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How to deal with interruptions while working from home

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For a majority of women in the Gulf, balancing life and a career is a big challenge. In fact, in order to meet the objectives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan – which aims at increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% – the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) is planning to create over 1.4 lakh remote jobs for women by 2020.

Working from home is the way forward – a survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that 34% said more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020. But it comes with its own set of problems. The greatest test is the constant interruptions. Doorbells ringing, neighbours dropping in, television noise… Women with children know that one moment, you will be elbow deep in a strategy PPT, and the next, you find your three-year-old has accidentally hit the ‘delete’ button on your machine.

Interruptions aren’t just annoying – they also render your work time more or less useless. A study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, examined what a distraction could actually cost you. While about 82 per cent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day, the study revealed that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for people to get back to the task.

When work and home collide, you also run the risk of looking unprofessional. Take the case of Robert Kelly, the international relations expert who had the misfortune of being uber-interrupted on live TV by his plucky four-year-old girl and nine-month-old boy while being interviewed by the BBC. The kids were so endearing that the video went viral but not every distraction generates this kind of love.

Fortunately, laying down some ground rules when you work from home can help minimize such interruptions:

Communicate with your family

Start by explaining to your family why it’s crucial that you mustn’t be disturbed. Lay down the hours you expect not to be interrupted and the conditions under which an exception can be made. For instance, some people have a ‘blood and smoke’ rule where an exception is made in case of injury or fire. But keep in mind that such blanket rules come with their own dangers (like children taking the rule too literally and not informing you of other equally important emergencies) so make an effort to keep your rule flexible and nuanced.

Use a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign

If you have a separate room for work—which is in fact a necessity for people who work out of home—hanging a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign outside the door reinforces the non-interruption rule and acts as a last line of defence every time your family members feel the urge to walk in and speak to you.

Let your neighbours know

Neighbours often tend to drop in for a chat when they realize you’re at home. While it’s a nice gesture, having to entertain frequent visitors is not so good for your work. The best way to prevent this is to ensure that they know that you work from home. Slip in the fact that you prefer not to be disturbed during certain hours of the day. Some people, however, are oblivious to hints and may need to be told more directly.

Balancing household chores

This is one area that requires some compromise on your part. Since you’re at home, you will be required to chip in with household chores from time to time. Things like answering the door or the telephone and picking up kids from school are all in a day’s work for anyone with a family. When it comes to housework, maintain a schedule that slots out time for both. And don’t try to be perfect. Lowering some expectations is the best way to avoid feeling guilty about letting the housework slide. Also, consider hiring house-help. And enlist the help of others at home. If your partner isn’t keen to share the housework, ask him to manage the children instead.

Clear communication and constant reinforcing of rules, along with a bit of adjustment and compromise on your part, can make working from home a winning career move for you.

Considering joining the work from home revolution? Find a job here.

 

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