How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

For most of America’s workforce, staying focused at work is normally tough. 70% of us admit to some distraction while on the job, according to a recent survey by Udemy. Now that most of us are working from home due to COVID-19, our distractions are about to change. While working remotely can suit certain individuals better, depending on factors like personality and living situation, for others it creates a plethora of new diversions. 

While these employees might avoid the (on average) 50-60 interruptions they usually experience in the office, they will gain new ones in the form of tech temptation, family members, and household duties, to name a few. Considering that it takes nearly 30 minutes to properly refocus after being distracted, avoiding potential distractions is crucial for being productive while working remotely.

Here are some of the most common work-from-home distractions and ways to manage them:

1. Family Members and Roommates

Cohabitants are often the biggest source of distractions when transitioning to remote work. Your significant others or roommates might forget you’re working, or may be tempted to chat with you anyways. Meanwhile, young children often cannot understand or remember why they shouldn’t distract you. With most paid caretakers on leave and schools out of session, employed parents no longer have babysitting for their children and must juggle their jobs and full-time parenting simultaneously.

Setting children up with fun activities, toys, or schoolwork early on in the day can give them something to work on while you focus. There are a plethora of educational websites to help keep your kids busy while you’re working. Making a to-do list for children can also buy you a few hours of uninterrupted work time, and offer rewards for staying out of your home office between certain times. If your children are old enough, sit them down and discuss what constitutes an emergency that is worthy of distracting you, and what is not. Have a similar discussion with your roommates. If, despite your best efforts, your family and roommates are still a major source of distraction, consider shifting your work hours, rising early or going to bed later to get work done.

2. Household Duties

For many, an overflowing laundry basket or kitchen sink can be a major source of restlessness. Over a third of employees who work from home admit to doing chores while officially working. While in the office, you’re removed from home messes. When working at home, you likely have to see them constantly. Start and end each day tidying up your home or workspace to avoid the temptation to do it during work hours.

3. Social Media and Web Surfing

If you’re distracted by the web while working from home, you’re not alone. A shocking 43% of individuals confessed to watching TV or a movie during work time, while another 20% opted to play video games. 9 in 10 employees check their social media while in the office, a number that is sure to rise as more people transition to remote employment. If you do feel compelled to take a quick break to check your social media, that’s okay, as long as it’s actually a quick break. Set a timer to remind yourself when your break is over, because if you’re not careful, this break can accidentally turn into a second lunch hour. 

To avoid being tantalized by your smartphone in the first place, try setting your phone on airplane mode. You can even place it on the opposite side of the room as long as you don’t require it for work. As for television, bribe yourself with your favorite TV show or movie after you complete your task list for the day.

4. Noise or Clutter

For most, home is a space associated with family time and relaxation. To better acclimate yourself to working from home, try to set up a workspace that mirrors your office environment. If you can, set aside a work corner (or even whole room) where you can organize your work materials. Physically separating your workspace from your relaxation space helps you disassociate your new work area from all the times you used that space for fun. If noise distracts you, chat with your family or roommates, or consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Listening to music can also be a great way to drown out outside noises. Opt for music that doesn’t have lyrics if you need to be able to focus on intensive tasks. 

5. Anxiety

Finally, especially during the current pandemic, anxiety can be a massive obstacle to productivity. Fear of job stability, the health and safety of family and friends, and the complete upheaval of daily life as we know it are all immensely distracting. Practicing self-care at home is essential to improving remote work performance. Be sure to clock out and take your breaks and days off to avoid burnout. Turn off the news if you need to, get enough sleep, and get outside if you can to avoid cabin fever. Facetiming or calling friends, family and coworkers can help you feel more socially connected. Many also opt for at-home yoga, meditation, reading, baking, or playing with pets to clear their mind before returning to work.

With many jobs now online, individuals are faced with a whole new set of work obstacles. To try to maintain stability and productivity, set up a workspace, set boundaries, and avoid temptations like social media or television. Set yourself up for success as best you can, but also have empathy for yourself and your coworkers. Focusing at home can be tough, and it can take some time to turn your new work state into a flow state.