Working from home may sound like a good idea – no commute, no office politics, more freedom – but it has its downsides as well.
You may or may not have a choice as to whether you work from home. It could be down to the company you work for or, sometimes, even the government.
Staying motivated when your home is also your office can be difficult. So how can you keep your focus on your job while you’re supposed to be working?
Have a work space
Dedicate a work space in your home – even if it’s a temporary work space that’s reserved for work during your normal office hours and then reverts to being a personal space.
If you have to do that, it pays to have at least one or two “signals” that it’s now work space – a printout with your name on it like you’d see on an office door works if nothing else springs to mind. You can make one quickly in a program like Word if you want. Then Blu-Tack it to the door of your “office” and take it down at the end of the working day.
Make sure anyone else at home knows this is your working area. Pets can take less notice of these boundaries than humans (although not always) but they will get the idea.
Commute to your home office
Mindset is important and if your “commute” is simply clearing away the breakfast bowls and refilling your coffee cup, your mind won’t get the idea that it’s now supposed to be at work.
Maybe walk or cycle a short route, starting and ending at your home.
Dress for the office
Whilst it’s tempting not to get changed for work – or only change from the waist up if you’re likely to be on video calls – this is another signal to your mind that you’re now in work mode.
Keep to your regular work routine
It’s easy to get out of the regular routine of going to the office.
Keep as close to your regular work routine as you can. That includes the breaks you used to take and the times you start and end each working session.
Don’t clock watch when you do this – time passes more slowly when you’re always looking at it – but, equally, don’t let your work time over-run on a regular basis. Otherwise the thought of always being at work will drag your motivation down rapidly.
Keep to work hours
This is something anyone who’s been self employed will tell you – it’s really easy for the “job” to turn into something that happens 7 days a week and any time you’re awake.
Keep to your regular work hours as much as possible and don’t let yourself become a workaholic.
Yes. there will probably be occasional overtime. That’s normal. But when it becomes an every day occurrence you need to act to sort that out. Message your boss and explain that things are getting out of hand. Especially if they’re the one who emails you something urgent to do by first thing tomorrow, 5 minutes before the end of the working day. Be polite and remember that they may be adjusting to this as well and they may even be in a different time zone and therefore not realise what they’re doing.
Again, self employed people will confirm that you’re almost never really on holiday when your workspace is your home space.
Take a vacation – whether it’s time spent sunbathing in a garden or park or an actual vacation.
Turn off the machines
Phones have a do not disturb option and you can set that to work outside regular office hours. You can also set exceptions so that friends and family can get hold of you.
Close email and instant messenger programs. If everything comes through to the same place – maybe work emails are being forwarded to your home email, that kind of thing – then work out how you’re going to ignore work messages out of working hours. Different folders are possible on most email programs, instant messenger apps may be less easy but you’ll work out a way.
If work wouldn’t let you casually browse the web when you’re in the office, don’t do it during work time when you’re working from home.
Eliminate as many other distractions as possible. That may mean wearing headphones and playing yourself some background music or even some subliminals if there are other people and creatures around.
Of course, that won’t stop the delivery drivers from knocking on the door and then re-knocking 2 seconds afterwards if you haven’t sprinted to answer them. But you may well be getting deliveries for work as well as home so that’s something you’ll have to put up with. Sorry.
Re-train your mind
All the steps so far will help train your mind to realise that it’s working, even though the workspace looks remarkably similar to your home space.
Which will help motivate you to do work when you’re supposed to be working.
But if you need some extra help – and most of us do, a lot of the time – then it’s worth educating your mind to help you.
The best way I know to do this is with hypnosis. It’s low effort on your part (select an MP3, put your headphones on, press “play”) but it works exceptionally well.
This link goes to a selection of 5 hypnosis tracks to keep you motivated. It’s well worth checking out.