore the home phone when you’re working in your home office, but you have office hours that you should do your best to stick to. Leave personal calls for personal time. If you’re able to, have a separate phone line installed for business calls, and keep the home phone away from your office space.
Your fridge can be a huge distraction when working in a home office. It’s all too tempting (and too easy) to get up, go to the kitchen, and grab a snack. Try to make it a rule to stay out of your kitchen during your work time, other than a meal break. Take a piece of fruit and bottled water with you when you start to work in the morning to keep the hunger pangs away. You’ll be less distracted, and healthier all at once.
When you’re working for a full-time employer, you don’t have the luxury of being able to pick up and head to a park or go for a walk when the weather’s nice. When working from a home office, there’s little stopping you. One of the biggest benefits of working at home is the ability to pick up and go out if and when you need to. If you’re having a slump in your day, a 10 minute walk outdoors might be just what you need to perk back up and get back to work. Just don’t let yourself be distracted every time the sun comes out, where you spend your afternoons outside instead of working. It’s easy to let the time get away from you.
This post was originally featured on July 3, 2007.