Actually, Distractions Aren't a Bigger Problem for Remote Work

As I write the bulk of this post, I'm sat at my desk, tucked in a nook in the dining room of the Grade II listed country cottage I rent with my partner. My 2-year-old cocker spaniel is sat in the window in the next room, observing the sheep as they roam the fields while offering enthusiastic spaniel wiggles to brighten the day of passers-by.

I am at peak productivity. The words are flowing, and nothing can stop me.

Fast forward a few hours.

My first draft is in the bag, and I'm attempting a full edit and rewrite. I sit at the same computer, the spaniel now asleep at my feet, exhausted—I assume, from all the wiggling. However, this time productivity is lacking as distractions are plentiful.

The most prominent distraction is my brother. He decided to visit for a few days and took to the living room while I tried to get some work done.

As I write, he's in the adjacent room, flicking between watching The Kilian Experience Garbage Retrospectives on YouTube, and playing Fifa 2018.

His wild cackles, brim with unashamed enthusiasm as they blend with spewed curses at digital opponents and a pixel-powered referee.

A symphony of noise and rage that blasts through the paper-thin walls like bricks thrown at my concentration face from a foot away.

Fast forward an hour and a newly recharged spaniel joins the party. He zooms around, a rope toy dangling from his vice-like jaw as he play-bows for attention. He barks an inoffensive-yet-attention-seeking bark and parades his toy with a wiggle of hope. I ignore it for a while, but he knows resistance is futile. I cave, and play ensues.

For me, this is the beauty of work working remotely.

The moments between the work that I get to experience, intertwined throughout my day. It's a dream come true.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it. I 100% believe remote work is the future of office work.

I often hear opposition. After the initial jealousy-laced disparagement of remote work as a career move, I get hit with the idea that potential distractions are a problem that only remote workers face. That "if I were working from home, I'd just be watching Netflix all day".

It's true, dealing with distractions is up there with one of the many salient pain points I face as a remote worker, and I know I'm not alone. Each remote worker has their own thing that snaps them out of a productive flow or derails their thought process.

I'm not ashamed to say I've succumbed to the call of Netflix during a mid-morning slump. However, at the same time, as a remote worker, you learn ways of dealing with these distractions effectively.

At this point, I'll forgive you for expecting a listicle of "10 mind-blowing ways to deal with distraction, backed by science". I'm pleased to say that's not my style. Instead, I want to address the idea that distractions are dangerous for a remote worker's productivity.

The truth is, in my opinion, they are easier to overcome than in a traditional office 🙃

Let's face it, distraction happens everywhere, whether you're in an office or sitting at home.

In the office, I spent half my time navigating the politics. I was forced to care about work-social lives of those around me. There were regular interruptions at my desk or those of my immediate colleagues.

I became enthralled in idle office chatter, banter, and pretending not to be terrified while avoiding the finance team after losing the travel receipt from last week's client meeting.

Also, cake. Always cake. Someone's birthday, or a superficial leaving celebration. Or cake because it's "Fat Friday". 🎂

Then there was meeting after meeting after meeting.

An inter-team morning scrum followed an hour or so later by a mid-morning team meeting. A four hour morning rarely had more than an hour and a half of useful time.

It was exhausting to spend so much time not working, in a bid to ensure I was part of a culture I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to be a part of.

Office work forced me to succumb to distraction. As a result, it robbed me of my work time twice. Once at the mercy of some mindless gossip, and then again while trying to catch up at home.

Remote work isn't perfect. Far from it. In fact, if you're not in the right kind of remote work environment for you, it can be a real challenge.

Of course, there are still distractions far beyond that of the traditional office—though it's possible they might be a little more common in startup offices, with their "dog-friendly" policies, pool tables, and nap pods. However, they are much easier to navigate.

When I find myself distracted by the dog's antics, I take him for a walk. If someone wants my attention, I give it. When I hit a block and decide to take a minute to catch up on Stranger Things, I submit.

I switch from work to life, knowing I can and will make up the time later.

Remote work offers balance, because the office never closes. It gives me the freedom to manage distractions in a way that suits me.

I'd love to know how you deal with distractions, either as a remote or office-based worker. Leave me a comment with your tips on overcoming distractions, or tweet me @MattMadeThings 🙃