How to Work from Home Effectively and Maintain Your Focus

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How to work effectively from home
How to work from home and be effective can elude even seasoned remote workers during trying times.

How to work from home effectively and stay focused might be a bit challenging for you right now. You are not alone. There are plenty of things going on to keep you distracted. Let’s face it, most of us have never experienced a pandemic. Certainly, this is the biggest crisis in the lifetime of most people living on earth today, but you can do this!

Stress and anxiety make it hard to focus on your work. There are many local, state and federal online resources to help with good advice but be wary of those websites that are out to take advantage and play it safe by checking the URL or address line. Stick to known websites especially those belonging to the government, like this one from the CDC on coping with stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chances are, you always dreamed of working from home — but that dream never included the entire family being home with you. That adds another layer of complication,” says Margaret Simonson, research analyst for Manhattan Resources. “How do you manage to be an attentive parent and get office work done? The key is setting a daily routine for every member of the family, even the little ones, and sticking to it.”

How to work effectively from home
Avoid distractions by being intentional about your work.

Refining The Routine to Work from Home Successfully

But for this blog, we are going to focus on the work routine — whether you are a working couple at home or a working single, here’s how to get the most out of your workday. If you are working from home as parents with children, you will need to coordinate your calendar with your spouse/partner including meetings. If you are a single parent working from home without help, engage the children with a matching calendar for school work and a nearby desk.

Working from home is great when you get it right, but it’s important to be intentional about how you use your time. It’s way too easy to get distracted and lose your motivation. When you do, you lower your productivity and create frustration for you and your family. At Manhattan Resources, we are experts at remote working and we are here to help you make the transition.

Meditate to ease stress
Your morning roadmap should help you set a positive frame of mind for the day.

Start the Day Right with a Morning Roadmap

This is a critical rule. At first, you will be tempted to get up right away and check the news and your email while you have coffee. Stop right there. Attitude is everything when you work from home and the news is not encouraging right now. Anyway, the news will be there when you are ready. Tend to your frame of mind first thing in the morning to get the most out of your day.

  • Start your morning with an attitude check. Get up early, preferably before pets and kids. Use an alarm if needed and resist the temptation to hit snooze.
  • It helps many people to start with morning meditation. This only needs to be 10 minutes. Make it a positive, mood-enhancing meditation from an app like Calm, 10% Happier or Headspace. Since these apps have a small charge associated with them, you can also go to YouTube and search for guided meditations there.
  • For an extra boost, especially if isolation goes on for a long period, add an affirmation or gratitude session. This typically means writing down 5-10 positive things or things you are grateful for and why. Keep these in a journal.
  • While exercise is recommended at noon, this is also a preference for many people first thing in the morning. A stationary bike ride, treadmill run, rowing machine, or 30 minutes of yoga is a great way to start the day.
  • Breakfast and coffee with family, news or social but limit your time to 30 minutes to stay on schedule.
  • Off to the showers, dress comfortably, no makeup needed (yay)!
remember to take a break
Set your alarm and remember to take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes to be most productive.

Desk Time and Breaks

Recent research shows that the most productive people take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes. This can vary from person to person but working from home can be dangerous for your health if you don’t force yourself to move around. Of course, much also depends on your own body and level of fitness. For instance, if you have bad knees or restless legs syndrome, you may need to move around more often. The same may be true for people who suffer from sleep disorders.

Set the alarm on your phone and force yourself to get up and walk around in the backyard when it goes off. Look out to the distant horizon. This is very good for resting the eyes. Take a short walk if you are in a remote area where it is safe to do so or walk around the house.  While up and moving, drink a full glass of water and take another back to your desk.

While sitting at your desk, trade out your chair every hour for your exercise ball. This will prevent aches and pains especially if you have an older desk chair or one that is not very ergonomic. Plus, it has the added benefit of being fun to sit on and strengthening your abs and lower body.

Small Rewards
Set small goals and give yourself little treats for your accomplishments.

Rewarding Good Behavior Helps You Work from Home Effectively

Treats are going to become especially important over the next month or so. Let’s come up with a few special ones. Maybe everyone in the household starts with movie tokens and when they show good work-oriented behavior these go into a popcorn box. Don’t have one? Make one with cardboard, printer paper, and crayons! When these add up to the right amount, the family can purchase a new movie release on demand.

Or make ice cream the old-fashioned way (find a recipe online). Maybe you can make topping tokens for good behavior and these can be cashed in at the ice cream sundae bar.

And who says bribes are just for kids? Reward yourself for good behavior by doing something you enjoy. Promise yourself that you can make a latte or have two delivered to the house if you just get your budget finished by 5 p.m. or file your quarterly report by the end of the day.

“The idea of a treat not only gives you the motivation to keep moving, but it also helps you work faster,” says CEO Chris Schoettelkotte of Manhattan Resources. “We often motivate ourselves in big ways, like taking a trip when we get a bonus. Why not enjoy a few small indulgences while working in isolation?”

How to work effectively from home
Turning off social media during the work hours keeps you focused.

How to Work from Home Effectively Begins with Turning Off Social Media from 8-5

Unless your job is working in social media or driven by changes in social media, you do not need to be checking social media while you are trying to work from home. If you are using social media to collaborate on a project, then that is a different story.

Of course, anyone following the 17-minute walkabout every 52 minutes, can utilize this time to peek into their messenger account if they wish but don’t forget to give your eyes that all-important rest.

If you cannot trust yourself to break away from social media during the day, you can use the tool called ColdTurkey to block you between certain hours.

Work Effectively from Home
When its time for lunch, take time for lunch and get a bit of exercise in the process.

Enjoy a Healthy Lunch and  a 30-Minute Workout

The best way to re-energize your work for the afternoon is to take a lunch break. If you are home alone, be sure to make this a healthy choice. Take the time to prepare something special and colorful with vegetables and fresh fruit. Get plenty of protein to help you think during the afternoon.

It is well-documented that exercise helps enhance immunity, improve mood, and increase energy. All of these combined have the added benefit of boosting your productivity, too. Exercising just 2.5 hours a week at a moderate pace results in fewer illnesses, increased intelligence, improved memory, and higher levels of satisfaction and engagement.

Work effectively from home
Set quick reasonable deadlines to stay motivated.

Set Reasonable Deadlines to Work from Home Effectively

Remember, even though you are virtually officing, you are still on your own. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Most people work well with deadlines. It gives them a purpose and a goal.

Try to set deadlines comfortably behind one another. Do not stretch them out. Make each project begin and end quickly so that you can move onto the next one. Be clear about the start and completion dates when you accept a project.

Tight but realistic timeframes will ensure you get the task done quickly. Besides, it will help you weed out distractions by allowing laser focus.

Remote Communications
Be sure to set up a strong communications network with your team and a meeting calendar.

Work from Home Effectively by Setting Up a Communications Network

Do you know how to reach all of the people on your team and do they know how to reach you? Set up a communications sheet early and maintain it. You will likely be adding to it as the weeks progress so keep it open or handy and update as you go.

Also, set regular meetings on your calendar, especially if you need to meet with several teams each week.  Coordinate these with your spouse or partner to ensure there are no disruptions.

Unlike office work, it is difficult to address topics when they come to mind. You can text or email questions but you will soon be inundated with information. It is best to keep a log of questions and make one phone call or send one email each day to address all items on your list. This will make it easier for your boss to reference everything at once, and to recall issues at a later date if needed.

How to work effectively from home
Set your working hours and make sure everyone is aware of them.

Set Your Work Hours and Make Sure They are Known

It is way too easy to work around the clock when working from home. You have to draw the line, especially if you are a parent. If you and your spouse are co-parenting and sharing office space at home, divide up the workday. Let your boss know how this will occur so that your hours are known and agreed upon. Try to make it easy to remember for the sake of your co-workers.

Staying organized in this manner will help your motivation because it lets you look forward to an end to your workday and brings some normalcy.

Work effectively from home
It makes it much easier for your family to understand that you are working when you are in a dedicated workspace.

Dedicated Spaces Will Help You Work from Home Effectively

Even if you live in a small space, it is important to set aside a dedicated area as a workspace. Make sure all family members quarantined at home with you recognize and respect this office area. This means, when you are in this area, you are not available.

Use a desk or table and a comfortable chair. Other options, such as taking a laptop to bed or the couch, will not work effectively. Having a clear space to arrange your work items and easily write, take notes, use the phone, and simply back away from the screen to think is important.

Creating proper boundaries and setting clear expectations will help reduce blockages and improve your ability to focus.

Work tools matter
Be sure you have the right tools to enable your work.

The Right Tools Help You Work from Home Effectively

Your office will likely give you a list of software tools to load and use while working from home. any additional efficiency tools that you discover can be shared with your team during weekly meetings. Keep track of these ideas on your notepad and add them to your daily wrapup for discussion later.

Take inventory of any physical tools that you might need in addition to your computer, internet connection, and cell phone. These might range from sticky notes to a wastebasket. Find replacements if you cannot order what is missing.

Video call to isolated grandparents
Keep your human connections by engaging in video calls.

Reconnect With Clients, Coworkers, and Family Using Video Conferencing

Maintaining human connections is critical. So much can be resolved simply by communicating. Often when we see one another, we remember to connect as people. This is more important now than ever. We are all going through this pandemic together. Be patient and try to be understanding. Be solutions-oriented.

Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. This is easier said than done. The things we worry about will try to slip in and occupy your mind. It is your job to turn it around. When a negative thought enters your head, try to picture your outcome if the opposite occurs. Stay focused on how you can bring about positive outcomes on small things. As the little wins add up so does your confidence and overall well being.

Let’s not forget networking with co-workers and friends. Remember those after-hours drinks. Do it on Facetime and share a glass of wine. And don’t forget the grandparents who are isolated, too. Share a virtual family dinner on Facetime or Google. For fun, both families can cook the same family-traditional meal.

It’s a big thing you are doing by staying in quarantine and you are doing it for humanity. Thank you.

About Manhattan Resources

Manhattan Resources is a retained executive search and advisory services firm with deep experience assisting our clients in building high-performance teams. We specialize in oil & gas, retail energy, power & utilities, petrochemicals, manufacturing, distribution, and engineering. For this reason, Manhattan Resources invites you to experience an executive search and business solutions partner like no other. As always, we’re there to help you fill mission-critical leadership roles, build high-performance teams, and tackle your most significant challenges. We measure our success the same way you do. Making sure your team is exceeding corporate objectives and measuring how much our people move the needle for your company. Manhattan Resources has the agility, innovation and business acumen to assume a bold approach. As a result, we will help you take your business to the next level. Find out how the experts can help. Contact Us >>.

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