Working from home or through other remote work options offers many advantages, such as eliminating the need to commute and enjoying more work hour flexibility. Many companies have recently adopted such workstyles, including Tokyo Century, which has sought to enable employees to work in ways that correspond with their lifestyles and had a system in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since April 2020, there has been a major shift toward remote work.
According to our in-house survey, however, while 30% of employees experienced greater productivity, 26% felt productivity remained a challenge for them. Specifically, people found it either difficult to concentrate and remain sharp at home or initially easier to concentrate but harder to get back to work once their focus strayed, which was tiring. Your home is a place to relax, so it is natural for some people to find it hard to concentrate. Even so, you should try to avoid allowing your work performance to decline.
Here are three methods for raising your concentration and achieving higher efficiency while working remotely.
1. Enclothed Cognition—Dress Professionally to Switch into Work Mode
People tend to neglect appearances while working at home, where no one is watching. While working all day in cozy loungewear may feel comfortable, there is a report that indicates appearances can significantly impact concentration.
Have you ever heard of “enclothed cognition”? It comes from an experiment conducted at Northwestern University, in which subjects were divided into three groups to test their attentiveness. One group wore medical lab coats, another wore artist lab coats, and the other was only shown a lab coat. The first group wearing lab coats, described as attire worn by doctors, who are generally expected to be attentive and careful, outperformed the others*1.
The result of this experiment indicates that your thinking and performance is influenced by what you wear. We should also note that wearing clothes with an awareness of their special functions had the effect of naturally boosting the performance of skills and focus associated with that particular line of work.
Your work performance at home may benefit from putting on your business clothes, office attire, or suit.
2. Pomodoro Technique—25 Minutes of Work, Five-Minute Break, Repeat
Working at home, you are surrounded by temptations that make it difficult to stay sharp. Many people say it is not easy to switch instantly into work mode or maintain self-discipline.
In that case, try the Pomodoro Technique. This involves repeating a cycle of 25 minutes of work followed by five minutes of rest, as described below.
- 1. Select a single task.
- 2. Set a timer, which has an alarm, for 25 minutes.
- 3. Work on the task until the alarm sounds.
- 4. Stop when the alarm goes off (check off the task if completed).
- 5. Take a five-minute short break.
- 6. Steps 1 to 4 constitute one pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.
According to Francesco Cirillo, the Italian entrepreneur who came up with the Pomodoro Technique, 25 minutes of work and five minutes of rest is the optimal use of time for maintaining high levels of concentration.
If your task is cut short during one pomodoro (25 minutes) by an unexpected phone call or a visitor at your door, stop and start a new pomodoro.
During the break, have a cup of coffee to change your mood, do light exercise to loosen your muscles, or go to your balcony for some sunshine. Be sure to refresh your mind, even for a moment. This will significantly boost your work efficiency.
3. Zeigarnik Effect—Raise Efficiency by Intentionally Interrupting Work
One option for improving your concentration is to apply the Zeigarnik effect and intentionally leave your task unfinished.
Simply put, the Zeigarnik effect is about our tendency to have a stronger impression of unfinished tasks over completed ones. We continue to wait in suspense when the impending climax of a TV series is extended into the following week or when an answer to a quiz is interrupted by a commercial.
Intentionally interrupt a task to stimulate interest and desire. Applying this effect to work might include situations such as discontinuing work on a report or proposal for the day to resume it the following day.
The sense of wanting to know what comes next, or the simple desire to understand what has happened so far, may provide us with a fresh awareness in our daily lives or allow us to resume a task smoothly. The Zeigarnik effect is a method for improving focus, and it can be applied to situations other than working from home. So, why not try it at the office too?
Being able to control your focus and raise work efficiency can make working from home even more rewarding. Go ahead and use the concentration method that works best for you.
*1: The New York Times “Mind Games: Sometimes a White Coat Isn’t Just a White Coat” 2012-04-03
*The contents of the article and the position titles are as of the date posted.