How to stay focused when working from home

As the COVID-19 outbreak became more widespread, millions of employees had to shift to working from home. Although some are now returning to the office, there are still a handful of individuals who are remaining at home to work, whether that be because they are at risk, their offices are staying closed or they simply don’t feel comfortable about returning to the office. Furthermore, with localised lockdowns and an increase in cases throughout Europe, there is always a chance that localised lockdowns will come into force at a moment’s notice.

Working from home can be great. You can set your own hours, take away the commute, dress how you like and work in a way that maximises your productivity. However, if you have never had to work in this way before, it can also be way too easy to get off course when there is no one looking over your shoulder. After all, you’re not in your normal professional business environment, you’re in your personal space which is full of distractions – errands, chores, pets, snacks, family members, TV and even the couch.

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Everybody is different. The key is to draw a line between your personal and professional time. “Working at home brings business and personal aspects of life together under one roof,” said Ellen Williams, founder of The Data Chick. “As a result, it is easy to get distracted when trying to complete business tasks until you are able to separate business and personal. It takes time to get serious about work at home if you’ve never done it before. Working at home is an exercise in learning about yourself. It’s a mindset, so I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for success.”

how to stay focused when working from home

No matter what your work style, these tips will help you stay focused when working from home and, in turn, help you reach your full potential even when you aren’t in your normal work environment.

Create a home office

Arguably one of the most important aspects which will help you stay focused when working from home is to confine your workspace to one area in your home. This can be in a completely separate room if you have the space or in a specific area of a room such as the kitchen which can be cornered off. Granted, the ability to work from wherever is part of the benefits that come with working at home, but a designated area is still highly recommended by experts to stay focused.

Creating a ‘home office’ means that your work won’t intrude on other areas and people in the house. It can be so tempting to go sit on your sofa with your laptop, but this subconsciously takes you out of ‘the zone’ and you are more likely to be distracted by the TV or your phone. Your home office should be a stress-free zone where you can concentrate. Once you’ve found your space, stick to it and only go there for work. Just like your bed is reserved for sleeping, your workspace should be for working.

Stay off social media 

Perhaps one of the most major distractions in the modern day – social media. A quick scroll on your favourite social media platform will turn into a major time waster if you don’t control it. This also includes any media consumption that is not relevant to your work.

Fortunately, with advances in technology and tools, there are ways to avoid the temptation. On both iOS and Android devices there is a screen time feature which helps users get insight into the amount of time they spend on their phone and provides ways for them to restrict the amount of time spend per day on social media and other apps. If you’re on a PC, Google Chrome also has an extension called StayFocused which lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with 10 minutes as the default option. Once the time you have picked is up, the website will be blocked until the next day.

Structure your day

If you don’t know what tasks you are meant to be focusing on for the day, how do you expect to stay focused?

Spend either the first 15 minutes of your day or the final 15 minutes of the previous day to plan and structure your day. This time should also be spent figuring out when you work best and create your schedule based on this. For example, are you more creative in the mornings? Or would this time be better spent in meetings or going through your emails?

Your schedule should also work the way you do. For example, if you prefer having every minute planned, fill up your schedule, even pencilling in break times. Alternatively, if you prefer to go with the flow, write a rough to-do-list and cross things off as you go.

Furthermore, you should try your best to schedule in specific times for breaks. This is because unlike in the office, when we have short breaks for lunch, grabbing coffees and chatting with colleagues, there are no natural breaks when at home, making it difficult to stay focused.

Stay active

Staying active no matter where you are working is important for staying focused. Lack of movement can cause your brain to become sluggish and you will quickly lose motivation. “Your physical health is more at risk than you realize when working from home,” said Peter Vandendriesse, founder and CEO of Guestboard.co. “Even those who sit in an office cubicle still tend to walk a mile or so throughout the day, to their car, out to lunch, and so on.”

Use your breaks to go for a walk or even a run. If the weather is bad, you could schedule in a quick 10-minute fitness class or do some stretching. You may be surprised at how much this gives your brain a boost and helps you to refocus for the next task on your to-do-list.

Keep connected with colleagues

Video conferencing tools have meant that it is easier than ever for colleagues to stay connected with one another from wherever. Ensure you make the most of the capabilities these tools give you so you can maintain regular human interaction and so you still feel a part of the organisation. Therefore, you will feel more motivated and focused on the work you need to complete.

Microsoft Teams, a tool within Microsoft 365 and hub for team communication and collaboration has been used by many in business to help workforces stay connected face-to-face, even when they can be with each other physically. The platform has easy to use video conferencing features as well as integration with Outlook, meaning that you can schedule in video calls with your employees. The ability to video call is so beneficial in times like these as you can be as communicative as you would when in the office with your colleagues no matter where you are working.

Dress for success!

While there is no need for you to dress as if you were going to an important corporate meeting, actually getting dressed is essential. The clothes you wear will have an impact on your performance and if you remain in your PJ’s or sweats, you may feel like you aren’t really working, leaving you more open to distractions.

“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it's 'professional work attire' or 'relaxing weekend wear,' so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.” Said Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

Wear what is comfortable for you, but also consider what will make you feel as if you are working as this will help keep you focused and on task.

Stay focused, stay productive 

Staying focused can be a challenge in any environment, let alone amidst a global pandemic. No one is expecting you to be focused every second of your workday. However, by incorporating the tips listed above and with a little time, persistence and restructuring, you will become more productive and efficient a day at a time.

Localised lockdowns are becoming an increasing possibility, making the need for the right tools to help you stay focused when working from home a must. Microsoft Teams will provide you with several features that help you schedule in time to stay connected with your colleagues from wherever. At the entrust IT Group, we can help you implement such solutions and offer advice on how to get the most from them.

Are you struggling with getting started with Microsoft Teams? Download our FREE Guide >>

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