One of the best parts of working from home is leaving behind all the distractions of the office. No more supervisors looking over your shoulder. No more coworkers stopping by to gossip. No more shuffling in and out of meetings. The problem is that, while remote work has its share of perks, it also brings its own set of unique distractions. A new episode of that Netflix show you've been bingeing. Laundry, dishes, grocery lists, and a dog staring you in the face. Partners, roommates, or family members asking when you can take your next break. Basically, without the structure and accountability of the office, working from home can become a never-ending exercise in ignoring the other things you could be doing. More people than ever now understand this struggle. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, seven in 10 U.S. white-collar workers are still working remotely, largely as a result of the pandemic. Pew Research Center also found that 54% of U.S. workers would want to continue working from home even after pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. Still, many find it difficult to stay focused, get motivated, and work without interruptions. To help, we'll dig into some of the best tips for working from home—emphasis on working—and staying focused in your own space.
1. Create a dedicated office area
Now, this doesn't mean you need to put an annex on your house or kick out the guests staying in your spare bedroom. It just means you need to choose a space—be it a desk in the corner of the den or a comfy chair in the basement—and make it your own. And know that only work will happen there and nothing else. This way, even as you skip the long commute and save the gas money, you can still feel like you're "going to work" each day and leaving your tasks behind at night.
2. Stop trying to make multitasking happen
For some people, multitasking comes naturally. They can't watch a movie without texting on their phone and they can't work on one project without dipping into another. For others, it's time to face the hard truth: multitasking just isn't going to happen. And that's okay. In fact, studies have shown that so-called "monotaskers" are better off in the long run. Because multitasking actually decreases productivity and impairs the brain's executive functions. A seminal study on this issue found that just 2.5% of people can truly multitask effectively. For the rest of us, it's time to try focusing on just one task at a time, whether that's sending an email, writing a report, or attending a meeting (yes, people can see you checking your phone). Apparently, your brain and your work will thank you.
3. Eliminate digital distractions
Even after you've carved out your workspace and settled on your main task, you're still left one-on-one with your computer and phone—a.k.a. procrastination portals to any YouTube video, social network, or streaming platform ready to distract you for hours on end. And really, what's to stop you from clicking out of a tedious work project and onto your favorite subreddit? Sheer willpower? No, you need something stronger than that. Like a tool that will block you from accessing the internet until you get your work done. Sounds harsh, but sometimes that's the only thing that will do the trick. HomePass, for instance, has a Time out feature that lets you freeze internet access for specific devices and WiFi users in your home. You can also block access for the whole household if, say, everyone's working or the kids need a break from their screens.
4. Get dressed—for real
Yes, those pajama pants and fuzzy socks are comfy. But experts say getting dressed for work can improve productivity and mental health. This simple act can also help you solidify a routine and properly transition from relaxing at home to working at home. The good news is you are still in your own space. So getting dressed doesn't have to mean putting on a suit or a skirt every day. It can mean just changing into a clean pair of leggings or sweatpants you didn't sleep in. Or putting on some house shoes instead of slippers. People who have frequent Zoom meetings already understand this tip, of course. But even those who aren't taking calls or have a day off from videoconferencing can try getting ready for remote work with a fresh outfit and see if it boosts their output.
5. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a nifty strategy for knocking items off your to-do list and avoiding procrastination. You simply set a timer for 25 minutes and work until it goes off. Then you take a five-minute break and start again. After four of these sessions, you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This system is particularly helpful for breaking down overwhelming projects into smaller chunks and finally addressing those tedious tasks that you've been putting on the back burner. Again, a tool to freeze internet access can come in handy here. With HomePass, for example, you can set a time out for specific intervals according to the Pomodoro Technique and get into the groove of working from home—no YouTube videos to distract you and no micromanaging bosses needed to keep you in line. Just you, your designated office space, and the task in front of you. (And, yes, maybe some comfy sweatpants.) For remote workers, it doesn't get much better than that.