Working From Home: How Do You Stay Focused?

working from home

Working From Home: How Do You Stay Focused?

I represent the southern branch of Shout It Out Design, and I work from home in Raleigh, NC.  This is the most common question I’m asked when someone learns I work remotely: “How do you stay focused and productive at home all day?”

It’ s a good question, and one that doesn’t come as a surprise since an estimated 70 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged at work.  If we have a hard time staying on task in the office, it’s natural to think we would have an even harder time when our bed/TV/pets/etc. are calling to us!

I’m relatively new to the work from home life, and had the same question for myself.  When I started my boss imparted some of his hard-learned wisdom: you should put on pants, try to stick to a routine and realize it’s going to take time to adjust.  I was on board with all of that, except for the pants part.  Do leggings count as pants?

So while I’m still growing to becoming an ideal work-from-homer, I do want to share what I’ve learned so far that helps me stay focused when working from home.

I’m Pretty Darn Happy

My coworker cat – total job perk (when she isn’t blocking my screen)

Working from home suits my introvert heart.  I enjoy time to myself, and the perks that come with the job:

I realize you might want to throw something at me now that you’ve seen how good I have it.  I promise, I am grateful!

But I want to illustrate my point that work-from-home perks like these lead to increased happiness, which can lead to increased productivity (on average a 12 percent increase in productivity according to a recent study).

That being said, it’s not all puppies and rainbows!  There are some legitimate challenges that I work my best to address each day.

I Go Talk To People

Even though I consider myself an introvert, I still do like talking with people.  If I don’t make an effort to get out of the home office and socialize, then I bother my boss on Slack with too many cat gifs and lame jokes.

In addition to ensuring you’re still able to form full sentences, getting out of your home office is a great way to grow your business!  I recently joined a local chapter of Business Network International (BNI), which gives me the chance to meet weekly with a group of like-minded professionals who want to help each other grow our businesses.  I feel energized after these weekly meetings, and they keep me motivated through the day.

I also look for a couple of networking events to attend each week, either through the chamber of commerce or MeetUp groups, and have met some cool people and business prospects in the process.

I Change My Environment

When most people ask me how I can productively work from home, I expect they’re picturing me sitting in my pajamas on the couch or at the kitchen table.  That type of day-to-day environment would not work for me, so I have a spare bedroom that doubles as my office.  My workspace is set up for productivity and helps me get in the right mindset.

      Coworking space at The Frontier (image source: The Frontier)

Still, sometimes I need to switch it up.  Whether I’m working on something creative or feeling uninspired, heading to a new location helps to reinvigorate me.

My favorite place is a coworking space in Durham called The Frontier that provides free workstations and private meeting rooms for work-from-homers, entrepreneurs and the like.  It’s an amazing resource, and I regularly meet new puppies when I visit.  Pretty great! I’ll also head to a local coffee shop with a project or two and not leave until I’m done, which is stimulating and productive.  (Side note, I always take my own Wi-Fi hotspot – trust no public Wi-Fi!)

Other times, changing my environment just means taking a break – turning off my computer and taking the dog for a walk or running an errand to add some variety to my day.

While these tactics might not be earth shattering, I hope they remind fellow workers (remote and traditional) that it’s OK to leave the office and try something new if you can – it might even help you do your job better!

I Try To Embrace Humdrum Tasks

We all have the repetitive work that needs to be accomplished, but doesn’t exactly get our engines revving.  This is where I struggle. And, apparently, I’m not alone.  According to data from the University of Innsbruck, while work-from-home employees are more productive on creative tasks, “remote workers tend to be 6-10 less productive than on-site employees when doing repetitive work.”

I think the reason for this is project fatigue.  I’ve said previously that working from home allows me to be laser-focused on the task at hand without standard office distractions – much like a couple hours in a typical office on the weekend can be majorly productive.  But that maintained level of focus can leave me feeling drained and not so motivated to move onto less-appealing work.

I’ve recognized this challenge, and try to embrace those tasks.  Those are often the projects I take with me when I work at a coffee shop or coworking space.  Or, if the task allows, I’ll indulge and take my laptop downstairs to sit on the couch with my dog.  I’ll put something mindless on TV (I’m looking at you, “The Hills”) and get to work.

Another tactic I use is to reward myself with a coffee or a play break with the pets once I complete a task.  Or I’ll go annoy my husband for a bit while he tries to work – that’s always fun!

While the lifestyle I have outlined here suits someone in web design, working from home might not be possible for everyone.  If you work in a research lab, or are a professional painter you probably can’t swing working from home full-time.  But there might be parts of your job you can take home, and I expect you’ll find joy comes with doing that work in the space you choose, at the pace you choose.

I know I’ve got it good, I like my job and I like the way I get to do it.  I hope more professionals get the chance to enjoy the perks of working remotely from time to time!  Give me a shout if you want to learn more about the working from home life, or if you just want to meet me for a coffee to help me keep my conversational skills sharp!

Rachel Lewis
With ten years of marketing and communications experience in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, nonprofit, automotive and accounting, Rachel puts her diverse background to good use by helping our clients find their voice. Rachel loves a good pun and has an advanced affinity for alliteration.