At the start of 2020, most corporate workers would’ve jumped at the chance to escape the mundane reality of office life and instead work from the comfort of their own homes.
Well, their wishes were granted when COVID-19 brought the world to an abrupt halt and forced society as we knew it to cease. Shops closed, schools shut their doors, and – best of all – working from the comfort of your bed became an order.
It was great for the first week or two; pyjama bottoms every day, snacks on tap, no awkward small talk at the water cooler about how your weekend was. Bliss. At least it was, but not so much anymore. It turns out, humans are social creatures and generally thrive when surrounded by others – even if it is in an office.
Working from home can pose many problems, including:
- Social isolation
- The blurring of work and home life
- Communication and workflow issues
Whilst these are all significant problems, perhaps the biggest one is the fact that many people struggle to stay focused and on task whilst at home. There’s no managerial pressure or eagle-eyed co-workers keeping an eye on what you’re doing, and this allows the procrastination part of your brain to run wild. Whilst this is annoying for employees, for employers it only adds to the list of potential long-term implications of working from home.
Of course, there are people who prefer working at home and who are doing an exceptionally good job at it, but if you’re not one of those people and are struggling to keep your brain in gear, here are three tips to help you stay focused and on the ball.
1. Bring the office home
Prior to COVID-19, very few people had to think about having a home office because they were living the 9-5 dream and kept their work, at work. If you’re one of these people, you probably dreamt of working from your bed where it’s cozy, warm, and comfortable. Well, it turns out, there’s a reason why employers don’t replace your office chairs with beds, and that’s because it’s not productive.
Your eyes might feel heavy and you run the risk of associating your bed with work. This could mean your brain struggles to switch off and rest which – in turn – leads to insomnia. This is detrimental to every aspect of a person’s life, least of all their work.
For this reason, making room for a dedicated workspace is well worth it. Whether it’s transforming a spare room into a home office or simply adding a desk to the corner of your bedroom, having a place solely for work will help you separate your work from your downtime, and it will ensure you remain organized and focused on the task at hand without taking it to bed with you.
2. Dress the part
Clothes affect your mood. Fact. If you’re feeling down, putting on a nice outfit and doing a bit of grooming can greatly increase your confidence and how you see yourself. If you wear your pyjamas all day, you might feel lazy and relaxed, whereas putting on formal clothes can perk you up and get you in a working mindset.
If you’re struggling to maintain your focus whilst working from home, getting ready for work as you would do if you were heading into the office could help. There’s no need to trot around your house in stiletto heels, but a tailored dress or a shirt and trousers could help your brain realize it’s time to work.
Also, getting ready for work eliminates the mild panic that comes when an impromptu Zoom meeting is penciled in and you’re rushing to find a comb and change out of your onesie before accepting the call.
3. Stick to a schedule
If you overwork yourself, it’s natural that you’re going to burn out and lose focus. Likewise, if you see working from home as an opportunity to start running errands, you’ll quickly find your quality of work slipping. For this reason, implement a strict schedule.
Make sure you start work on time and clock out when you’re supposed to. Don’t fall into the habit of “five more minutes” before you finish up for the day (or before you start your day for that matter). Keep to your allotted lunchtime and make an effort to keep away from your computer whilst on your break. In addition, taking 10 minutes each day to have a chat with your co-workers will help bring back the social element of working.
Don’t be afraid to put the washing on whilst you’re working, but don’t start doing deep cleans during the working day. At the same time, don’t schedule catch-ups with friends and family either. Limit your availability in the same way you would if you were in the office, but remember it’s okay to tend to your children and pets or put on a load of washing, too.
For most people, working from home is a complete shock to the system and it’s a learning curve that we’re all experiencing together. There will be things that work for you and things that don’t, so finding your balance might take some time. That being said, ensuring you stay in the right mentality by working from a desk, dressing the part, and sticking to a schedule will go a long way to giving you some sense of normality whilst keeping your quality of work at a high, focused, and productive level.