Once upon a time, office workers worked in … well, offices. Working from home was an occasional assignment — and perk — for some.
Today, full-time remote work is the new normal for many people who used to work in an office setting. As a result, some people may have experienced an increase in productivity and greater work-life balance. But in the effort to find that balance, this new reality has also led many to feel a loss of focus due to less structure throughout the workday and fewer social interactions.
5 tips for staying focused when working from home
At home, a constant barrage of emails, texts, chat messages, and video meetings may compete for your attention with distractions such as chores, social media, and family members — both human and 4-legged.
Simple practices can help you stay focused and avoid distractions, according to Ashley Zucker, MD, a psychiatrist for Kaiser Permanente in San Bernardino, who recommends that you:
• Get up and get dressed every morning.
• Create a visual separation between work and home. If you don’t have space for a separate room, having a dedicated workspace with different décor or even a workstation you set up and take down each day can create that physical and visual distinction between work and home.
• Maintain a daily routine, including scheduling time for breaks.
• Stretch several times a day. Better yet, exercise regularly and get outside for fresh air.
• Set limits for activities such as social media sites or games. Turn off notifications on your phone and set a specific time to check social media or check personal email. If possible, work in a separate room from the TV or video games if those will be distracting.
The pandemic’s impact on mental health
Don’t dismiss COVID-19’s impact on your mental health. The stress, burnout, and anxiety related to living in a pandemic for the past 2 years have led to an increase in mental health issues, including attention problems or an inability to focus, among some adults.
If you’re experiencing stress, burnout, and anxiety, practicing self-care and connecting with your co-workers and others can help.
Attention problems can also result from other medical or mental health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, thyroid dysfunction, anxiety, depression, and more. Dr. Zucker recommends contacting your doctor or a mental health professional to perform a diagnosis if the inability to focus persists.
“While working from home has many advantages, it’s important to be aware of the impacts it may be having on your mental health or your job performance,” Dr. Zucker said. “Making sure you are finding ways to stay connected with work colleagues, friends, and family — and maintaining clear boundaries between time at work and personal time — can enhance your well-being and your productivity.”