Health + Wellness

8 ways to help focus on working at home

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During these past few months of the COVID-19 outbreak, Singapore has been forced to implement a host of strict measures in a bid to reduce social contact and drive down infection numbers.

Singapore has been under a ‘circuit breaker’ since 7 April. During this period, around 80 per cent of the workforce has been estimated to be working from home. It is also understood that for the foreseeable future, working from home is going to be the new norm. 

While many have embraced working from home, some have found the adjustment to be difficult, for a multitude of reasons. Your sprawling, big office desk and ergonomic leather-cushioned chair have been replaced by a makeshift setup occupying part of the dining room.

Simple jobs like getting some documents printed, for example, have become seemingly insurmountable tasks. Your kids are running around, making a mess of the house. Your mum is shouting for you to help her with the TV channel. Your spouse is asking you to help with the household chores. You find yourself getting distracted by the shows that are ‘trending now’ on Netflix. After a day of procrastination, you could very well end up working overtime way past your regular work hours, since your home is now your workplace. On top of it all, after being cooped up at home for so long, cabin fever could be sneaking up on you. 

If you are facing problems trying to maintain productivity while working from home, here are some tips that may help: 

1. Have a dedicated workspace 

Creating an effective workspace is essential if you want to stay on track and get things done. Designate your workspace in a room with a door that can be closed. If this is not possible, find a corner of a room away from the main area. Personalising your workspace with some ‘office’ touches may be able to help with productivity. Make sure that you have a comfortable chair to sit on, otherwise you may find yourself making excuses to get up frequently. A high-quality office chair is one of the best investments you can make when working from home. 

2. Get the right tools for the job

Noise distractions from family members or your neighbours can cause you to lose focus. Another good investment is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds.

3. Stay off social media

Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook leads to a great deal of procrastination. Therefore, think carefully about which notifications to keep on, and which ones to mute until later. Allocate time slots for checking your phone. 

4. Dress for success 

Even though you are working from home, getting out of your pyjamas and dressing appropriately to work can help to set the right mental tone for the day. 

5. Create a schedule 

Just like you would at your regular workplace, create a daily work schedule with goals and deadlines. This helps to avoid procrastination and lose focus by “switch-tasking”. It also provides a structure for your day, and establishes a psychological barrier that prevents you from being drawn to distractions or doing other household chores instead. After a reasonable day of work, formally clock out by putting away all your electronic devices and work tools. 

6. Take your time to get into rhythm 

Now that you have sorted out your workspace, tools and schedule, it is time to start working. Just like how it takes several minutes to settle into a comfortable pace when running, it typically takes around 15-20 minutes to get deeply focussed when doing work. It helps to start with the easier, straightforward tasks before going on to the harder work that requires more concentration. Once you get into the flow and your brain’s conditioning takes over, you should be able to churn out a good work session.  

7. Reward yourself 

Arrange to take several breaks when creating your work schedule so that you may give your eyes a well deserved rest after straining at the computer screen for several hours. You might feel extra motivated when you know you are working towards a warm cup of coffee or the delicious lunch you have prepared.  Do not neglect your physical health, be sure to schedule some time for a home workout or head out for a run. Exercise produces endorphins, which aid in relieving stress. Getting out of the house for some fresh air also helps to avoid cabin fever.

8. Make human contact 

Even though your family members can be a source of distraction, it is nonetheless important to find time to interact with them after you have completed your work. If you live alone, working from home can be a lonely affair. Getting face time via video calls with your family, friends and colleagues may help you feel more refreshed and ready to tackle more work.


Article contributed by Dr Edwin Ong.

He is the resident doctor at DTAP Clinic @ Siglap. The clinic provides comprehensive and holistic care for men’s health, women’s health and other acute & chronic medical issues including Viscosupplementation treatment for Knee Arthritis.

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