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With Remote Work Distractions Are Common, So Adapt

(Editor’s note: Like many companies around the country, York IE has closed its office for two weeks and the entire team will be doing remote work.)

Distractions are common and real, no matter the work environment. This one, for the safety and vitality of humanity, is well worth it.

Just think about your day-to-day in an office environment. Whether it be outside visitors, office tours, meeting room AV glitches, laptop restarts, wifi issues, the chatty colleague, bathroom waits, water cooler gossip, the nagging boss, the barrage of meetings, emails, calls, Slack messages… the distractions exist in all manners across all professions.

The open office concept and popularity is great for collaboration, but also challenges productivity both individually and collectively. With all of that, we’ve learned to adapt and accomplish our tasks, drive returns for our company(s) and grow in our careers, while hopefully finding great personal reward for our work.

In this unprecedented time as the world deals with the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic and we’re confined to our home offices (or home work spaces), some of the above distractions may go away, but a different set of distractions certainly will emerge and permeate this new existence.

There are the kids that need to be kept occupied, home deliveries, noisy neighbors, nagging long overdue home chores, the handyman (or handywoman) needs, the dog that must be walked, the file cabinet that needs organizing, the cat you need to feed, the dishes or laundry piling up, the room that needs to be cleaned, the things that need new batteries… the list goes on and on. We’ll learn to adapt here as well and perhaps drive a heightened level of value from an adjusted type of focus. People will work different hours, find spurts of productivity, learn skills they didn’t know they had, take on new areas of expertise, double down on their core strengths. It’ll certainly be different and take time to feel normal, but it will, and we’ll all be more diverse because of it.

Expectations of your remote work environment
Reality of your remote work environment

Think about the challenges and distractions that also exist if you work for a startup or run one. It all starts with the diverse nature of these roles. While you may have a title or job description that doesn’t really matter. The fact the company is under-resourced, has limited staff, is still figuring out it’s product and go-to-market strategy, means that we’re all asked to take on diverse tasks, bring about outsized returns in our core skill area, and also be a team player and plug into or layer on to colleagues efforts. Maybe it’s as simple as taking out the trash, brewing a pot of coffee. Other times it could be writing a blog post, editing a pitch deck, doing market research, providing product feedback, answering support calls, calling a customer to touch base, or reviewing financial projections. All things that could be viewed as a distraction or a unique new muscle to train and flex going forward.

If it doesn’t completely paralyze you, it makes you stronger. Stay focused when you need to stay focused, distract yourself when you need to distract yourself. Get outside for stretches during the day, go for long walks with your thoughts, do a catch up call with a conspirator, find time to sit alone and breathe – reflect, strategize and look ahead.

Some distractions are well worth it, this time gives us an uncontrollable life experience, it tests our adaptability, it opens up new opportunities and perspectives, and it challenges us all to see the big picture. Stay healthy, play the long game, and scheme for the future – distractions and all.

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