Workplace doctor: How to keep your concentration on track when working from home.
You can work from home even in your pyjamas
I work from home and sometimes struggle to concentrate because I am not in an office environment. A colleague suggests dressing as if I am going into the office to help me focus, but that seems rather pointless to me. Do you think this would work or can you suggest some other ideas to motivate me in my home office? TS, Al Ain
There are so many people who would love to be in your situation, having flexibility in their lives and the ability to work from home. With discipline at the core of this approach, some find success with it while others don’t. It sounds to me that you are still in the “trying to make it work” phase. Conversely, I have a friend who is currently complaining about an inability to concentrate in her workplace due to the noise and distractions of having an open desk, as opposed to a closed office.
This makes me reflect on our weekends and the hobbies we enjoy. For some it’s music, for others it’s creating wooden models or it may be cooking, each coming with possible distractions such as the phone ringing or children complaining. Yet we still manage to exclaim “where has the time gone?” when we resurface. I wonder if your struggle to concentrate would occur if you were doing something you truly love, and are meant to be engaging with. However, some tips to help you keep your mind on the job include: • Set targets with rewards
An example of this may be that one report must be completed and submitted within a certain time. Set this as a target and once the send button is clicked, move towards the reward you were allowed for finishing the task. That may be a munch on a biscuit in the kitchen, playtime with the family pet, a personal phone call and gossip (with a time limit) or even a walk in the great outdoors.
• Move regularly
Air can become stale, posture can become stuck and the mind can become blank with no change. Movement gets things flowing. In the workplace, movement can be restricted to walking to the coffee machine or stretching in the chair, yet at home pop the yoga mat down and follow the TV yoga master for 15 minutes. Whatever rocks your socks, do it to get blood circulating and oxygen flowing.
• Vary your timings
The great thing is that you have 24 hours in a day that totally belong to you. Those who attend a workplace on a daily basis simply can’t say that. This gives you great flexibility – if you are a night person as many IT people are, work when your energy is flowing until 4 or 5am if need be, with no concern about physically clocking in at 9am. If you are a mum, vary your timings around feed times. If you are an athlete, vary your times around your sporting commitments. Not only will this achieve movement and reward but it will also allow you to embed balance into your life. Many ask me why am I still working at 8 or 9pm and I say that I was at the beach, a passion of mine, in the middle of the day for a few hours nurturing myself. That’s balance to me.
TS, I’ve achieved some of my greatest work in my pyjamas. Is it really about the suit and make-up, or rather an alignment of personal optimisation with completion of tasks? Only you can decide.
Know what works for you, pop a discipline pill and allow the results to amaze you.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague