Staying motivated when you work from home isn’t as easy as it sounds. That may seem like a banal observation to anyone who has only recently joined the remote workforce. But it doesn’t take much to realize just how bad things can get when you work from home year after year after year.
Just think back to the seemingly endless boredom that you felt during the first few weeks of the lockdowns. Do you remember how many times you wiped down the kitchen counter after the first month or two of home confinement?
Do you remember how you spent entire days in your pajamas, unshaven, and dishevelled, looking for recognizable animal shapes in the stains on the ceiling?
Sure, the perks of working from home are fantastic. We can’t argue against that. For one thing, you never have to contend with the drudgery of the daily commute – ever.
You have the freedom to whip up a sandwich anytime you want. You can do chores between tasks, and you never have to endure that particularly chatty co-worker ever again.
But staying motivated when you work from home demands a deliberate approach to time management that many have found difficult to master.
Boredom steals huge chunks of your time and distractions are abundant: The kids are hooting and squealing out in the backyard. The wife has started up the vacuum cleaner downstairs. The neighbour has decided that this morning is the best time to test his new leaf blower, which just happens to be the loudest model on the market.
“Working from home has blurred the lines between work and personal time,” says Kevin Harrington, CEO of the online job listing company, Joblist. “While this schedule flexibility can be beneficial for many, it also presents challenges.”
- 1 The Challenge of Staying Motivated When You Work from Home
- 2 5 Secrets to Staying Motivated When You Work from Home
- 3 Enjoy the Work as Much as You Enjoy the Perks
The Challenge of Staying Motivated When You Work from Home
Then, of course, there is also the fact that staying motivated when you work from home may not be built into our genes. People are social animals and physical workplaces are hubs for social interaction, collaboration, and human connection – all of which we need from time to time.
There is an innate, instinctual aspect within us that craves working face-to-face with our peers. We want to help. We want to be of service to the team. We want to be around people who share our objectives.
We have three hundred thousand years of evolutionary history behind us, and throughout that history, we have cooperated within proximity to our families, tribes, and teams.
“No one person could catch an animal on his own but working together, people could surround the animal and kill it for dinner,” says Michael Tomasello, author of the book, A Natural History of Human Thinking. “So there came a time when you had to be a good collaborator to survive and thrive.”
This might explain why the collaborative environment of a collective workplace can evoke a sense of excitement and fulfilment that cannot be satisfied in any other way.
An e-mail message that says “Job well done” simply does not motivate us enough to kill the mammoth as consistently, so to speak. It lacks the emotional resonance of the genuine smile and the handshake that we have all come to value.
5 Secrets to Staying Motivated When You Work from Home
But then thinking is a solitary endeavor. While we may thrive in cooperation and collaboration surrounded by our neighbours and family, we do our best thinking when we are alone. And thinking happens to be the remote worker’s domain.
We would not worry about all of this so much were it not for the fact that any loss of concentration might lead to reduced motivation and, consequently, decreased productivity.
For those whose work involves billing hours, lower productivity can directly impact income. That makes staying motivated when you work from home a priority.
Fortunately, none of the drawbacks to working from home are immune to practical innovations.
We have rounded up a few expert recommendations to help you stay focused even as distractions start to pile on.
Below are five tips you can try if you ever have problems staying motivated when you work from home.
Take Regular Breaks
While it may sound counterintuitive, taking regular breaks is one of the best things you can do when you have problems staying motivated when you work from home.
The results of research commissioned by the time-tracking app, DeskTime, suggest a specific formula for the timing and duration of breaks that optimize productivity.
The recommended formula is to take a 17-minute break after working for 52 minutes. The idea behind this is that it allows individuals to focus intensely for a set period, then take a relatively longer break to rest and recharge before returning to work.
Of course, personal preferences play a role in determining the best work-break cycle. You can alter the ratio as you see fit.
Some individuals might find shorter bursts of work followed by shorter breaks to be more effective for their productivity and concentration.
The key is to find the rhythm that works best for you and stick to it. Using alarms or timers can be helpful to ensure adherence to these work-break cycles and to resist distractions during your dedicated work periods.
Remember, staying motivated when you work from home requires discipline and a determined effort. Stick to your work-break cycle strategy. Don’t slack off on this one either by working too long or over-extending your breaks.
Give Yourself a Reward. You Deserve It!
Motivate yourself to complete tasks or projects with positive reinforcement. By promising yourself a reward – such as watching your favourite show or having a cup of coffee – only after finishing a specific task, you create a self-induced incentive to stay focused and work efficiently.
The anticipation of the reward can serve as a powerful motivation, encouraging you to work faster and stay committed to completing the task to earn the desired recompense.
By attaching the idea of something pleasant to a task, you make the process more enjoyable.
For example, when you are working on a project and you know that once it’s done, you can indulge in your favourite show or enjoy a sandwich, you make the tedium of work more rewarding.
By setting a specific reward for a completed task, you can train yourself to associate productivity with positive outcomes. This makes staying motivated when you work from home a great deal easier and more fun.
The reward also encourages you to complete tasks sooner rather than later, which helps to improve both your efficiency and productivity.
Spend the Day in a Coffee Shop
What do Pablo Picasso, JK Rowling, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Bob Dylan have in common? They have all been known to work in coffee shops.
The notion that working in a busy, noisy environment like that of a coffee shop is good for work has gained popularity in recent years. In fact, we bet that if you step into the nearest Starbucks right now you’ll find people working on their laptops.
It turns out that there is a method to this work-from-a-coffee-shop madness, after all. The findings of recent research from the University of Illinois show that moderate levels of ambient noise – like the whir of espresso machines and the quiet murmur of conversation – improve people’s performance of cognitive tasks.
Ravi Mehta, who led the research, says that this is probably because extreme quiet tends to sharpen your focus, which isn’t conducive to abstract thinking.
“This is why if you’re too focused on a problem and you’re not able to solve it, you leave it for some time and then come back to it and you get the solution,” says Mehta, who is an assistant professor of business administration at the university.
There’s even a website that replicates coffee shop sounds for you. Coffitivity plays ambient sounds recorded in coffee shops to stimulate creative thinking when you have trouble staying motivated when you work from home.
Whatever Happens, Stay Off Facebook, Please!
Here’s a dare. Stay off Facebook – especially when you are having difficulties staying motivated when you work from home. While there is research indicating that social media can enhance productivity in certain contexts, it’s essential to understand the specific ways it can be beneficial.
The results of the study that fueled the now popular misconception do not necessarily endorse constant or random checking of social media throughout the workday as a means to boost productivity.
Instead, it suggests that using social media as a tool for inter-office collaboration – such as sharing information or communicating on work-related projects – can positively impact productivity.
The researchers suggest that being intentional about social media use during work hours can be helpful. For example, setting designated times to check social media or using it as a reward after completing tasks can help maintain focus during work hours.
Mindlessly scrolling through personal posts or unrelated content on social media is unlikely to improve your work output in any way unless you work at Facebook. So much so that one is likely to run into absurdities arguing otherwise.
Dress for Work
Staying motivated when you work from home means dressing up for work even when there seems to be no need for it. So, go ahead and ditch those pajamas and dress as you would if you were setting out for an office in the city.
The clothes we wear can influence our mentality and, consequently, our work performance and productivity. When we dress in casual or loungewear like sweats or pajamas, we trigger a more relaxed and leisure-oriented mindset in ourselves.
Wearing clothes associated with a productive, work-oriented frame of mind primes your brain to adopt a similar attitude, says Karen Pine, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment,” says Pine. “A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s professional work attire or relaxing weekend wear.”
Take an Online Motivational Course
Online motivational courses can be highly beneficial for remote workers if they are encountering problems staying motivated when they work from home.
Remote work often requires a high degree of self-discipline. Motivational courses can provide strategies and techniques to enhance self-motivation, helping remote workers stay on track and maintain productivity.
Often, online motivational courses will focus on setting clear and achievable goals. This will help you to set specific and measurable objectives that are crucial for success in a remote work setup.
Motivational courses can offer insights into prioritization, time-blocking techniques, and tools to optimize time usage, allowing individuals to achieve more in less time.
“I think that sitting back and making decisions about what you want in life – what you value, who you want to show up as – is such important self-work that we don’t do regularly enough,” says Michelle Barnes, a popular Australian vlogger who offers a series of motivational courses on Skillshare.
Enjoy the Work as Much as You Enjoy the Perks
It’s important to remember that self-motivation is just as the word itself describes. We cannot lose sight of this and forget that work is an enjoyable activity by itself. There should be no need to over-justify our willingness to give it our all.
A Stanford University study with preschool children illustrated the negative consequences of over-justification as far back as 1973.
In the study, children who liked drawing were divided into groups. One group was promised a “Good Player Award” in advance if they drew more pictures, another group received the award unexpectedly, and a third group received no award.
Afterwards, when the awards were no longer given, the researchers noticed that the group expecting the award from the beginning became less interested in drawing compared to the other groups.
This decrease in interest happened because the promised reward had shifted the children’s focus from enjoying drawing for its own sake to seeking the reward.
Once the reward was no longer offered, their motivation and enjoyment of drawing diminished. They had begun associating drawing primarily with the prize rather than personal enjoyment.
Ultimately, staying motivated when you work from home is not the crux of the challenge for the bored and distracted work-from-home employee.
The crux is that we are required, by the frenzied temper of the times, by human nature, to insist that we can and must get better at being who we are.
That’s just plain and simple evolution and instinct at work in the modern digital hunting ground. And there was a time when hunting was fun in and of itself.
So, be careful not to push yourself too hard. Enjoy the work as much as you enjoy the perks.
What do you think?