Interruptions seem to be a standard part of working from home. People will call you to talk, children want you to play, and partners don’t always understand that you’re working. It’s time to cut out the unnecessary interruptions when you work from home.
Now there are going to be some interruptions that you can’t completely cut out. This could be the dogs needing to go for a walk (I mean, you work from home with them around for a reason) or because the mailman has a parcel to deliver. There are others that you can completely avoid.
Interruptions to get rid of during the day
Some of the interruptions I’m talking about here include:
- Parents interrupting for a “quick chat”
- Partners not understanding that you’re working
- Children wanting to play (this will depend on age)
- Siblings viewing you as free childcare
- Friends not getting that you’re not a stay at home mom
These types of interruptions are usually from people who don’t understand that you work from home. They see you at home, which means that you must be able to go for coffee, babysit kids, and even just have a natter on the phone. It doesn’t work that way.
The problem is you’ve probably not set boundaries. Sadly, we are partially to blame for these interruptions because we allow them. It’s time to take action to avoid the interruptions and make it clear you are working.
You don’t need to find an office space to do your work if you don’t want. I know some people like the communal workspaces, but I love the benefit of working from home. I don’t want to leave the house and I have dogs to look after when I’m home. It’s not fair on them for me to be out for more than a few hours at a time. So, I’ve needed to find ways to avoid the interruptions while I work from home.
Learn to say “no”
My biggest tip is to learn to say “no.” It’s hard. This is especially the case for women.
We have this tendancy to want to please people. It’s hard to make it clear that we’re unavailable at times. But you need to start learning to set some boundaries.
- When friends call to ask to meet up for a coffee: “No, I’m at work right now. I’d love to arrange for something on a day I’m off.”
- When siblings want you to babysit your nieces and nephews: “No, like you, I’m working. I can’t have children around me when I do that, just like you can’t.”
- When partners come home and want to chat about their day: “No, I’m still working. I’ll talk to you when my work day is over.”
You’re not just saying no to be awkward, but pointing out that you are working. You may be at home, but that doesn’t make your job any less important.
I do find children are the trickiest depending on their age. They see you at home and believe that you’re there to play games. It’s hard parenting and working at the same time. After all, theyre both jobs that need your full attention. This is why my children have been in nursery/daycare from a young age. I get hours in the day where I’m completely child-free, just like I would be if I was in the office.
Ignore the phone
There’s nothing wrong with not picking up the phone. You wouldn’t be able to answer it if you were in an actual office, so why are you answering it now? This is when we do become slightly to blame for the interruptions when we work from home. We allow the people into our working day to distract us.
I’ve started to ignore phone calls unless they have been prebooked, like interviews. The only calls I do answer right away are those from the school/daycare or those from the doctors/dentist. Usually, the school calls are emergencies and I need to pick up my children. When it comes to the doctor and dentist, they’re usually reminding me about an upcoming appointment. The latter could leave messages, but it takes five seconds and I know what the call is about. I always keep these numbers saved in my phone so the names pop up, too.
Numbers that I don’t recognize or friends/family can wait until I’m on a break. If it’s an emergency, they will send a quick text or leave a message and I can phone them right back.
Set your business hours
I recommend having business hours. Make a schedule that everyone understands. This helps to make it clear that you are working on set days and during set hours just like you would if you were in an office.
If you don’t have hours, it’s understandable that people don’t know when you’re working and when you’re not. I understand why people would think that I’m available for coffee or a chat.
I have very strict business hours. When my kids are in school, it’s all about work. I try to avoid anything during those hours except for medical appointments. Then on an evening, I have set hours because of the TV shows I write about. My husband knows that those hours are non-negotiable. The weekends are free. At least, that’s what I’m trying to get to!
When you have set business hours, you can get away with not answering the phone. Or you can quickly answer it and say “I’m working” and call back when you have a chance. You can avoid most of the people who interrupt your day.
I actually have a full schedule throughout the day. I know the hours that I’ll take the dogs for a walk and the hours that I’ll take a break for myself. This schedule is important to also help you get in the right frame of mind and for you to find a balance when you work from home.
Close the door to your office
This isn’t possible for all. I can’t do it. My office is in our den and we don’t have a door on that room. We could put up a curtain and keep considering it, but I’m at a point where I don’t necessarily need this tip anymore. However, if you have a door to your office, you’ll want to close it.
A closed door usually means that you don’t want to be interrupted. It means no knocking, no talking, no distractions. You can avoid most interruptions as people see the closed door and walk away. This can be great for children to understand that they can’t interrupt mommy and must ask daddy, the babysitter, or granny, or whoever else is looking after them for help.
If you don’t mind being interrupted or you’re finishing up for the day, you can open the door. This tells people that they’re allowed in.
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Use headphones to your advantage
One of the easiest ways to completely avoid interruptions is to not hear them. Before I had dogs, I would always “plug myself into the computer.” At least, that’s why my Gran used to call it. I’d have a set of headphones and would have music playing.
The music helped me focus on the tasks at hand. It would help me avoid distractions around the house. The headphones would also tell others that I wasn’t to be interrupted.
Now granted, most of the time that I had the headphones in either nobody was around or my husband was around. As an adult, he knows not to interrupt. I would never do this if I had the children around on my own. I need to be able to hear them. I also don’t do it with the dogs because I need to hear them. It is just an option if you’re alone or you have adults who should be able to respect your work boundaries.
You don’t just have to put up with interruptions when you work from home. It’s time to treat your work like the business that it is. If you were in an office, people wouldn’t be able to bug you, so don’t let them do it because you’re at home working.