This year, a large portion of the world’s workforce found ourselves haphazardly setting up home desks and offices when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. Now we are well over half a year into our ‘new normal’, and it looks like working from home is here to stay.
Whilst the majority of us have managed to be just as - if not more - productive than when we spent five days a week in the office, some have struggled with managing the various distractions that working from home can bring – never mind working from home during a global pandemic! Even those of us who have found ourselves to be more productive at home have often fallen foul of distractions around the home.
Kids needing attention and home schooling, cats walking across laptops whilst you’re trying to work and dogs vying for your attention, the pile of clean laundry in the corner that you’ve been meaning to fold for days… our homes are full of distractions that lower our productivity and make it harder to get our heads into work mode.
To help, we decided to ask our employees, candidates, and clients for their top tips for managing distractions whilst working from home and compiled them all here, so you can finally get your head down and get on top of that to-do list…
Making sure that your day has structure
One of the most common pieces of advice that kept cropping up was the need to structure your day. When we were all office-based, our days were structured with set start, break, and finish times – walking into the office signalled the start of our day and leaving meant the end. Now that we no longer have these mental cues, giving our day structure has become more important than ever.
“For me, it’s making sure I have planned my day and it has structure. I’ll allocate chunks of time to certain tasks throughout the day. If I know I do need to do some home tasks such as washing, tidying up, or other kid admin, I’ll always try and do that when I need a quick break from work, or while I am on a call hands free so I can multi task and feel like get the most out of my day.” – Lorna, Principle Consultant at We Are Adam.
Taking regular breaks is oft cited as a way to stay focused on your work tasks. Natural HR believes that by ‘rewarding’ yourself with distractions, you motivate yourself to crack on with your work so that you can enjoy the ‘reward’ when you finish.
“I find that taking regular breaks – usually around 5 minutes every hour – to stand up and make a brew or to change over the laundry means that for the other 55 minutes that I’m at my desk, I’m more focused on the tasks I’m working on. Allowing my brain that mental breathing room to think about non-work tasks for a few minutes regularly means I’m not thinking about home tasks when I’m working.” – Kimi, Copywriter and Administrator at We Are Adam
Turn off those social media notifications
We are used to our time at home being our own, and we often spend a lot of that time on social media. Because of this mindset, it can be easy whilst working from home to keep checking your social media, which is counter-productive to your concentration on your work.
FlexJobs recommends blocking yourself focus time, where you do not allow yourself to look at social media. This can help get you out of the habit of picking up your phone every few minutes and into a more productive mindset. They also suggest tracking your social media usage using an app. This way, not only can you see how much time you spend scrolling, but you can also see if there are any ‘troublesome’ times of the day where your concentration wanders.
Spending less time on social media may also help improve your mental wellbeing. In May 2020, Forbes reported that spending too much time on social media during a crisis – often referred to as ‘Doomscrolling’ – is taking its toll on our mental health.
When we were working from the office full time, background noise would often be a fact of life. Colleagues catching up over a cup of tea, phones ringing, the clattering of a keyboard… all this background noise can sometimes act as a sort of signal to our brains that we are in ‘work mode’. When we are working alone from home, often the only noise we hear is ourselves or ambient sounds from our environment.
“For me, background noise is life. Music, or there are websites that will play you relaxing office sounds… from when we could still leave the house!” – Kayleigh Macdonald, Regulatory Affairs Specialist
Adding some background noise into your day may help you focus more. If you miss those idle office sounds, there are apps or websites that will fill that hole in your life. Music can also help put you into productivity mode and help stop you from getting distracted by ‘home’.
“Getting my headphones in and listening to calming music. It's got to be instrumental for me to be able to focus, and usually electronic like an Ibiza chill out playlist or something designed to help focus like meditation music, but it helps my brain drown out any other distractions.” – Leanne Scaletta, Operations Manager at We Are Adam.