Advice for working from home: How to stay focused

James McMath

20 Jul 2017

Updated: 11 Nov 2023

Working from home has many obvious advantages. For a start, the commute is a lot shorter and there's no more arguing over whether to turn the heating up or down.

However, working from home does have its pitfalls, not least, staying focused.

One of the biggest challenges facing people who work from home is keeping their mind on the job and resisting the temptation to do some chores or squeeze in a little daytime TV.

Related: Ideas to make extra money from home

Print specialist instantprint has created a startup hub to help small business and sole traders. It includes advice for working from home.

Advice for working from home

Stick to a schedule: Plan for the working week ahead, set goals for each day and stick to them.

Have an office: Having a dedicated workspace helps create a physical boundary between home life and work life. It's common that family or visitors forget you actually have work to do an dan office can help with this.

Get the tools for the job: If you worked in a normal office, you would likely have a separate set of equipment. Set yourself up with a designated computer, printer and stationery for your work. This also helps draw a line between home and work life.

Get dressed: It might be tempting take the laptop to the sofa and sit in your pyjamas all day but that is not conducive to a productive day. Getting dress for work puts you in the right frame of mind to get the job done.

Keep the peace: If you have children or pets at home while you are working, do your best not to let them interrupt you. If you juggle childcare with working from home, try to designate time when you can work (such as when they are at school, nursery or napping). Consider using your lunch break to spend time with the kids or take the dog for a walk.

Work as normal: The lack of structure can be one of the biggest challenges for home workers. Do your best to treat it like a regular job, working to set hours and at regular times.

Take breaks: When working from home, it can also be tempting to do as much as possible as quickly as possible. But, just like when working in a normal office, it's important to take regular screen breaks, drink plenty of water and move around as much as possible.

Get out: Don't forget to leave the house once in a while. Because you don't have to leave the house for work, doesn't mean you should stay indoors for a week. Try to leave your house once a day, even if it's just for a short walk. If it's a nice day, consider eating your lunch in the garden or at a nearby park.

Stay connected: A big drawback of working from home can be the isolation. You might have found some of your old workmates annoying but being around other people has its benefits. One of the things home workers miss most is the sense of camaraderie. Where possible, try to arrange meetings face-to-face and visit your colleagues on occasions. If you work alone, consider meeting friends for lunch or dinner.

Time-management advice

James Kinsella, co-founder of instantprint said: Our customers are small and micro-businesses and we think it is important to support them in areas of their business beyond print. To do this, we created the startup hub to help educate and inform our customers about everything and anything related to their business, from growth challenges to HR and marketing.

"In our 2017 Big Small Business Survey we discovered that small businesses really struggle with time management, which is often made even harder with the distractions that come from working at home.

"Since a lot of first-time business owners find themselves adjusting from office life to home-working, we thought guides and eBooks that help them manage their time more effectively would be really beneficial."

Placing trust in staff

One company that often allows staff to work remotely is LovetheSales.

Company founder Stuart McClure said: "As a company we very much believe in staff first - it's important to ensure work does not get in the way of the important parts of life.

"So, if you need to go to the doctors, or are having trouble with childcare etc. we won't get in the way of that, or make you take it out of your holiday.

"I think companies that make you take holiday for this kind of thing demonstrate a complete lack of trust and empathy in their staff.

"If I can make someone's day better, happier or less stressful by saying 'don't bother coming in after the doctors, work from home', why wouldn't I do that?

"With the technology that's available today, we can ensure people stay in touch and are virtually working together regardless of location. So, everyday we have a 'stand-up' where each team member says what they did yesterday, what they're doing today and what they're blocked on.

"If you are at home that day, or remote, you just join via Google Hangouts and you are as good as in the meeting - and the same for more formal meetings.

"If you have an appointment at the time, we note everything in slack or record it for you to watch/listen back and you can update the team when you're available."

Benefits for employer and employee

Staying in touch with colleagues is, of course, an essential element if remote working is to be a success.

Jason Downes, managing director of conference call provider, says it must work for both employers and employees.

He said: "Businesses in every industry must ensure their flexible working policy complies with government legislation.

"Flexible working has to benefit you as an employer as much as your employee, if you allow your employees to work both remotely and flexibly they will in the long run be more motivated as they will be able to ensure a better work-life balance.

"This offering is not only beneficial to your business but also your employees, too.

"Offering this policy demonstrates to your team that you are willing to adapt in order to pander to their needs, this gives a great impression of trust and flexibility and in the long run means they will be more likely to stay loyal to you”.