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What are your worst PR distractions?

From chatting to a colleague to the call of the biscuit tin, it seems there are plenty of better things to do at work than actually work! We asked PRs what tempts them away from the daily grind and how they resist these temptations.

1. Home life (solution - go to the office)

Natasha Lawless, account manager at agency Aduro Communications: “Working from home does open you up to the constant life admin reminders however big or small - post office returns, laundry, the excuse to cook a big lunch, sport on TV! There’s also very little space to separate work vs life - If I’m working in my room I’m tempted to tidy or work from bed, if I’m in the kitchen there are housemates, kettles and TVs to try to zone out from. I now have more of a balance, coming into the office on a set three days a week has helped compartmentalise the two, and even though team chats can go off piste now, we can get together with a coffee, this is all part of reconnecting that spark and finding our love and energy for the work we do again.”

2. Your team (solution - time management)

Will Hart, group managing director of integrated agency UNLIMITED Communications: “My biggest distraction at work, if I’m in office, is definitely having my team around me again. And it’s the best distraction to have.  

“It’s so nice to be able to catch up with people and have the opportunity to introduce new staff to the team both face-to-face and virtually.  It has also emphasised the importance of taking time out of the ‘office’ whatever the break might look - they all have a positive correlation with wellbeing, productivity and boosting performance.

“Time management is an important skill to have when adjusting to a hybrid workspace. Lunch-time chats, coffee breaks or after-work socials help maintain a level of much needed socialisation. Those human interactions, combined with a buzz in the office, makes for an energised, productive place to work.”

3. Colleagues (solution - listen to a podcast)

Olivia Bence, digital PR campaign manager at agency Marketing Signals: “One of the biggest distractions for me that stops me working has got to be chatting to people in the office, especially now, as it’s been so long since we last saw each other. This means lots of catching up on life news, lockdown stories and most importantly, any good TV shows to watch. As a result of this, it can mean that it’s very hard to focus on specific tasks when there is a lot of background noise and you also want to join in the office chit chat. One thing that really helps me to take my mind off of work is a really good podcast. I like to listen to comedy ones at the moment. I tend to find a quiet space, put on a podcast for 10 minutes to zone out and then turn it off and focus on the task at hand.”

4. Biscuits (solution - hide them)

Eloise McCormack, PR executive at B2B tech marketing agency Fox Agency: “I have spent most of my professional career working in offices and having a scheduled time slot for my lunch every day. Since working from home, this has changed.I have turned into a continuous grazer, snacking in between calls and even sometimes during. It’s been a real challenge to stop grabbing the biscuit tin or the cereal box, or whatever I can get my hands on. However, I don’t necessarily see my snack habit as a bad thing. Sometimes I find it helps me concentrate when I have a long document to read or gives me a minute to reset myself in between tasks. But, when I have a lot of writing to do it’s a different story. I often ask my flatmates to hide my temptations so I can’t find them until I have finished with my tasks. They’ve found some impressive hiding places and I’ve found that a snack tastes even better when it’s hard-earned.”

5. The media and the phone (solution - avoid them)

Jennifer Hakim, founder of Dare PR and co-founder and editor in chief of online magazine The Spill: “In my experience what stops me from working is incessant emails, and social media mentions - also the news, if I fall into the vortex. So I dedicate specific periods of time during the day with a no email policy (a rule I impose solely on myself for self discipline) so I can write.

“I also do no news/no social media at specific moments during the day so I can really focus on what I'm doing. Setting a timer helps a lot too because no matter what happens, I can't stop what I'm doing until the alarm rincgs.

“I've found calls distracting too so I set my phone on silent or don't pick up if I don't know the number, especially when I don't have a meeting planned - I think the 'always on' culture has completely messed up with our sense of focus so I try to break away from that.”

6. A demanding pet (solution - wait for it to settle down)

Justin Fox, digital PR and SEO outreach manager at education marketplace Candlefox: "For me, the big distraction is my cat Oliver, who is relentless in maintaining his iron paw grip over the house. When it's sunny he thankfully spends a lot of time asleep outside, but when he's awake or the weather isn't as nice, he's constantly seeking attention with a view for food, playtime, or just general acknowledgment of his status.

“In order to get around it, once he's settled down I find that the best way to get my concentration back is to return to my priority list of tasks, as nothing jogs you back into a work mindset faster than a colour coded spreadsheet with certain bits brightly labelled as ‘urgent!’. Having that document always open to function as my reset button and point of reference is always helpful for maintaining some structure, no matter how many times per day it might be disrupted.”

Distractions can be a good thing

Paul Middleton, head of communications at research firm Third Bridge Group: “I wonder if distraction is always a bad thing? Personally, I work in short 'sprints' of intensive concentration (when I literally can't even really hear what's going on around me) - then look up from my screen and take a breath. “Maybe it's to speak to a colleague, pat the dog, or just make a cuppa - but I find taking a moment to reflect or reset helps me see things afresh and find inspiration. My advice is: don't feel guilty about being distracted so long as you can focus and deliver when it matters. We're not accountants - we are creatives and that capacity to innovate comes from seeing the world around us.”

Whilst I have written this I have had family interruptions, snack breaks and had to feed a cat to stop it walking over my keyboard. But like everyone else in this feature, I managed to get the work done in the end!

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