I was about to get on an important client call. I’d done my research, gotten my coffee, and was ready with some thoughtful questions. Then I heard it… the leaf blower. It got progressively louder, as the landscaper walked closer and closer to my office window, revving up to a full roar, just as my Zoom meeting began.
At that moment, I found myself fuming at the well-intended landscapers, who were just trying to do their job; Landscapers that I hired, paid, and am immensely grateful for suddenly became the bane of my existence. Could they not read my mind that I was about to hop on an important call? But alas, they were as focused on their work as I was trying to be on mine. (Sidebar, if anyone wants to invent a silent leaf blower, consider me an investor).
Screaming kids, barking dogs, or the construction across the street can feel like a personal attack when you’re trying to work. Here are four tips to help:
Get noise-canceling software.
Having noise-canceling software you trust might not make it any easier to focus, but it will reduce your anxiety that others are hearing whatever chaos is on the other side of your laptop. Personally, I double up, using both Krisp and the auto-noise canceling feature on my iMac. I’ve virtually keynoted during a home renovation. Trust me, it works. Test it before you need it, so you have confidence when it’s show time.
Explain…and re-explain the work boundaries to your kid.
Growing up, my three younger siblings and I were less than quiet children. One evening, my mother was about to make a phone call and my father looked at us kids and said, “Your mother is about to get on the phone. Should I go ahead and send you to your rooms now, or wait until you interrupt her?” Because he knew, it was inevitable. Kids just know.
Spring break is upon us. If you’re working from home with children, you must define a workplace boundary. Kids do best with visual, physical boundaries, like a door. If having a door that defines your workspace isn’t feasible, literally tape out a square on the floor. And if you had a toddler, I’m sorry… Just try your best. Or, skip to the next tip.
Leave. Even if you just hide in your car.
Working from home usually just means you need WiFi and a laptop, no fancy office required. I can tell you from personal experience, if you park right out in front of your house, your car can be a quiet respite with a decent enough internet connection. I can also attest, that the Wi-Fi at most Best Buy’s reaches way out into to the parking lot. Thanks, Geek Squad. No more awkward Starbucks whisper Zoom meetings.
Remind yourself, it’s happened to everyone.
Trust me, you’re not the first person to have a work-from-home snafu. Just ask the guy whose kid interrupted his BBC interview (thank you for foreshadowing our future back in 2017) or the lawyer who couldn’t remove the Zoom ‘cat filter’ during virtual court. When it’s happening, sometimes it feels like time moves in slow motion, and that everyone is judging you immensely. They’re probably not. In some cases, it’s best to just explain what’s going on and deal with it as best you can. Chances are, they’ve been there too.