Now that we are in the habit of isolation and social distancing, how good are your habits of working from home?
With so many Australians now working from home, as businesses continue to do their part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, we’re learning that WFH isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. The divide between home life and work can quickly blur. Distractions are everywhere and can be very difficult to avoid (who knew that drawer needed reorganising just as you’re meant to be writing that report?). Even with the possibility of isolation restrictions easing as we continue to flatten the curve, this unprecedented time has shown many of us that WFH can be done well. And who knows how this time may influence the way that we work in the future? For some, splitting their working hours between the office and home may even become the new normal.
By now, you’ve probably worked out how to deal with many of the issues, but here are our top seven tips for working from home success.
1. GET YOUR WORKSPACE WORKING WELL
Identify the place where you’ll work and stay there most of the time. That’s not a couch, a bed or a camping chair set out on a balcony. It needs to be a desk or table where you can sit up, and somewhere quiet if possible (or don some noise-cancelling headphones).
It’s a good habit to keep it tidy, and if you’re not the neat and tidy type, at least have some order to it – you’ll work more effectively.
Because you’ll spend a lot of time at your workspace, it’s important to set it up correctly. Put your laptop on a stack of books or a box to get the screen at eye-level (or even better, set up a separate monitor screen to hook into your laptop). And importantly, use a separate keyboard and mouse. Your neck and back will thank you in weeks to come. It’s all about the ergonomics.
A good chair is important too, but also try working from a stand-up position if you can from time to time, just to mix things up a bit. More books and boxes are handy for this to raise your laptop up further.
2. GO TO WORK LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO WORK
Try to do some of the things you’ve always done when you go to work. This helps create a division between your work and home life. Get out of your pyjamas and dress in something that looks good on your video meetings. Dressing for work will psychologically make you feel like you’ve got work to do (even if it’s just newsreader style: business at the top and tracksuit pants on the bottom).
Create a start time and stick to it. And at the other end of the day, finish at a specified time if you can.
Another tip is to get ready for work and then go for a walk around the block or garden to replicate your commute and to get you into a working headspace. When you get back go straight to your desk and start the day.
And don’t forget your morning coffee if that’s something you usually look forward to.
Going for a walk as soon as you finish work is also a really good way to leave work behind and get back to your home self.
3. PLAN YOUR DAY
Start and finish times are important and it’s equally important to make a plan for your whole day. At the end of the day, make a to-do list for the next day, or start your day by making one.
Make a schedule for the day and allow time for breaks. If you have kids at home, schedule time for them in your day. It’s part of the reality of being at home, and the better you plan for it the better you’ll be able to take care of all your responsibilities.
4. KEEP IN TOUCH
By now you’re no doubt well acquainted with the plethora of virtual meeting platforms being used to connect with co-workers. Zoom, Teams, Google Meets, Skype and so on are vital tools for working well together from a distance. But don’t forget to reach out for a non-work-specific chat too. Casual discussions with your workmates are an important way to help prevent feelings of isolation. Touch base with colleagues, see how each other is going and if there are ways you can help each other out. It’s nice to know someone is there for us when we need them.
5. DEALING WITH DISTRACTIONS
It’s not easy being at home all day, every day. Kids, partners and pets can make demands on you at any time. Suddenly you’ll feel a great need to pick up that guitar and play for the first time in five years. Snacks from the pantry and fridge are a constant temptation. Washing needs folding. Facebook needs visiting. Instagram posts need liking.
Some of these distractions just need willpower to ignore. Other ones, like your family and pets, you should make time for. Put them in your schedule, and if they need to disturb you when you’re working, just accept it if you can. Let your kids visit your video chat and say hello. It helps them understand what you’re doing when you’re at your desk.
Household chores can wait or be made part of your daily work routine during breaks. And maybe take up the guitar again – just do it after your work time.
5. GET UP AND GET OUT
It’s not healthy to stay seated at your desk all day. Health professionals encourage you to get up once or twice an hour to stretch your legs. You could combine it with getting a drink of water. A short walk before work or eating lunch outdoors are both good ways to get some fresh air and clear the head.
A stand-up desk setup is a great way to avoid sitting all day long. And an occasional change of scenery, like moving to work for a while at the kitchen bench or outdoor table can reenergise and keep you productive.
6. END YOUR DAY WELL
Just as getting a good start to the day is important, finishing well is a good way to divide your work from home. Set a time to finish. Leave your desk and go for a walk before coming back to the living space. Get out of your work clothes and get back into your civvies.
Just remember, in the end it’s best to work out what works best for you. Even though we’re in isolation, we don’t need to feel isolated.