Last week I found myself in the middle of a crisis. The air conditioning in my house went out. Considering that my home office is in central Florida and it’s the hottest month of the year, a broken air conditioner qualifies as an office emergency. I immediately dove for the nearest phone and called the property manager. In this case, the property manager happens to be my wife who was in her home office on the second floor of our house.
“The AC is out,” I said.
“So why aren’t you fixing it?” she replied, then paused for a few seconds before adding, “I can still hear you breathing. Why are you still on the phone and not outside fixing the air conditioner?”
I hung up the phone. Customer service has really gone downhill.
Thirty minutes later I’m in my garage with a cell phone pressed into my ear while working a ShopVac and holding a few screws in my mouth. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the intent of the “multi-tasking” requirement mentioned in my job description. Finally, I apologize to the co-worker I was talking to on the phone and promise to reschedule. With only one task to focus on I begin to think about all the other potential distractions that come up when one works from a home office.
When I first started working from home fulltime, people would say, “You’re so lucky. I wish I could do that.” For the most part, I love working from home. I feel more productive and my quality of life is much higher than when I worked in an office. But let’s be real, it’s not all roses. I have young children (does anyone else support year round school?) and large dogs (yes, I am that guy on the conference call with the barking dogs). The dogs scare everyone but the daily solicitors that knock on my door. My home office is near the front door, a high traffic area. And other distractions, from air conditioners to plumbing induced flash floods, all conspire to interrupt my work day. If you work from home, plan to work from home, or manage others that work from home, here are some things that I keep in mind:
- Recognize the distractions. I think many people start working from home with overly optimistic expectations. Think through the potential issues that may arise or the daily, common distractions you could face. Knowing the potential challenges will help you plan around them or find ways to mitigate.
- Talk with your family/roommates. If you are living with anyone, you may want to sit down and discuss your working arrangement. Set some boundaries. When I get upset due to interruptions or loud noise in the house, my wife likes to say, “this may be your office, but the rest of us have to live here too.” Conflict can be avoided if you keep the lines of communication open and talk through where the line is drawn between work and personal matters.
- Check your home office. Your home office can help isolate you from potential distractions. Is your home office a separate room or are you sharing a common room? Is it near a high traffic area? Check the ergonomics. What about the office furniture and basic equipment? All of which can help facilitate a productive work environment.
- Stay focused. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts. Not everyone is cut out to work from home. It requires some self-discipline, self-motivation, and goal setting. Those that are effective at working from home are outcome oriented. They keep their eye on the end state and can work around the issues that come up to get results.
- Be flexible. Things happen. You can’t get completely derailed by problems that pop up from time to time. Don’t waste too much time getting frustrated. Work through the challenges and get back on track.
Later, with the AC back on, I settled back into my home office and picked up the phone to call the home office chef.
“Hey, do you think you could make me lunch?” I asked.
I heard a ka-click sound followed by a dial tone. Someone really needs to talk to management about the poor customer service.