A Guide to Working from Home: How to Be Productive and Avoid Distractions

Written by Lisa Raffaele

At first glance, working from home sounds awesome... you get to stay in your PJs all day, work from the comfort of your couch, and you don’t need to put on any makeup, unless you’re scheduled to be on a video chat. But, there are ways around that too, as technically only the top half of you needs to “get ready,” right?!

Now that we’re all setting in to working from home, for many of us, this “new normal” looks like it may be sticking around a lot longer than originally expected. At the office your coworkers were your greatest distraction, dropping by your desk, inviting you to lunch…

With millions of workers working remotely for the first time, a lot of us are struggling to manage a workday that now includes a whole new set of distractions like children, household chores and the TV only a click away.

Here are a few tips to help keep you productive and free of distractions when working from home:

  1. Make self-care a morning ritual

    It’s easy to roll out of bed on onto a conference call, but taking the time to create a morning routine will change your whole day. Try and set aside the first hour of the morning, depending on what time you get up, for self-care. Don’t think you can do it? It’s simple if you convert the time you would have typically used to commute into work every day into exercise, journaling or meditation. If one hour isn’t feasible (I understand, I have a child) setting aside even 15 to 20 minutes to do some sort of self-care routine can be extremely beneficial and give you a positive start to your day.

  1. Pretend like you are going to the office

    Tricking your brain into thinking you are “going” to the office can make you more productive. It’s true! Make (or go get) coffee, wear nice clothes and set yourself up for a day “at work,” wherever you are. I know the idea of not working in your PJs all day is disappointing, but getting dressed helps you feel more productive, particularly because it give your brain a signal that you're now in “work mode.”

  1. Structure your day like you would in the office

    Pay attention to how you work from home vs. the office. Without a set lunch break or things like in-person meetings to schedule your day around or break things up, it’s super easy to lose focus. Try to take breaks and log off for lunch if you can. It’s easy to get caught up in emails and forget you haven’t even gotten up to stretch in hours.

    When it comes to communication, with face-to-face interaction gone, colleagues and clients will be resorting to email and messaging at a much higher rate. That means that hundreds of emails and Slack messages can potentially interrupt your workday flow. Set up a structure that works for you to recognize the difference between what needs to be responded to immediately and what can wait a few moments, otherwise you’ll be checking messages all day.

    To better manage the level of back-and-forth communication with your team, especially over email and messaging apps, try a morning huddle to anchor your day on, where everyone gives a quick rundown of what they’re working on for the day and gets to ask questions.

  1. Avoid distractions during working hours

    Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch, where it’s easy to be distracted by all kinds of things like the TV, social media or household chores, try and find yourself a space that is not associated with leisure time. Dedicate that as your workspace and make sure you have a good surface to work on.

    And remember, although it may be tempting to get a head start on some your chores, even a quick distraction can be a huge productivity killer.

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