Having a home office might sound like the best thing ever. But after a little while, the novelty of rolling out of bed and into the virtual boardroom wears thin. Sound familiar?
A major struggle faced by remote employees is the sheer number of distractions they’re up against. Spouses, children, or housemates don’t go away while you’re in your home office. Many of us have seen the proof on TV when a virtual interview gets gatecrashed by the interviewees’ own offspring.
Despite these difficulties, it isn’t impossible to be as productive at home as you are (or were) at work.
Sitting down and taking stock of the day-to-day trials and tribulations you’re struggling with can give you a clearer idea of what changes you need to make.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got nine great tips to minimize distractions and maximize productivity.
Related: Top Productivity Apps for Working From Home
1. Get To The “Office”
It can be extremely tempting to treat working from home as a holiday of sorts. But doing so can backfire—fast. Starting your work day minutes after waking up isn’t conducive to a productive morning. Neither is working in bed. As for pajamas, they can be a little too comfortable if you’re trying to stay alert and engaged.
You need to put yourself in an office mindset, even though you’re at home. Use your home office for work only. Don’t spend free time there and try to avoid zoning out while “at work”—you don’t have colleagues at home who can nudge you back on track.
2. Create Peace and Quiet
Working in an office isn’t necessarily peaceful or quiet.
But at home, it’s much easier to become sidetracked by noises you don’t hear in the office. Birds in the garden, barking dogs, noisy housemates and screaming children can all become hugely distracting.
These sounds can be a constant reminder that you’re not really “at work”. Apart from being disruptive during meetings, noises constantly pull your attention away from the emails and tasks you’re busy with. Dealing with this issue requires a manifold approach.
Asking housemates to tone it down and trying to keep children occupied can help to some degree, although sometimes using a pair of noise-canceling headphones is the best solution.
3. Pick The Right Office Location
The location of your home office ties in with our previous two issues: keeping work at work, and diminishing noise disturbances. If your office is right next to the kitchen or living room, you’ll be contending with the noise of family or housemates most of the time.
It’s better to choose a room that is usually quieter and has a proper door to keep distractions out as much as possible.
4. Use Anti-Distraction Apps
There really is an app for everything, and that includes eliminating distractions and enhancing your focus. If you find that you’re not always disciplined enough to stop yourself scrolling through Facebook and Reddit, you need a distraction blocker. You can adjust these apps’ settings to ensure you don’t get distracted when you’re working.
If focusing is a challenge, then an app that promotes deep focus will help you to increase your productivity and stay on track. Whether it’s timing tasks, creating to-do lists or listening to scientifically proven focusing music, there’s an app to meet your needs. And if you prefer ambient noise that helps you boost your creativity, you’ll find apps that offer a selection of sounds that range from the hum of a coffee shop to the roar of a campfire.
5. Stick to Your Schedule
Before COVID-19 and the switch to remote working, arriving at the office at 8 am signaled the start of the workday. For the next eight hours, you were at work, and although you might’ve gotten distracted from time to time, your environment always pulled you back into “work mode” sooner or later. At home, it’s easier to become sidetracked.
Before you know it, you’ve spent two hours zoning out.
Doing dishes, making a snack and catching up on the news can eat up time at an alarming rate. The best way to address this is to set up a thorough and detailed schedule and treat it as you would a regular day at work.
6. Dress the Part
Business on top, party on the bottom, has become a reality for many people working remotely. After all, you’re not actually at work, so why does it matter if you spend the day in your pajamas?
Prioritizing physical comfort to such an extent, however, can dampen your motivation to get tasks done and keep you in home mode. You don’t need to wear a three-piece suit in your home office, but keeping things looking professional will encourage you to stick to your usual work schedule.
7. Plan YourLunch
When you worked in an office, you either took a packed lunch or bought something during your lunch hour. At home, going to the kitchen to make yourself something to eat can become an hour-long diversion that eats into your afternoon schedule.
Make your lunch before you start every morning, or make up your mind in advance to go out and buy a sandwich at the local grocery store.
8. One Thing At A Time
There aren’t many people who can multitask successfully. In an office environment, it’s possible to keep track of a few things at once. But working from home is a totally different beast.
Multitasking from your home office often means stretching yourself over two domains and results in mental and physical exhaustion. Chores like drying dishes or popping out for groceries will draw your attention away from your work tasks. At the same time, trying to take care of everything at once means that you’re not actually present in your home life.
9. Ditch Your Mobile Browsing Habits
Even people working on-site get distracted by mobile devices. At home, you’ve got no one looking over their shoulder when you lose focus browsing through Facebook or Instagram.
Having your phone nearby might be necessary, but it can be helpful to put it on silent. This way, you can avoid any social media notifications vying for your attention. Alternatively, log out of all your social media platforms during the day and only log back in when you finish work.
If you find yourself browsing on your PC because your mobile is out of bounds, use a different browser for work and home life!
Working remotely has its perks and its pitfalls. You might feel relieved that the pressure to perform in front of colleagues has gone, but be careful that your motivation doesn’t disappear with it.
Getting your head in gear is half the challenge.
Working remotely requires a certain mindset, and it can often be difficult to stay on track. These nine tips are a helpful starter kit to ensure that your professional life doesn’t suffer when your home becomes your office.