Working from home is the new normal for a lot of people in the workforce. And having it thrust upon us, as many months ago as it may be, caused a serious disruption to regular routines.
Perhaps you’ve had to outfit an entire office in your home, or maybe, like me, you work from your kitchen or dining room table with the rest of “life” happening around you at all times. Either way, the adjustment to working from home hasn’t been an easy one.
Remote working requires a completely different level of concentration than being in an office setting. At home, we can be distracted by almost anything – and most often by our children. Keeping yourself in a work mindset requires extra mental effort when every time you look up you see a household chore that needs doing.
So how can you stay on track when working from home?
This is a conversation you should have with your employer or supervisor. Define parameters for working from home. Can you work your eight hours over a twelve-hour day? Are you required to be online at certain hours?
Find out what flexibility is available to you while you’re working remotely, and put it to good use.
Personally, I’m most productive in the morning hours, right after my daughters leave for school. And at 3 p.m., when they return home, I have to log off for half an hour or so to help them settle into homework and listen to their stories of the day.
Take breaks when you need them
Imagine a day at the office: You arrive and settle in to work. An hour later you take a washroom break or make a coffee. You’ll snack at your desk, chat with co-workers occasionally, and make time to eat your lunch.
Working at home is no different. Except that there are no co-workers to relieve your humdrum focus on work. And you feel more guilty taking those minutes to make a tea or coffee. But you shouldn’t.
Your day at work is not wall-to-wall working, so expecting that commitment from yourself at home is unrealistic. No one stays on track all day long in an office setting.
Let yourself take mental breaks. Go ahead and gather that load of laundry you’ve been thinking about all morning. Or tidy the messy kitchen you’ve been staring at. No one is productive staring at a screen for 8 hours straight.
Get some fresh air
Heading outside for 10 minutes will help you clear your head and refine your focus. Whether you sit outside with a coffee or take a walk during your lunch, a few minutes in the fresh air will have a wonderful effect on your productivity.
Make this outside time part of your routine. When you need to stretch your legs, take a walk around the block. Or do some yoga moves in the backyard. Even in the cold winter months, fresh air and sunshine (however weak in the winter) will give you a boost.
Be kind to yourself
Some days will feel like an absolute drag. The motivation won’t be there, and no matter how much fresh air, music, distraction, deep breaths or focus tricks you try, it just won’t be a productive day.
Remember that this isn’t new. It happens to everyone, at the office, on a job site, or at home. Permit yourself to have a non-productive day once in a while. Maybe you can do a few more chores around the house, or just take a time out and read a book. We are not all magically productive all the time.
Find your balance
While work-life balance never quite feels achievable, finding a compromise that works for you should be. Recognizing that there will never be a balance is the first step to finding a comfortable system for yourself.
Be sure to self-advocate with your employer, and with your family. Ask for what you need, from all parties in your life. If that’s a longer workday with more breaks or a rearrangement of meeting times, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask. Or maybe you need someone else to take on the morning dishes chore so you can work while you’re feeling most productive. Lay out your reasons, speak with authority, and be flexible in your reasoning. People aren’t mind readers – they don’t know what we need unless we tell them.
And if you’re a parent, speak to your children about your needs during your working periods. The older the children are, the better they will understand, but even young kids can grasp the concept of trying not to bother mom or dad while they’re working. And don’t forget the benefit of your children seeing you focused and staying on track, as well as taking breaks to care for yourself when you need to.
(We all know that best intentions never quite play out with our children, regardless of their ages. Be calm and firm with them, and they will eventually get into some semblance of the rhythm of your workday.)
Working from home can be a joy for those who like quiet to focus, and a burden for those who prefer social interaction and teams to work with. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall on, productivity while working from home can be a challenge.
Finding ways to boost your productivity and focus through your days at home isn’t hard. A few tweaks to your workday, and being kind to yourself, will help you stay on track, most of the time.
Taking time for yourself does not mean you are slacking or putting off your work. It simply means you are prioritizing yourself and focusing on your own wellbeing, in order to be the asset you know you can be.
What tricks do you use to stay on track during your work from home time? Share them in the comments – I love trying new things!