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How to avoid distractions and stay productive when working in self-isolation

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
(Getty Images)

Working remotely is a dream come true for many people who want to avoid busy commutes, rushed lunch breaks and office politics. Currently, however, people across the UK have no choice but to work from home to try and curb the spread of Covid-19.  

For those who already work from home, this week is no different to any other. But if you’re used to structuring your day in the office, the change of scenery can be a challenge - particularly with Netflix, children, pets, partners and other distractions.

It is possible to be productive and focused even when in a strange working environment. Working remotely might come with setbacks, including loneliness and the inability to bounce ideas off colleagues face-to-face, but it does allow you to work in a way that suits you. 

Read more: How to avoid cabin fever when you work from home

Feeling comfortable and working in an environment that suits you can increase productivity. Homeworkers rank their productivity as 7.7 out of 10, compared with 6.5 for office workers, according to a Canada Life Survey.

So how can you avoid distractions and make sure you get your work done while self-isolating?

Get dressed

When we think of working from home, we tend to picture ourselves on the sofa with our feet up, still wearing pyjamas and with unbrushed hair. On some days, this is perfectly acceptable - as long as you don’t have any Skype meetings planned. 

Whether you need to put on business attired depends on the kind of job you have. But getting ready for work as if you are planning to leave the house can put you in the right mindset for work. Not only will it improve your state of mind, washing and dressing properly psychologically prepares you for the working day. 

At the end of the day, getting changed out of your clothes signals the end of work. This is important if you aren’t actually leaving your office - aka, the kitchen or lounge - and helps you switch off. 

Read more: How to stop taking work home when you work from home

Block distracting websites 

Many of us are guilty of scrolling through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram without giving it a second thought, but as we all know, it can be a productivity killer. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour looking at old photos and animal videos.

It can be a good idea to log out of your social media accounts so you’re less likely to go on them without thinking, as you’ll have to put your username and password details in. If you really can’t stop scrolling, you can temporarily block the websites or delete the apps. You could also set yourself ‘social media time’ by allocating a certain hour for checking your notifications or replying to messages.

Get moving 

Going to the gym may be off the cards and for some people showing symptoms of coronavirus, even going outside for a walk or a run isn’t possible. If you have symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 7 days, according to the current NHS guidelines.. If you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the day their symptoms started. This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.

Getting exercise is still important, however, even if it’s in the confines of your home. If you have space, try an exercise video to get your blood pumping and make you feel like groggy - particularly if you’ve been at your laptop for hours.

Read more: How to look after your staff’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

One study showed that workday exercise, not only improves well-being but participants noted a 72% improvement in time management and workload completed on days when they exercised.

Create a temporary office 

Setting yourself up in a home office - which may just be a small desk in your living room or at the kitchen table - is important. You know where you work best, but when you’re working at a proper desk, you’re more likely to be in the mindset to focus, concentrate and get things done. 

Having your own space where you can work away from other people is important, particularly if you have children who are currently out of school or if you live with flatmates. 

Speak to other people 

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to forget the outside world exists - especially if you tend to rely on email or Slack as the main form of workplace communication. Picking up the phone and calling a friend can make a world of difference, even if you can’t meet up for a coffee as you normally would.