Avoiding Distractions for Telecommuters

by Kim Turnage

January 30, 2019BlogEngagement

If you’re like the vast majority of workers — 70% based on a survey by IWG — you work from somewhere other than your company’s office at least one day a week. Other research  from Stanford suggests telecommuting boosts productivity while reducing both turnover and costs for organizations.  But working from home (or your local coffeeshop) has its limitations: distractions 

At Talent Plus, about 25% of our associates live and work in places other than our Singapore and Lincoln, Nebraska offices. Our extended community associates telecommute every day of the week. I happen to be one of that 25%, and I’ve been working this way for a decade. Today we’re sharing a compilation of best practices for avoiding and overcoming some of the distractions that are unique to working from home: 

Rosemarie Hamilton — Transcriptionist 
Set a schedule as if you were leaving home to go to an office. Stick with that schedule until you finish your work. If possible, have a dedicated office space at home where you do your work. This helps you to keep a work mentality and away from distractions throughout your home.  

Scott Whiteford — Director, Leadership Consultant 
First, I have the personality characteristics to make working remotely a possibility. I work almost all the time — regular hours, nights, weekends and holidays. When I’m not with my family, I am working (because what we do is my hobby). Of course, this doesn’t directly have to do with working remotely; it’s my personality. This is conducive to being successful away from the office. 

Second — and probably most importantly — I have an office outside my house, which has been the case for about 90% of my time at Talent Plus. Every day, my morning routine is the same as if I were in Lincoln. I dress up, drive to my office and work from there. I keep all my standard work items at the office. Just as importantly, I keep very little (if any) “home” items at the office. The only difference between my office and the Lincoln office is that I don’t get to interact with my coworkers (whom I miss), and I usually wear jeans rather than slacks. 

Ann Mary Oylear — Global Interviewer
I have a good-sized, clean, quiet, unshared work station that is a no cell phone zone. All my materials for work are close and each within arm’s reach. 

I eat breakfast before I start, even if I have an early morning, and I always keep coffee or water with me. I schedule breaks to refresh, relax and refuel. 

When I’m with a client, I never have an email screen up so I can devote my full attention to that person. 

Jess Karo — Management Consultant 
Talent: It starts with talent. You have to be a focused and disciplined person.  

Lists: I schedule every minute of my day. I use my calendar and a written list. If I have a cancelation or if all my primary objectives are done, I refer to my list of lesser priority items. I review my list before leaving each night and look at the next day to ensure I am prepared and can hit the ground running.  

KPIs: Measuring my performance is a driver. I want to know I was highly productive and one of the top producers on our team. I look at our KPI dashboard a lot! 

Clean Office: I am not an organized person, but I like things clean. I need a nice environment that is conducive to productivity.  

Closed Door: I eliminate distractions. When I start work, that is my focus. I don’t let all the distractions at home deter me. 

Bonnie Forst — Transcriptionist 
I set up regular work hours and let my friends and family know about these. They know not to call me or text me unless it is something that can’t wait.  I let unknown callers go to voicemail. I can’t tell you how many free trips and credit card deals I have missed by doing this!  I strictly avoid personal email, shopping, Facebook and other online distractions during work hours.

Cecily Sweet — Leadership and Management Consultant 
I schedule out blocks of time with mini-breaks throughout the day and wait for a break to get up and do things like refill coffee or grab a snack.  

Working remotely can be lonely so I try to text or call someone for fun each day to take care of my need for social interaction. 

Changes of scenery are also required. I have a coffee shop in my neighborhood and will work from my gym in its work space if I am feeling too distracted or cooped up at home. 

Mitch Srail — Global Interviewer 
Reducing distractions as a remote worker has been a continuous journey of adjustments. A dedicated office setting and comfortable chair are important. Also, after years in business talking about the importance of an open-door philosophy, I learned at home a locked office door is a must.  

I removed things from my environment that take attention away from the task at hand.  I put my cell phone on mute, remove electronic distractions and even moved the bird feeder from the window in front of my office.  

Finally, when working from home, I found I was constantly thinking of home to-do lists while in the familiarity of my home office surroundings. Working on my home to-do list during the times when I would otherwise by commuting or breaking for lunch at the office helped relieve this distraction. By the way, the actual to-do list now resides in the kitchen, not in my home office. 

Roxie Elwood — Analyst Support Team Member 
In the morning, I get up and get ready for work — and although I may not be as dressy as if I were going into the office, I don’t wear pajamas or sweat pants. This helps me get in the right frame of mind. 

I have a room that is dedicated as a work office only. I keep it neat and organized, just as I would if I were working in the office. I also personalized it so it’s very warm and welcoming and one of my favorite rooms in the house. I love being in there. 

My TV, personal computer, radio and other electronic distractions are all on a different floor of the house. 

We all want to hear from you!  

  • How often do you telecommute?  
  • How does working remotely impact your productivity compared to working in the office? 
  • What tips and tricks can you share for minimizing the distractions of working at home or in a remote location?