Heading back into the office has been a welcome change from the past few years of remote working. But once the novelty wears off, you may find yourself becoming more easily distracted than you ever were isolating at home. Although returning the office is beneficial for social interaction and can streamline work meetings and task organisation, it can also be disruptive to the new rhythms and work habits we have had to develop out of necessity during the pandemic.

So, if you find yourself having trouble focusing or procrastinating more often in an office environment, here are some tips we recommend following to enhance your productivity:

PRODUCTIVITY TIP 1) FORM A REGULAR WORK ROUTINE

All the routines which we used to follow before the pandemic, such as grabbing a coffee on the way to work or greeting our co-workers when we reach the office, can actually set us up for a more productive workday. The morning commute, for example, gives us time to relax and prepare for the day ahead, and the journey provides both physical and psychological distance from our lives at home. As we have all probably experienced, working from home makes it more difficult to ‘switch off’ from work tasks and emails, especially if your office is also your bedroom or living space.

Implementing a daily routine before, during, and after work can therefore have a powerful positive effect on your mental health and productivity levels. Following a daily routine can also ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed with work deadlines or large projects, as they can be broken down into smaller tasks to be completed throughout the week. The importance of regularised routines for reducing stress and increasing our resilience was highlighted by researchers in 2020. Additionally, routines have been proven to enhance creativity, promote better overall health, and encourage participation in meaningful activities outside the workplace as well.

PRODUCTIVITY TIP 2) ORGANISE YOUR WORKSPACE

Decluttering your workspace can promote better focus and productivity. On a subliminal level, a messy work environment increases our stress levels, making us feel less in control. Taking some time in the morning to go through our emails, organise important documents, check on upcoming meetings and tasks, and clear away any rubbish is an easy way to prepare for the day and clarify what needs to be done. Procrastination is associated with the sensation of being overwhelmed, so taking control of your workspace is a great start to overcoming this feeling and focus on completing your tasks.

Prioritising your workday using a planner or to-do list is another useful method to keep track of upcoming deadlines or appointments. Choosing to use a printed planner over a digital one has added benefits, giving your eyes a break from the glare of computer screens, and triggering better memory retention and understanding by using handwritten notes.

PRODUCTIVITY TIP 3) LIMIT EXTERNAL DISTRACTIONS

There are plenty of distractions in modern workplaces, from noisy colleagues to social media. Open-plan offices are the most damaging when it comes to productivity levels, with a 2021 study noting a 25% increase in mood negativity for workers and a 34% increase in sweat response due to stress. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, investing in some noise-cancelling headphones might be your best option to block out extraneous sound. Using headphones also offers a subtle social cue to your co-workers that you would prefer to be left alone while working on a particular task.

Listening to a moderate level of ambient sound while working can help you concentrate, and has been hypothesised to increase creative cognition by promoting our abstract processing skills. Popular ambient soundscapes include waves, rain, wind, crackling fireplaces, birdsong, and café atmospheres. There are several websites and apps which offer free ambient sound libraries for users, including Coffitivity, which reproduces the ambience of a quiet café, Rainy Mood, which is focused on rain and storm sounds, and A Soft Murmur, which allows you to mix your favourite sounds into your own relaxing soundscape. You can also find a variety of ambient playlists on YouTube, including white noise, lo-fi music, and ambience inspired by popular films and TV shows.

Need to focus so that you can finish a major work presentation? Check out our library of free downloadable E-books for some presentation inspiration!

 

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