Human Resources News & Insights

5 telecommuting distractions to avoid

Most employees who telecommute will admit they face some obstacles when they’re trying to work. Here are the top five distractions their managers should warn them to avoid:

  1. Sleeping in — Employees should treat a day of working from home the same as a day of working in the office. That means getting plenty of rest and getting up ready to work.
  2. Unstructured breaks — When telecommuting, it’s much easier to step away from the desk at any time. But workers should stick to their normal break routine when they’re home.
  3. Entertainment — Let telecommuters know: Just because they’re working near a TV doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to work with the TV on.
  4. Family — This can be the toughest distraction to avoid, but telecommuters need to politely tell family and friends that they’re “at work” even when they’re home.
  5. Chores — Seeing a pile of unfolded laundry can make it tempting to stop working, but employees need to learn to save household tasks for after business hours.
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  • How about the internet as a distraction/procrastination tool? You could have added that as point number 6.

  • Andy Frazier

    Mohan, I’d say that’s a distraction that’s not specific to telecommuters – workers at an office have the same problem unless their IT depts. have monitoring or restriction in place….and that is by no means the norm, or even the majority. Most smaller offices don’t even have IT depts., much less proactive ones that watch for things like this.

  • Jason Terhorst

    The IT department should not be policing what workers are surfing, beyond basic porn blocking. I work at a company with ~1000 employees, and the IT department has gotten out of control, attempting to police my behavior, and too many sites are incorrectly marked as inappropriate. In other areas, they also try to tell me why I can’t do something, rather than working to help me solve the problem I’m having. That’s a sign that an IT department is too big and has too much control.

  • Sam

    I have to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th internet as primary distraction. Especially with all of the social media strands out there to follow.

  • Ah yes, those ubiquitous distractions. I’ve worked from home for over a year now and frankly, the hardest part is getting family members to understand you ARE at WORK. I try to be polite, but often my partner just can’t wait to tell me something or have me help with this or that. This is my biggest challenge, actually defining the boundaries of my work-at-home time to my partner.

    I related to them all, and am slowly managing my time better.

    Good tips.

    Happiest New Year Ever!

  • As a telecommuter you really have to be disciplined. Set the rules with your family and yourself up front. The more you abide by a defined structure the more productive you will be. Check out “Life as a Remote User” at http://jasonchristensen.wordpress.com/ the site is a guide to the business and professional development of those who work from home.

  • Greybeard

    Jason seems to have missed part of the new employee briefing — companies hire & pay folks to do the company’s work, on the company’s premises &/or equipment, on the company’s time. The company may (or may not) allow employees some latitude in poersonal use of e.g. company computers if — & if so, because — the company believes it will benefit in some way; but it doesn’t “owe” employees the “right” to surf the net on the company’s computers. If the company does allow it, this would presumably be only during non-work time, and subject to whatever limitations the company might set.

    Employees who believe they have a right to do what they want, without company interference, should consider two points:

    a) if you hire someone to do some work at your home — housekeeping, plumbing, painting, babysitting — how would you react if the person you hired asserted a right to use your computer as they saw fit?

    b) look at the unemployment figures — you’re replaceable.

    There may be some employees so valuable & irreplaceable that a company would tolerate behaviors that would get other employees reprimanded or canned; but in my experience, its seldom those with an “entitlement’ mindset. And in the few exceptions, the primadonna’s co-workers and bosses will be waiting some change in the technology or market to dump him.

  • Mike R

    I suggest that the telecommuter look at the employer as an entrepenuer would look at a client. Keep them happy and record your work for billing purposes. Distractions is a misnomer. In fact, when you focus on the family or the chores or the internet or the TV your GOAL has changed. Nothing wrong with that unless you plan to bill the employer for working on a goal for someone else. It is about planning for your goals and giving some wriggle room for problems and billing honestly.

    By the way, to GRAYBEARD, I AM NOT REPLACEABLE (neither are you). You can get someone else to do my job, but they will never be me.

  • Cindy

    Graybeard,
    How close are you to retirement? One year? Your ideals and opinions are outdated and antiquated. While job vacancies can be filled if you have an employee already in the job and they are doing the job you require of them then you are saving money by keeping them in that job. The amount spent in money and training firing and hiring and training a new employee to make them a valuable, productive employee suggests that you try to work out the situation with the employee to keep him/her on the job. The marxist mentality of “Due it or you are fired” is long gone.

  • Merlynn Bertini

    I believe what often get missed when a company has telecommuting or virtual offices for employees is to clearly set expectations. I spent almost 10 years as a telecommuter, what became an issue for me was “not working” or when my work day ended. I found it was often too easy to keep working and suddenly find it was after midnight.

    If companies clearly set expectations–i.e., employee availability, access, timelines, etc., I have found there are significantly fewer issues as the employee is aware up front of his/her responsibilities and the company’s expectations.

  • Lisa Mayer

    I agree with Merlynn, as I find the home less distracting than the days I am in the office, as a matter of fact, I get more done at home and reserve the days from home to do interviews, etc. I put in more hours on these days and the kids always go to day care/school as if I were not here. You cannot “work” from home without these things in place. I find it hard to stop working on these days, or stop for dinner and take care of the kids but go back to it when all is quiet. It is about discipline and although in many cases it is a privilege, the company also benefits by more hours, i.e., less commute time, and extended hours. Sometimes I wish I could pull myself away to through in laundry, etc.