Remote Work & Distractions: A BT Futurologist Speaks

A futurologist from BT, Nicola Millard, was recently quoted in The Guardian stating something that we have all known for quite a long time now. According to Millard, ‘knowledge-based workers’ no longer have to work in offices sitting at their desks because they can carry out their work with little more than a computer, internet access and a phone.

We hardly needed to know that, but it’s always good to see that the message about how easy it now is to work remotely is going more mainstream.

And apparently, things are only just getting started.

The ‘Coffice’

One of the things that Millard claimed in the article was that her favourite places to work were coffee shops and airport lounges. She called these types of workplaces the ‘coffice’, a place where you can work and have a ready supply of coffee at the same time. The reason such places are so good for her is because of the fact that she is not working on her own and there is background noise, combined with the lack of any real distractions.

I often find myself working from cafés, bars and other places where I am surrounded by people, and I agree that the lack of distractions that you find in the average office is a blessing for productivity levels.

But even in such environments, work distractions can arise that can get in the way of productivity, and this is one of the biggest problems that remote workers have to deal with.

German Coffee Shop

German Coffee Shop (Photo credit: jrossol)

Avoid Distractions when Working

The Guardian article claims that when someone is interrupted in a task, they can take up to 20 minutes to resume that task properly, especially if it is complicated.

That’s a serious blow to your productivity. So what can you do to reduce the impact of distractions? There are a few things you can consider.

Firstly, you can reduce the amount of time you spend checking your emails. Many remote workers will only check their emails twice a day, or once every couple of hours, rather than having constant updates about new messages arriving in the inbox. Perhaps you could set aside the first half hour of the day to writing all your important emails, and then just check them when you have a natural break in your work.

How about setting yourself productivity bursts of 15 to 20 minutes? Simply set a timer and don’t let anything distract you while you are working. After the time is up, you can have a five-minute break to deal with other things, and then return to work for another burst.

Another option is to simply disconnect from the internet. The internet can be one of the biggest distractions of all, and by switching off or going somewhere without a connection, you can focus on the task at hand rather than constantly feeling the urge to check the latest news headlines or your various social networks.

Enjoy Being a Remote Working Pioneer

Distractions can be annoying, but learning to deal with them will help you to get more out of your remote working lifestyle. And of course, all of the other benefits make it more than worthwhile.

If the BT futurologist is right, more people and companies will soon decide to experiment with working remotely, and we could well see a larger shift towards this way of working in the years ahead. But until then, learn to deal with distractions and enjoy being one of the remote working pioneers leading the way to a new era of working from anywhere.

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  1. Nancy Settle-Murphy
    January 15, 2014

    Hi Phil,

    I have been working at home for 20 years. And try as I might, I am distracted far too much of the time. In fact, I was determined to send a client an email, but then I was waylaid by your post. The good news is that I am in full control of all of my sources of distraction, if only I exercise the will. (Sadly, I am not quite in control of distractions that come in the form of twins who need my attention from time to time!)

    In trying to understand how I could become less distracted and more productive, I wrote this article for readers of my monthly ezine, Communique:

    A few things I do when I absolutely, positively must stay focused: Close the door to the rest of the house. Shut off all sounds on my PC and elsewhere. Turn off my email, and all other non-needed apps. Get rid of the clutter on my desk. And what works best of all: I promise myself a little reward if I finish the task — such as a walk with my dog or kids, a glass of something refreshing, or a chance to read an article or write a letter. Works every time.

    • Phil Byrne
      Phil Byrne
      January 16, 2014

      Hi Nancy, thanks for your comments! Rewards most definitely work, especially to the self.


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