Working from home offers many key benefits, but it can be a major change. If you’re wondering how to work from home, it pays to follow a structured approach. This helps you maintain a balanced lifestyle while working remotely.
Recently, many of us have found ourselves working from home. This became common due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, but for many, it’s here to stay.
If you wonder how to stay focused working from home, you’re not alone. Distractions are a default, and it takes work to fend them off. By managing these, you can do your best work from the comfort of your own home. All it takes is a mindful, structured approach tailored to fit your style of work.
6 Techniques to Learn How to Stay Focused Working from Home
Repeat after me: what worked in an office won't work at home.
Work from home isn't simply your in-office work taking place at a new location. That means that it requires new habits, new techniques, and a new approach. Developing mindfulness about how to create your space and manage your day is the key to success when working from home.
A new way of working needs new habits and techniques. Let's look at six tips and tricks that teach you how to focus when working from home.
1. Build a Comfortable Workspace
When you think of how to work from home, comfort is key. This is actually true in any work environment, so your home is no different. In fact, with commute time cut out, many of us spend more time working at home than we would in the office. This means that you need to build a comfortable, quiet workspace.
While everyone's home office preferences will differ, some principles ring true in best practices for how to work from home. Keep these tips in mind to build a comfortable work from home space:
- Ergonomics are essential. The insurer Chubb found that 41% of telecommuters experienced new neck and back pain in 2020. Don't repurpose a rock hard dining room chair! A comfortable, supportive chair is a worthwhile investment. After all, you'll use it for hours every day.
- Set up a specific space for work. To maintain healthy boundaries between work and your life, consider dedicating a space in your home to an office. Bonus points awarded if your home office is away from your bedroom!
- Schedule your breaks. Remember that office life likely included trips to the water cooler, visits to your colleagues' offices, and maybe even a walk around at lunch time. Without stretching and movement at home, you risk tension and soreness. This is a big part of how to stay focused working from home.
Check out our complete guide to setting up a healthy home office below:
2. Minimize Distractions
Distractions are all around us. They orbit our focus constantly, seeking to take us away from the work that needs to be done.
It's crucial to not just deal with distractions as they arise, but instead consciously create spaces that minimize them. Think of distractions as the default state in life, and one that we've got to combat constantly.
You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things. - Unknown
What types of distractions are you bound to face while you learn how to work from home? Here are several to consider guarding yourself against and tips on how:
- Reduce your notifications. It's important to be available, but not at the cost of your own productivity. Every time our devices ring or ding, it takes our attention away from the task at hand. Set up specific times to periodically check notifications instead of always switching gears.
- Pick a quiet part of your home. Notifications are easy to toggle, but don't miss out on your environmental noise. The Sound Agency reported that worker productivity dropped by 66% when exposed to a nearby conversation in an office. You might not overhear another co-worker while working from home, but this indicates that background noise is a threat.
- Check notifications in intervals. This one is a bit of a compromise. I like to keep my phone out of reach, to resist the urge to check it constantly. But it’s also worthwhile to keep it nearby, so you don’t feel the need to constantly get up to look at it. Set specific times to check in for important notifications, but don't attend to each incoming sound.
Each person has a different style of work that they can apply at home. And distractions take a wide array of forms. The trick here is to find a quiet place where your work takes precedence. Ensure that you've got the tools you need to complete your work and avoid tackling other tasks.
The article you're working on will never send you a notification. Neither will the spreadsheet you're building, or the project you're planning. It's easy to confuse the "seemingly urgent" (a device sending notifications) with the "actually important." Avoid these distractions to re-focus on work that moves the needle.
Learn more about mindfulness at home with our guide below:
3. Structure Your Day
It’s easier to focus when you structure your day. This means that you should build - and follow - a calendar or schedule for your work.
Free time while you tackle how to work from home is a double edged sword. You've got more time with which to complete tasks. But it's easier to procrastinate, with projects expanding to fill all available time. To avoid this, it’s critical to keep your workday on track through careful planning.
Think about working in an office. Your days included tasks, meetings, and appointments scheduled. You followed that schedule, tracking your time and checking items off your list.
Working at home should be no different. This way, you won’t see any reduction in your productive output. In fact, by avoiding distractions and time-killing commutes, you can do more each day! This is a huge part of how to stay focused working from home.
In essence, don’t trust yourself to stay focused and on-time without making a plan. You're the master of your own schedule, but it's important that you make one. Create and maintain a work calendar that you follow, even from home.
- 12+ Quick Tips to Manage Your Time Better At Work in 2022Brenda Barron27 Nov 2021
- Effectiveness vs. Efficiency: Which Is More Important (+Why)?Harry Guinness28 Jan 2021
4. Allow Slack and Break Times
Think that being constantly productive is how to focus when working from home? Don’t believe it.
The time tracking app DeskTime published a fascinating bit of data about the importance of breaks. The most productive users work for 52 minutes, then take a 17 minute break. Old school thinking tells us that "taking a break" is the opposite of work, but the truth is that breaks are part of doing great work.
Trying to work nonstop is a clear setup for failure. None of us can stay on track with work 100% of the time. That’s true in an office, and it’s even more true when working from home.
It’s important to allow open spaces in your schedule. These serve two purposes:
- They give you break time.
- They allow slack space when tasks and projects run long.
Expect the unexpected and leave enough time to recover from the inevitable deviation from plans.
This is a critical part of staying focused when working from home. If you get burned out from constant work, the quality and quantity of your output will decline. Plus, running behind on tasks can lead to stress and anxiety. Your goal is balance between your work and personal life.
Building extra time in your schedule is a must.
Learn even more about balance and how to stay focused working from home below:
- 15 Top Tips to Work Effectively From Home (Remotely in 2022)Sarah Joy28 Nov 2021
- How to Improve Work-Life Balance in Your Small BusinessMarc Schenker07 Jan 2021
5. Maintain and Grow Connections
When you work from home, it's challenging to grow and maintain connections with a global team. That’s even more true with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people work in isolated settings and may feel detached from colleagues. That’s why it’s more important than ever to build bridges and connections, even while working from home. The human interactions found in many offices aren’t physically present at home. But you can maintain those connections, no matter where you work.
Be sure to establish regular contact with your work teams. It's easy to get so busy doing our jobs that we forget to foster connection. While many introverts are happy to give up office small talk by working from home, you don't want to miss out on meaningful work connections.
Try out these ideas to maintain and grow your team connections while working from home:
- Use video calls (but not for every occasion). In the post-COVID world, video calls have become the norm. A whopping 89% of employees in a Lifesize survey responding that video calls help them feel connected. But don't assume that it's every employee's preference. Consider if "video by default" is the best policy for meetings.
- Prioritize getting to know your team. Here are ideas to break the ice: host an online lunch, share photos of your home office, and start a question of the week. These types of prompts may seem simple but are often the impetus to create team connection.
- Invest more time in writing. Working from home shifts many of your communications from face-to-face to written via email. The problem is that too many people don't write as well as they communicate in person. Invest extra effort to ensure your emails come across the way you intend (and save tough conversations for phone or video call.)
Check out more resources to increase remote collaboration below:
- How to Write a More Effective Email (15+ Best Tips & Tricks)Laura Spencer13 Oct 2020
- How to Use Calendly for Better Team & Group Scheduling in 2021Andrew Childress30 Oct 2021
6. Track Progress to Stay Focused
Feel like you don’t know where you stand at work? It happens to many of us, and it’s an important thing to consider as you imagine how to stay focused working from home. If you’re completing each work day without reflection, it’s difficult to capture a sense of progress.
This means that you need to track progress to remain focused. Create metrics for yourself to check progress. These may be the number of tasks completed, a certain amount of progress with a project, and more. Again, the exact details will vary from worker to worker.
The goal is what matters. Keep a sense of momentum that you recognize. Seeing your crossed-off to-do items can provide momentum to keep moving.
Don't be shy about patting yourself on the back when you accomplish something. Morale often comes from within - especially when you're working from home! This sense of accomplishment helps you stay focused, energized, and engaged.
Learn more about creating a routine for success with the help of our tutorial:
Millions of Templates to Use When Working From Home
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You Learned How to Stay Focused Working From Home
Now, you've got techniques to help you learn how to work from home. Remember that implementing these is part of a successful transition. Consider workspace design, daily planning, and engagement, and you're on your way to doing your best work from home.
With structure and some healthy reflection at the beginning, work from home can be the most rewarding and productive setup. Now, you're ready to set up a space of your own!
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in January 2022. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.