Paul Gallagher is director – professional services for the finance & accountancy, HR and legal divisions at Kelly Services Hong Kong.
How can I stay motivated when working from home?
My company is rolling out a new flexible working policy and it partly requires people in my department (back office support for a bank) to work at home two days a week. While I like the idea of getting up later and avoiding the commute, I have always found it difficult to get motivated at home and have been very unproductive when working from home in the past. I’m worried that this new policy is going to have a negative affect on my output and career. What can I do to improve my focus and concentration at home, and show my boss that I’m an asset in this new working environment?
The advent of digital technology has meant that we are more connected than ever before, and working from home is becoming a common feature of 21st-century employment. Though most people welcome the idea of having a flexible working environment, I can understand how the shift to a more comfortable or relaxing setting can hinder productivity.
There are a few strategies and tools, however, to combat this. Firstly, I would suggest you dress in workplace attire – what you wear definitely has an impact on your productivity. How do you feel when you hop on a conference call in your pyjamas, compared to a three-piece suit? In order to keep motivated, make sure to dress in a way that gives you confidence and keeps you feeling professional.
Secondly, it’s crucial to have a dedicated work space at home. It’s important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and staying on task. When you work from home, there are so many interruptions – you may get a call from a friend, give the kids a lift to the shops, or be distracted by the neighbour’s barking dog. I recommend that you designate a specialised area where you do the majority of your work. It doesn’t have to be a separate room, but it should be a place that’s free from distractions.
Thirdly, it’s important to hone your organisational skills. Use to-do lists and timetables, and spend 10 minutes before work drawing up a daily schedule for tasks you want to achieve. You should also number these tasks in order of importance and time sensitivity. Note all details when creating a timetable for your day. Statistics show that people are 10 times more likely to complete tasks if they write them down.
Lastly, I recommend that you exercise during your work day. There is plenty of research that highlights the increased productivity of those who are active during the work day. Try to include at least 5-10 minutes of light exercise or high interval training at home. This is an ideal way to break up your day into 30-45 minute sections, and you can still achieve the same – or sometimes higher – levels of productivity than if you stayed glued to your screen.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as How can I stay motivated when working from home?