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Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet

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Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet
    A sign like this at your desk just doesn't cut it.

    While distractions come at us every day, the moments of silence get fewer and fewer. Noise is everywhere, while quiet is almost nowhere. Fittingly, quiet moments have gotten really quiet in promoting themselves, while the noisiest places seem to blast their locations out louder than ever.

    If there’s one thing you most certainly need when you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s quiet. And since there’s so little room for quiet in the world these days (or so it seems, with 24 hour news cycles and a firehose of information optimized for anytime access known as the Internet), it’s no wonder that productivity can slow to a crawl.

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    There are several ways to take back those moments of quiet – some can be done from the realtive comfort of your desk, while others require an escape from the everyday. You may only need to step back from the barrage of noise for a moment to see marked improvement in your productivity or you may need to remove yourself from the environment altogether.

    But what if you need some quiet while working? Here are three ways that can get you closer to the sound of silence – and much closer to getting what you want to get done…done.

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    Use Headphones

    I used to work with a colleague who placed headphones on his ears for a great deal of the day, especially when he needed to focus. But he never played any music in them. He put them on his head to get the quiet he needed (and craved) and unless you knew his work habits, you assumed he was listening to music all the while. It was a clever tactic and it kept external noise – and people – at bay.

    Another strategy would be to actually play music through the headphones. Music can be a great motivator for some, so using it to keep you on track and singularly focused is a great way to get the quiet you need and deserve. Classical music or soft jazz can be a form of “quiet” for people, as it keeps distractions away. Sometimes quiet is just less noise. Headphones gives you the chance to get as little noise – and as much quiet – as you want.

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    Use the Door

    If you’ve got one, use it when you feel the need. A closed door is the universal sign of “don’t disturb me”, and you can further that meaning by explaining to your co-workers that when your door is shut that they shouldn’t even bother knocking.

    Now…if you keep your door closed much of the workday, then this tactic won’t exactly cut it. Pulling off this kind of escape from noise usually requires you to have an “open door policy” for much of the time. It’s hard to tell your colleagues to refrain from knocking on your door when you have it shut so often. You may want to try opening your door more often in this case – you may find that you can get work done with an open door that doesn’t require a lack of noise. And when you close your door you (and your colleagues) will know that it’s time for you to get down to some really focused work.

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    Kill Alerts

    Turn off every single notification you’ve got. Mute the phone. Turn off the visual notifications. Silence your computer. Don’t let anything detract you from the quiet atmosphere you’ve created. Get rid of the audible clutter (removing the visual clutter isn’t a bad idea, either) and you’ll find that the noise you’ve got in your workday may be bearable going forward. Bearable enough that it seems quiet by comparison.

    How do you grab a much-needed break from the noise while at your desk? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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