How to stay focused when working from home

Throughout 2020, millions of individuals had to work from home. Although some are now returning to the office, there are still many remaining at home to work. Whether that be because they are at risk, their offices are closed or they simply don’t feel comfortable about returning to the office.

Granted, working from home can be great. You can set your own hours, take away the commute, dress how you like and work in a way that maximises your productivity. But, if you have never done this before, it can be far too easy to get distracted when no one is looking over your shoulder. After all, you’re not in your normal working environment, you’re in your personal space which is full of distractions – errands, chores, pets, snacks, family members, TV and even the couch.

Everybody is different. The key is to draw a line between your personal and professional time. “Working at home brings business and personal aspects of life together under one roof,” said Ellen Williams, founder of The Data Chick. “As a result, it is easy to get distracted when trying to complete business tasks until you are able to separate business and personal. It takes time to get serious about work at home if you’ve never done it before. Working at home is an exercise in learning about yourself. It’s a mindset, so I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for success.”

No matter what your work style, our tips will help you stay focused when working from home and help you reach your full potential.

Create a home office

One of the most important things that will help you remain focused when working from home is to restrict your workspace to one area of your home. If you have space, this can be in a separate room in your house. If this is not possible, you could corner off an area of a room such as the kitchen. Yes, the freedom to work from anywhere is indeed part of the advantages of working at home, but experts also strongly recommend a dedicated place to remain concentrated.

By creating a ‘home office’, your work won’t intrude on other areas and people in the house. Sitting on your sofa with your laptop can be so tempting, but this subconsciously takes you out of the ‘zone’ and you are more likely to be distracted by the TV or your mobile. Your home office needs to be a stress-free zone where you can focus on the task at hand. Once you’ve found your space, only go there for work. Just as your bed is reserved for sleeping, your workspace should be for business activities.

Stay off social media

Perhaps one of the most prevalent distractions today – social media. A quick scroll on your favourite social media platform can turn into a huge time waster if you don’t control it. This also entails any consumption of media which is not important to your job.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid temptation thanks to modern technology. On both iOS and Android devices, the screen time feature gives you insight into how much time you spend on your phone and provides ways for you to restrict the amount of time spend per day on social media and other apps. If you’re on a PC, Google Chrome also has an extension called StayFocused. It allows you to set unique time limits with 10 minutes as the default option on some websites. The website will be blocked until the next day once the time you have selected is over.

Structure your day

If you don’t have a clear idea of the tasks you need to be working on, how do you expect to stay focused?

Spend the first 15 minutes of your day or the final 15 minutes of the previous day to structure your daily schedule. You should also use the time to figure out when you work best and form your schedule with this in mind. For instance, are you more creative in the mornings? Or would this time be better spent in meetings or going through your emails?

Your schedule should also work the way you do. For instance, if you prefer having every minute planned, fill up your schedule, even pencilling in your breaks. Alternatively, if you prefer to go with the flow, write a rough to-do-list and cross things off as you go.

Moreover, you should factor in break times into your schedule. This is because unlike in the office, where we have breaks for lunch, grabbing coffees and chatting with colleagues, there are no natural breaks when at home. This can make it difficult to stay focused.

Stay active

Staying active no matter where you are working another important element of staying focused. Lack of movement will result in your quickly losing motivation as it can cause your brain to become sluggish.“Your physical health is more at risk than you realize when working from home,” said Peter Vandendriesse, founder and CEO of “Even those who sit in an office cubicle still tend to walk a mile or so throughout the day, to their car, out to lunch, and so on.”

Use your breaks to go for a walk or even a run. If the weather is bad, you could even schedule in a short 10-minute fitness class or do some stretching. You may be shocked at just how much it gives your brain a boost and allows you to refocus.

Keep connected with colleagues

Video conferencing tools have been key in ensuring colleagues can stay connected with one another from anywhere. You should make sure you make the most of the capabilities from these you make the most these so you can maintain regular human interaction and still feel a part of your team. As a result, you will feel more motivated and focused on tasks.

Microsoft Teams, a tool within Microsoft 365 and hub for team communication and collaboration has been used by many amid the pandemic. It has helped ensure teams stay connected face-to-face, even when they are unable to be together in person. Not only does the platform have great video conferencing features but due to its integration with Outlook, you can easily schedule in video calls with your team. In situations like a pandemic, the option to video call is so beneficial as you can be as communicative as you are in the office, no matter where you are working.

Dress for success!

Although there is no need for you to dress as though you were going to a major business meeting, it is important to actually get dressed. The clothes you wear will have an effect on your productivity, and you can feel like you’re not really working if you stay in your PJs or sweats, leaving you more vulnerable to distractions.

“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.” Said Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

Wear what is comfortable for you, but also consider what will make you feel as if you are working. This will help keep you focused and on task.

Stay focused, stay productive

Staying focused can be a challenge in any environment, let alone in a global pandemic. No one is expecting you to be 100% focused at every point in your workday. However, by incorporating some of the tips listed in the blog and with a little time, persistence and restructuring, you will become more productive and efficient a day at a time.

More lockdowns are entirely possible, thus making the need for the right tools to help you stay focused when working from home a must. Microsoft Teams will provide you with several features that help you schedule in time to stay connected with your colleagues from wherever. At Serval IT Systems, we can give you advice on how to get the most from your IT and can help you implement such solutions. Please get in touch for more information.