Tackling distractions in the small office

A small office (or home office) often means a small business, and in small business distractions are rife! You need to take control of the situation and work on reducing both the frequency of distractions, and the intensity. Here are some of the top distractions you are likely to encounter in a small office and what you can do about them:

Turn down the volume

We have covered this before in dealing with Noise and Small Talk In The Small Office. Less noise means less temptation to listen in or otherwise have your attention diverted from the job at hand.

Turn down the phone ringer volumes (and altogether if you have multiple phones ringing in one small office), speak softer, and generally encourage less social chatter during work hours. In a small office just two people talking can (and probably will) distract everyone else in the room. Whatever you can do to reduce the volume will have a profound impact on people’s ability to get work done.

Hold the toast

You know that pop-up message that appears in the corner of your screen when email arrives? That is called toast (as in toast popping up out of a toaster, get it?). You need to get rid of it! Turn off all visual and audio alerts for email so that you aren’t interrupted when new mail arrives, and tempted to go read them.

We also suggest setting your email not to download automatically: force yourself to click the button to grab new mail off the server. Doing so means if you need to get in to your email program to check your calendar, or look at a previous email, you won’t be pulled away to look at new emails arriving.

Email less, Web Less

This is for masters of personal time management, and the effects can be spectacularly good.

Try to cut email down to just a few periods a day. Three periods of 30 minutes each, at most. Think you have too many emails? If you can discipline yourself to clear the boxes in 30 minutes you will find a way to get through it. You might need to write shorter more direct emails, less fluff, and perhaps file all those email newsletters in to a folder to scan through just once a week.

If you can avoid email when you first get to your desk that is also a fabulous habit to get in to. Instead, when you arrive, work on the things that really matter – your priorities. Unless your job is to perform a support role via email, the chances are email is not your #1 priority!

Remove clutter

All those papers, books, stationery, and general ‘stuff’ lying over over your desk should be cleaned up – they constantly strive to have your attention. Check our Ideas On How To Organize A Small Office for a strategy on removing clutter. If office supplies and stationery is your problem you will find some more great tips in How To Organize Office Supplies In The Small Or Home Office.

Environmental distractions

Sometimes you have done all you can in your personal space, but there is something else bugging you, and you just can’t work it out. You feel constantly distracted, fidgety, or inattentive. Perhaps it’s the environment you work in? Look for problems with these items and whether you have the right ergonomics to support productive work:

Furniture placed too close to each other can be a distraction in a small office

  • Chair – comfortable? Correct height and angle?
  • Desk – large enough? Correct height?
  • Proximity – are desks too close to each other? people bumping in to each other when moving about?
  • Light – too much? too little?
  • Color – too bold? or bland and uninspiring?
  • Heating, cooling, and ventilation are also worth checking out to make sure they are all set correctly.


There are probably many more distractions that are common in small offices, so share them through the comments form below and please tell us how you tackled them. We would love to read about your experiences.