10 tips on how to stay focused at work while working from home

How to stay focused at work

Working from home definitely has its benefits, no commute being at the top of most people’s list. Wonderful though it might seem on paper, the Covid19 pandemic causing a global shift from offices to home working has shown that employees have a hard time adjusting to the new working environment.

Juggling work and home life at the same time, especially if your partner, roommate or other family members are stuck at home as well, can be quite exhausting. Most people struggle with distractions, inability to focus on work and a decrease in productivity.

Still, working from home opens up so many possibilities as long as you can hit the right balance and tailor your work-day according to your needs.

Here are some work from home productivity tips on how to accomplish this balance and how to stay focused at work.

1. Stick to Your Routine

Ah, the perks of working from home – you sleep in, make some coffee, open up the computer and you’re all set, right? Well, wrong. Sticking to a regular morning routine, even if you’re working from home, is extremely important to prepare your mind and body for a day of work. So, set your alarm at the usual time, have a shower, take your dog for a walk or go for a run, whatever you would normally do before setting off for work. This will set the tone for your entire day, you’ll be fresh and focused and your productivity will rise.

2. Dress for Success

Dress for Success
A picture depicting a person working from home

Granted, no one will know if you’re in your PJs while working on that super-important project, but getting dressed for work is another psychological trick you can do on yourself to boost focus and productivity. Researchers from Northwestern University in the US concluded back in 2012 that what we wear impacts our mental state. If we have specific associations about an article of clothing, it affects our psychology. By wearing sweats or PJs, clothes which symbolize relaxation, you might be sending a message to your brain that you aren’t actually working, leaving you more prone to distractions. Make a point of getting dressed for work every morning to put your brain in work-mode.

3. Create Your Home Office Space

Create Your Home Office Space
A picture depicting a home office

Although working from home gives you the ideal opportunity to make yourself as comfortable as possible, giving yourself too much of a cozy setup might be counterproductive. Your sofa might seem like the perfect spot, but it’s far from ideal. A separate room which can be converted into an office would be the perfect solution. However, keeping in mind that not everyone has the adequate space to convert into a full-on office, you should definitely create a distinct work space while working from home as far away as possible from likely distractions. Other than creating the illusion of going to “work”, an office setup would also minimize interruptions from roommates or family members.

4. Clear Boundaries

Speaking of co-habitants, according to a 2008 University of California report, it takes an average of a whooping 23 minutes 15 seconds to fully get back on task following an interruption. Setting up rules and boundaries for the members of your household is therefore crucial. Let them know your schedule and your working hours as well as break times in advance to avoid having to explain to your co-workers why you had to disconnect from a Zoom meeting. Make it a rule for them not to disturb you while you’re in your “office”. You could even make the classic “Do not disturb” sign or use differently colored lights to signal your availability.

5. A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

And a good plan is half work done. The oldie, but goodie – making a to-do list, works wonders, but don’t forget to come up with a time frame as well. Structure your work day and plan tasks, meetings and projects according to your personal preferences and abilities. There are plenty of apps and tools you can use to track time you spend on certain tasks, which can help you be more efficient and plan better. Also, bear in mind the time of day your productivity is at its peak and schedule more difficult tasks for that period.

6. Reward Yourself

Rewards are known to boost motivation and productivity, so you can use them on yourself to get a task or project done more quickly. Implement these rewards in your daily schedule for certain tasks, for example, if I finish this report in half the time, I’ll allow myself some social media time. Or if I manage to complete this project on top of everything else, I’ll sleep a little longer tomorrow.

7. Don’t Forget to Take a Break

Don't Forget to Take a Break

Implementing break times in your schedule is vital. While working from home it’s easy to get carried away with work, since there are no co-workers waving you over to the lunch room or inviting you for a cup of coffee. Scientists have even calculated the formula for taking breaks. It’s called the 52/17 rule and it says that after working for 52 minutes you should take a 17-minute break.

But this ultimately depends on your preference. Set up reminders on your phone or laptop for scheduled breaks and use these times to have a chat with people from home or work, grab a quick bite or a cup of coffee. Also, use this time to get up and leave the “office”, maybe even stretch or do some exercise. You’ll be much more productive, creative and motivated afterwards.

8. Limit Social Media Usage

The phone beeps, you check the latest news and in a few clicks you’re down the rabbit hole, time is lost and you’re still scrolling. Research has shown that people on average check their phones 58 times a day, while 30 of those checks happen during working hours. Most people spend about 1 minute and 15 seconds on their phone each time they pick them up. This means we’re losing 37.5 minutes a day during working hours to our phones (at a minimum).

To stop this from happening block social media content from your phone and computer during working hours. There are several apps you can use for your phone and browser extensions for your computer which will keep you away from these pitfalls. Block all social media sites/apps as well as news outlets or anything that might be tempting and you’ll find yourself wrapping up tasks much faster.

9. Use Tools for Maintaining Focus

If you’re not used to a completely quiet working environment, you can experiment with playing some music in the background during work. Studies have shown that music helps people manage anxiety and become motivated, and there are even playlists designed to increase productivity.

On the other hand, if you need complete silence, consider using noise-cancelling headphones. These could be quite handy, especially if you’re sharing your workspace with other family members or roommates.

10. Stick to Your Working Hours

This is a key one. The lines between work and personal life become easily blurred when you’re working from home. Research has shown that 66 percent of employees are more likely to work nights and weekends when working from home, 49 percent of employees find it hard to keep boundaries between work and home life and 28 percent of employees are starting and finishing work later when working from home.

In order to have a clear line between work and life, don’t forget to set up and stick to your working hours, which is critical for successfully working from home. Yes, one of the major perks of working from home is the flexibility it offers, but by no means should flexibility lead to becoming overworked and overstressed.

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