21 working-from-home tips to keep you focused

By Hannah Kingston

Wednesday August 26, 2020

woman-working-from-home

In need of some working-from-home tips to keep you focused and your workflow efficient?

Coronavirus has been the ultimate buzzword of 2020, the pandemic has meant that the majority of public sector workers find themselves working from home. 

According to a survey by Redbank Connect which asked respondents to describe their experiences of working from home and their views on working from home into the future. The survey found that 28% of respondents would want to work from home full time permanently, 20% would like to work from home 3-4 days per week and 39% want to work from home a couple of days per week.

Here are 21 working from home tips to keep you focused:

  1. Ask for what you need from the get-go 
  2. Make sure that you have the right tools to get the job done
  3. Set a strict work schedule and stick to it 
  4. Get away from screens on breaks and during down-time
  5. Craft your pre-work routine 
  6. Set up a dedicated workspace
  7. Walk away from your dedicated workspace, regularly
  8. Work in small consistent blocks 
  9. Keep lines of communication open
  10. Engage during team meetings
  11. Keep the social part of work in the locked-down version of your day
  12. There’s no such thing as too much communication
  13. Take time off when you need to 
  14. Feel the satisfaction of physically crossing things off the list
  15. Don’t get into a cycle of over or under stretching during work
  16. Wear your work clothes
  17. Try to make every day a good day
  18. Take time to visualise the week ahead on a Monday morning 
  19. Make sure the people around you understand your boundaries
  20. Punctuate your week by punctuating your day 
  21. Set up a post-work routine 

Ask for what you need from the get-go 

Ask for what you need from the get-go to ensure that you are best equipped to stay focused, work efficiently, but most importantly continue to enjoy what you do during a working day.

The restrictions you are currently faced with will make a difference in what you can and can’t do during this period. 

If you have a family that you have to help with schooling, or an environment around you that doesn’t allow for your version of your best work at certain times of the day, tell your employer now. Over the months, people and companies have been grappling with new systems and routines but ultimately your manager wants the best version of the work that you can give them. 

Tell your manager what you need and the chances are that they will accommodate your needs so you can accommodate theirs. 

Make sure that you have the right tools to get the job done

Make sure that you have the right tools to get the job done. These tools could come in the form of a supportive office chair, a laptop stand, a standing desk or stretching bands. 

If your department doesn’t have a policy for staying safe while working from home, you should ask for one. Acquiring back injuries because you don’t have the right working environment will truly add insult to the injury (for some people) of working from home. 

Just because you are physically moving less doesn’t mean that there is no risk of getting injured. Make sure that you can work comfortably from wherever you find yourself working. 

Set a strict work schedule and stick to it 

Working from home may present what feels like a lack of structure but there are ways to structure each and every day if you set a work schedule and stick to it. 

While it may seem a little pedantic at the beginning, you should consider setting up a productivity task sheet to see what you are doing and achieving on the half-hour. Fill out your productivity task sheet for one week to get an idea of what your average week looks like. 

Once you get this personal data, you will have a better idea of which styles of working work best for you. Maybe you are project orientated and like getting to the chunky tasks in the morning, perhaps you like getting the more granular items checked off before lunch. Whatever the case may be, use your productivity task sheet to create a work schedule that works for you, and then stick to it! 

Get away from screens on breaks and during down-time

Number four’s working from home tip might seem pretty obvious, it’s undeniable that the majority of us are spending more time on our electronic devices during this period, but you don’t have to be in a state of “always-on”. Take a break from your screens during down-time, the world won’t collapse if your phone isn’t in your hand!

Leave your phone at home a few walks a week, choose a book over television the odd time, and on your breaks, stand up and walk away from your screen as opposed to browsing during your breaks. 

Craft your pre-work routine 

For a lot of Australians, being mere meters away from work at all times can be quite a shock to the system. Before COVID-19, you probably thought that you would never miss your morning commute, maybe you still don’t miss it!

Nonetheless, if you haven’t already, now is the time to craft your pre-work routine. Fresh air, exercise, a well-balanced breakfast, and giving yourself ample time to properly wake up are the key ingredients to getting your day off to a good start. Give yourself the best chance of starting your day off to a good start and you are guaranteed better focus and efficiency. 

Set up a dedicated workspace

Setting up a dedicated workspace helps to put you into a “work mindset” — or in simpler terms having an association with a dedicated space to work helps you work because you know that each time you go to that room or desk, it’s time to roll the sleeves up and get the job done. 

If it’s possible, avoid working in parts of the home that you also like to relax in or it may muddle the lines between your professional and personal time. 

Walk away from your dedicated workspace, regularly

This working-from-home tip may seem counterintuitive to staying focused and working efficiently but it is essential. If brain fog descends, stand up and walk away from your workspace, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. 

This will give you space to allow creativity to flow and get you back in the working mindset.

Work in small, consistent blocks 

If you are struggling with your workload or it seems to pile up as soon as you have finished a certain project, consider the Pomodoro technique, a time-management system that encourages users to work with the time they have. A Pomodoro refers to a 25-minute block of time spent working. The technique encourages workers to work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break between each block. 

The technique helps to create a sense of urgency with each small block of work. For what you lose in each five-minute break, you make up for working in a more focused fashion during each block. Consider using this technique if you find your mind wandering or you are finding it difficult to stay focused on your daily tasks. 

Keep lines of communication open

Keep lines of communication open throughout your working day. If you are unsure as to whether you have already provided an update, provide that update again. One of the greatest struggles of working from home lies in not being able to quickly access your team members. 

If you need to have more face time with certain colleagues, request it. Staying in the know about what your team is working on will help to keep you focused on priorities and the bigger picture. 

Engage during team meetings

Whether you love or loathe meetings, particularly remote meetings, make sure that you are engaging with what is happening among your team members. 

Keep a notepad nearby and jot down notes and ideas as they come up, offer your insights and advice, ask for constructive criticism back. Working from home can be an isolating experience but you can try to keep it social even in times of social distance. 

Keep the social part of work in the locked-down version of your day

Leading on from the previous point, there are still opportunities to fit in some water-cooler conversations throughout the day. 

Set up a couple of remote work lunches to punctuate your week and catch up with colleagues as you would in the office to keep morale high and the social side of work intact. 

Keep track of the wins, even the small wins!

Keep track of your wins, even wins that you might consider to be small. If you have finished a project you have been working on for an extended period, write that down, if you have nailed a KPI, write that down. 

Keeping track of the wins will help you stay connected to the bigger picture and will also give you an opportunity to pat yourself on the back the odd time. 

Take time off when you need to 

You might feel tempted to save all of your annual leave days until you have more information on the future, but, you should take time off when you need to. Work will begin to feel endless if you don’t give yourself enough time to rest and restore. 

Book off annual leave in stints that you would have in a pre-COVID world to keep you feeling fresh and focused.  

Feel the satisfaction of physically crossing things off the list

Feel the satisfaction of physically crossing things off your list. While there are plenty of apps and trackers out there to help you stay focused, there is nothing like a pen and paper to keep you on track. 

Write down every single thing that you want to achieve on a daily basis, and cross it off for a hit of satisfaction, it will help to showcase your output for the day when you’re reporting back to management. 

Don’t get into a cycle of over or under stretching during work

Allow flexibility but don’t get into cycles that will leave you feeling drained. If you start early, finish early. If you start later, work later, but do not work overtime unless you need to or you won’t feel well-rested the following day. 

Ongoing over-stretching or under-stretching while working can be a slippery slope and may you feeling defeated, where possible, stick to your schedule and keep it balanced. 

Wear your work clothes

Dress for success! Wearing work clothes will help to build associations that it’s time to get to work in the same way that having a dedicated workspace does. Wearing your work clothes will also help to punctuate your day, the best part is that you can pick which day you want to make your own personal casual Friday. 

Try to make every day a good day

This working-from-home tip might seem a little lame but it’s hard to stay focused if you’re feeling negative. 

Make sure that you are getting enough self-care, not once a week, once a day. Look after yourself and you’ll have a better chance of smashing your professional and personal goals. 

Your version of self-care might be going for a walk, it might be cooking a nice meal, catching up on a television show, or having a lazy evening after a hard day of work. Do whatever works for you in your personal time and you’ll be better focused and efficient during your working day. 

Take time to visualise the week ahead on a Monday morning 

“Sunday fear” is the name that is often associated with the feeling of apprehension ahead of another working week. If you are feeling overwhelmed or are dreading work, you may need to start asking yourself bigger questions about where these feelings are coming from. 

Often, the Sunday fear may come from an overwhelming workloads. The best strategy for working with and not against these feelings may be to visualise or even write down what the next week is going to look like so you can work on quelling or downsizing these feelings.

Make sure the people around you understand your boundaries

Whether it’s people at work or people at home, ensure that the people around you understand your boundaries. Get on this as soon as you can. 

At work, make sure that people know when you are available for calls. Mark out your calendar so people know when does and doesn’t work for you. Of course, you should allow some flexibility around this so you are suitably available, but when it comes to staying focused. You need to have time to put your head down. 

At home, make sure that your family or housemates know your boundaries. Make it known as soon as you can to avoid any further or new tension down the line. 

Punctuate your week by punctuating your day 

You may be feeling that every day is groundhog day but there are steps that you can take to punctuate your day and week. Mix up your exercise routine, try somewhere new for a takeaway coffee, join virtual cooking classes, or read new genres of books. 

You will be surprised by how revitalised you feel by spicing up your week with new activities and, bonus point, it gives you something to talk about!

Set up a post-work routine 

Your post-work routine is just as important as your pre-work ritual! Once you step away from your workspace, do not return unless you absolutely need to!

Good sleep comes from a good wind down so ensure that you are getting enough downtime each day. A study conducted by Harvard Business School and New York City University reports that workdays have increased an average of 48.5 minutes per day, a large proportion of people are working harder and longer than they did pre-COVID-19. 

You might feel that you are putting yourself a step ahead of the game by working late into the night but you will feel it the next day or later in the week. Ensure that you are getting enough you-time. Consider a short work or yoga after every working day to signal that it’s time to relax! 

While some of the tips might seem a standard or obvious, it takes three weeks to build a habit and once you start injecting some of these habits into your day to day working life, you will be surprised by how much more focused you feel at work. 

Comment below if you have any working from home tips that you would add to the list!


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