Working from Home

While some enjoy working from home, many find it a challenge.

Finding the right workspace, juggling kids, handling distractions, dealing with guilt, keeping focused on your priorities. Since the pandemic, many organisations are forced to move to a remote or hybrid working model.

So how can you work from home effectively?  What can you do to deal with distractions?  How can you keep your eye on the Big 3 and possibly even get more done than normal?

Setting the Workspace

When first working from home, you may have chosen the quickest and easiest place to set-up.  So even if you have been working from home for a while; challenge yourself and decide if there may be a better location. 

Avoiding the main living space has advantages, but it will likely limit your options.  It’s ideal if you can repurpose a room, but if you don’t have that luxury, consider adapting a corner of a room or even the attic.  That will allow you to create a work / home life division and help to create routines (see Pro Tip below) for that needed balance.

Is your furniture and equipment suitable?  You may be working from the dining table but the height and style of a dining chair, while suitable for a meal, is not likely to be comfortable for long periods of computer work.  You may need to buy some new furniture or ask your employer if there is available support.

At least, take more breaks away from the desk and even save work that can be done while standing or better still while away on a walk.

Pro Tip
Daily Routines Create and maintain daily habits that are conscious activities to get your brain into (or out of) work mode.

Getting dressed for work helps maintain a routine when working from home - even switching from slippers to shoes. Some have even found that putting on their lanyard is a simple step to move from home to work mode.

Michael Hyatt calls them Daily Rituals and they also referred to by Charles Duhigg.

Keep frequent social contact with your colleagues; not just meetings with a business agenda but an informal coffee chat is important. Of course face-to-face is ideal but video can be fine as an option. Check out this research on the results of long-term social isolation in staff.

Wake up and get ready just like you're going to work. If you stay in your slippers all day you will not be as productive.

Dealing with Distractions

We may have the best intentions, but other things get in the way.  We need blinkers like a spirited pony.  What can you do to create these mental blinkers?   

Many find the Pomodoro technique (see the Engage phase of the Plan Framework) helpful for managing our own distractions.

There are also plenty of digital tools to help increase focus.  Some of these can monitor our time and even block social media for a set period.

For example, look at RescueTime, Timeular or Focusmate.

Others find using headphones with specific playlists aids concentration.  Search for them on Spotify and other streaming services.

Headphones, notepad and pc
Woman at work with children

Managing Children

Don’t worry if colleagues/clients see your children … they will likely understand and it adds a human touch to your work.

You may remember the BBC interview with Professor Robert Kelly – it didn’t him any harm – although a blurred background might have helped!

Here are hints that parents of small children find helpful (not all solutions will work for everyone):

  • Give children some undivided time (to then allow you some time to focus on work) 
  • Work early before they get up or a little later after they go to bed.
  • Create a ‘discovery’ bag filled with activities to keep them busy
  • A big roll of wallpaper for painting (rather than a few sheets of paper)
  • Use some educational TV programming
  • Find your child a study-buddy (Facetime, etc.) while you work.

Handling Guilt

Our many busy roles can give us guilt; we don’t feel we are caring for our children, elderly family members, pets … the list goes on.  But remember:

  • Be realistic – there are only 24 hours in the day.  You can’t do everything.
  • Keep a sense of humour – if things go wrong, it’s unlikely to be the end of the world, or even your world; people will empathise.
  • Avoid perfectionism; the fear of failure is likely to be paralysing. (see Steven Pressfield – The War of Art)
  • Talk things over with a trusted friend, or family member, work colleague or confidant.  Keeping it bottled up will only make things worse.
Depressed lonely woman sitting at home
Woman checking calendar on digital tablet

Focusing on Priorities

Focusing on priorities is always important, but even more so if you are working from home, especially if it’s not your ideal location.  

When working from home, perhaps even with less focused time, we need to be ruthless with tasks of low importance and urgency.

But, how can you identify your priorities?  How can you come up with the right to do list.  Try the IV Quadrants exercise in the Focus Summary.  Once you’ve done that, you can use a variety of tools to help manage the Daily Big 3.

You could also keep a list of things that can be done while the kids are around vs. a separate list that requires quiet thinking time.  These would be contexts in your system. (see Organise).  You can use a variety of tools to handle this – these are covered in the Do It section of the programme.

Keeping Healthy

This is obvious, but remember to stay healthy while working from home; it can be easy to snack on biscuits all day.  Take regular mealtimes – another benefit of being able to close the door on your home office.  It might even afford the opportunity to try some new ingredients and menus. 

Sitting on a chair all day (especially if it’s a standard dining room chair ergonomic) can increase back pain and affect our health.

Getting out for a walk or some other exercise will increase productivity.  And if outdoor exercise is not an option, consider indoor workouts (e.g. Joe Wicks or 5-minute stretch videos – available on YouTube).

And of course, a final reminder to get enough sleep.  Which brings us to the final point …

Walking the dog
Man Working Late At Night

Knowing When to Stop

Working long into the night, affects the quality of our work.

In addition, it takes a long time to wind down and affects our sleep quality.  So switch off at a sensible time.

There’s always going to be more work tomorrow …

Finally: What are your challenges?  What are your tips and techniques?  Comments welcome below …

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