Work from home: How to stay motivated and accountable in remote working
Despite the new norm of working from home, many of us struggle without a conventional office space. Charlotte Osborn from the award-winning SEO company, Reboot helps us find out how to stay motivated with these top tips.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a positive shift in attitude towards working from home. Long gone are the days of assuming “working from home” meant skiving off duties—it is instead now widely accepted as a permanent work set-up.
Despite this normalisation, it doesn’t mean working from home is perfect. In fact, logging in remotely presents its own challenges.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or distracted when working from home, or if you simply can’t find the line between your personal and professional life, don’t panic. Instead, read on to find out how to stay motivated and positive when working remotely.
The benefits of working from home
The average number of work-from-home adults has increased from 33% to 44% over the past couple of years, reflecting the normalisation of domesticated office spaces.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many of us into working from home, there are undeniable positives. These include:
- Saving money. Think no more costly commutes to the office or expensive eat-out lunches.
- Increased free time as less time spent on commuting means more time to take for yourself.
- Less stress without busy commutes, train delays or bad weather to contend with.
- Flexible working environments and hours. Many remote jobs allow employees to work from their chosen environment, with some encouraging their employees to choose the working hours best suited to them.
Forward-thinking companies have taken additional steps to advance the way their employees work. After becoming a fully remote SEO company in 2020, Reboot Online took it a step further by permanently introducing the four-day working week at the beginning of 2022, thanks to a successful six-month trial period which saw an increase in employee productivity and happiness. The company’s flexible working hours policy has also helped improve employee mental health.
Naomi, Managing Director and co-founder of Reboot Online, says:
Because working from home gave all of our employees more personal time, we saw the opportunity to trial a four-day working week. We made this a permanent feature—along with our remote working model—following an increase in employee productivity and happiness.
But with all of these gleaming positives, why are we still struggling to work from home?
The problems with working from home
As with everything in life, nothing is perfect and working from home brings about its own problems. So, what are some of the struggles you may come to face when you start your workday from your house?
Lack of human connection
Loneliness is a big problem when working from home. For all the benefits of getting to work in your PJs, not having that in-person connection with your colleagues can take its toll. Working in isolation is a completely different vibe from the bustle of an active office, and one that virtual Zoom meetings fail to compensate for.
Lack of in-person collaboration
Working from home takes away the ability to stroll to your colleague’s desk for advice or exchange ideas at the water cooler. Without banter to lighten a heavy day or a desk neighbour to help bounce ideas off of, working from home can feel stifling when it’s just you on the project.
Frustrating technological challenges
Technology may have progressed at speed in favour of work-from-home candidates, but this doesn’t eliminate problems. From internet connection disruptions to software glitches, technology problems can cause issues and distractions to your workflow at home.
Forgetting to take breaks
Sometimes it can be easy to power through the day without so much as lifting your hand to take a sip of water. Office culture encourages us to get up and make a coffee round or stretch our legs on the way to top up our water bottles. Working home alone, however, it can be easy to forget to take regular breaks or to give your eyes (and brain) an all-important rest.
You’re unable to switch off
Identifying the boundary between your professional and personal life can be tough when you work from home. In fact, 22% of remote workers struggle to shut off from their jobs once the working day is over.
You can get stuck indoors
Along with a chilling winter season and year-round rainy days in the UK, you have one less reason to leave the house when working from home. Fresh air, screen breaks and a change of scene are all vital for productivity, but it can be hard to motivate yourself to go outside when you have nowhere to travel to.
There are endless distractions
Noisy neighbours, a messy room, a chatty roommate—there are endless distractions vying for your attention when working from home.
With no colleagues around to peep over your shoulder, how easy is it to let yourself wander to social media or gossip sites on your browser? How distracting is it when your partner wanders past every hour, chatting away at you? Even nagging house chores can be enough reason to leave your desk mid-project to tidy away the all-distracting mess.
Life goes on at home and it can be difficult to ignore pressing domestic matters when working from home.
How to create a thriving environment when working from home
The upside to identifying problems within a system is that you can find the solution. For all the perceived downsides to working from home, there are definite counteractions you can take to turn them into positives.
One of the most important things to prioritise when working from home is keeping your mental health in check.
Here are a few tips on how to cultivate a thriving environment when working remotely.
Change up your location
Whether it’s moving your desk to another room or taking your laptop to the local coffee shop, changing your environment can help give you an invigorating boost.
Speak to your teammates, regularly
If you’re feeling the sting of isolation, make sure you’re engaging with your colleagues on a daily basis. This can be through voice messages, phone calls or video meetings to simulate that in-person connection during brainstorms.
Set boundaries between work and home
It might sound simple, but trying to ignore household duties during working hours, or emails during personal hours, can be challenging. Set boundaries by scheduling personal time for chores, ask your partner not to disturb you while you’re “at work” and remove work applications from your smartphone, to avoid the temptation of working after hours.
Create a “going to” and “coming home from work” routine
It can be tricky to literally “switch off” from a day’s work if your desk is in the same room as your personal space. Try setting up a routine of “leaving work” at the end of the day, either by closing the door on your delegated office room or by packing away your laptop so it can’t be used outside of working hours.
Manage your break times (and your distractions)
If you find yourself either burnt out from lack of breaks or distracted by the pulls of your home life, you should try using a focus assistant. There are various web browser extensions, such as Pomodoro, which you can use to set alerts to remind you to take five-minute breaks throughout your working day.
Request anonymous feedback forms
It’s also important to feedback to your employer on how you feel and how you are coping when working remotely. Ask your manager to create a monthly or quarterly anonymous feedback survey, where all employees can safely raise any concerns they might have.
We are all challenged by daily distractions, but what are the implications of such severe interruptions to our workload?
The word “distraction” has evolved from the original Latin definition of “pulling apart” or “separating”. But the same meaning still stands: distractions cause your brain and concentration to fragment and break down!
When your concentration is broken down by distractions, it can take a surprisingly long time to put back together. According to a study from the University of California, it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus once distracted. That equates to losing an hour of work for every three distractions you have!
How to limit distractions when working from home
To avoid losing half your workday to niggling distractions or tempting procrastinating, here are a few steps you can take to prevent disruption:
- Use the Pomodoro technique. Break your working day hours down into focus windows that are separated by breaks with the Pomodoro technique. The most common set-up is 25 minutes of focusing followed by a five-minute break. You can use a Pomodoro Chrome extension or phone app to help set your focus intervals and alerts
- Wear headphones to block out distracting noises (you can even listen to focus playlists to further deter disruptions). Noisy neighbours, the postman or even your partner can contribute to multiple interruptions throughout the day, so tune them out by wearing headphones whilst you’re concentrating
- Turn your phone off. Switching off unnecessary notifications will help minimise interruptions. Fully turning off your phone will also discourage you from checking social media during your focus time
Make sure working from home is right for you
At its worst, working from home can be isolating and demotivating. But at its best, remote working can give you more freedom, more time to spend with your loved ones and a better work-life balance.
But these perks can come with some responsibility: you need to make sure that you establish boundaries between your work and home life. As long as you respect those boundaries and prioritise your wellbeing at work through focus time, engaging with colleagues and limiting distractions, you are sure to stay motivated and thrive when working from home.
Author: Charlotte Osborn