Managing Expectation and Distractions During COVID-19

Five tips to manage the effects of productivity pressure.

Posted Apr 29, 2020

Working from home is becoming more of the new normal in these times of coronavirus and stay-at-home restrictions. For some individuals, the transition is a positive one, with remote work a minimal concern. 

For other individuals, working from home has added levels of stress and challenges. Two of the most common issues include the need to feel productive by traditional work standards, as well as the problem of being distracted. 

Productivity and Reality Checks 

Feeling unproductive or as if you are just going from one endless Zoom meeting to another can create a sense of frustration, lack of efficiency, and even a lack of motivation

The challenge for people who measure their productivity in traditional ways is to develop a new and more accurate measure for the real-time situation. Even if you are working in an essential service, understanding that productivity and processes are now changed is a critical step. 

To help yourself to have a reality-based expectation for the day, week, and month, start by making lists of what you need to accomplish during the time period. Keeping a record of your daily, weekly, and monthly goals provides a way to track productivity in a way that is different from what may have been done in the past. Checking off items as they are completed too provides a clear indicator as to your accomplishments. 

Build in break times, time to spend with others in the home, as well as time for exercise, and enjoyment throughout the day. Working through blocks of time rather than an endless day is another way to measure productivity without adding the pressure of getting everything done at once.  


Distractions are common when working from home. They can be related to the kids, the pets, or other people in the house, but they are also possible if you are working from home and on your own. 

To help manage distractions, consider the following tips:

  • Have a dedicated workspace. This is a focused space to work on your daily goal list, to have meetings, to connect with coworkers and colleagues, and to be "at work." Kids and spouses should also have their workspace or homework space, and everyone should respect these areas as dedicated work zones.
  • Focus on work at work – avoid slipping in things to do around the house during your "workday." By keeping the two as separate, it is less likely you will become distracted or look for ways to get out of doing specific tasks you may be procrastinating on completing.  
  • Take regular breaks – coffee breaks and lunches should be enjoyed outside of your workspace. This is also a time for the whole family to come together and enjoy discussions, games, and fun activities as an entire family break. 
  • Keep a routine – in addition to your workspace, maintain a typical daily routine. Get up, shower, eat breakfast, and then go to work. The routine helps your mind to focus on work during a typical day at the office or in your workplace. 
  • Limit social media and non-essential internet time – during your work times, avoid going online or spending time on social media that is not work-related. If you are experiencing anxiety, fear, or feelings of overwhelm with all the news, this is also an effective strategy to reduce the feelings of overload. 

Be sure to exercise daily, and ideally get outside for a walk at least once every day. Try to focus on eating healthy foods and avoiding junk foods and processed foods that can also have an impact on your mental and physical health. Stay connected with those you love and want to hold close through this time of social distancing. Human interaction and feeling connected with friends, colleagues, and those you care about is essential for your mental health and emotional well-being.