While those of us who are able to do our jobs from home right now are extremely lucky, this doesn’t mean that working from home doesn’t have its challenges.
Working from home can be great – until your toddler wants to play on your keyboard, or that new release on Netflix becomes too tempting.
Yep, it can be tough to stay focused at home. Sure, we don’t have our co-workers dropping by our desk or inviting us to lunch. But the home office can pose even more distractions and make it seem almost impossible to separate our work from our personal life.
If you’re struggling to stay productive or maintain a healthy work-life balance while working from home, this one’s for you.
1. Create a Designated Workspace
The most important thing when it comes to working from home (apart from snacks) is to create a workspace that allows you to comfortably and efficiently do your job.
Find a room or space in your home that you can dedicate entirely to work – preferably one with a comfortable chair and desk setup, sufficient lighting, and no distractions (i.e. the TV, fridge, or roommates constantly coming and going).
It might be tempting to slouch down on the couch with your laptop, but this will likely hinder your productivity and make it harder to switch off when you want to relax on that couch after knocking off for the day.
Check out Comcare’s working from home checklist to ensure you’re staying safe and healthy while working from home during COVID-19.
2. Get Dressed
Working from home gives us the freedom to wear whatever we want – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
Ditching the pyjamas and putting on ‘real clothes’ helps flick the switch in our brain to get into work mode. We’re not saying you need to suit up or don your usual perfectly pressed work uniform, but sitting around in your PJs isn’t always the best for your motivation.
Get up, get showered, and get dressed in something comfortable and clean that makes you feel ready to take on the day (and semi-presentable for those Zoom meetings or the postie).
3. Maintain Regular Working Hours
We know, we know – sleeping in is life. But transitioning straight from your pillow to your computer screen can be jarring. While working from home allows flexibility with your working hours, it’s important to maintain a routine and manage your time effectively to avoid overlap in your work and personal time.
Structure the day like you would in the office or your normal work environment, commit to set working hours, and enforce a strict finishing time at the end of the day. Communicate your work schedule with your team so they know when to reach you – and when to leave you to walk the dog or finish that puzzle.
4. Take Scheduled Breaks
Maybe you feel obligated to be reachable and responsive at all times while working remotely. Or perhaps you’re just not sure how to spend your breaks when you’re stuck inside. Whatever your reason for powering through until knock-off time, you’re only doing yourself – and the quality of your work – a disservice.
Believe it or not, burnout is a real risk factor even when working from the comfort of your own home. Regular breaks are key to helping sustain your concentration and energy levels throughout the day. Research shows workers feel more engaged and productive when they make time to take a lunch break every day.
So set a few alarms and force yourself to get away from your screens, stretch your legs, and recharge.
5. Leave the House (if You Can)
Getting some fresh air and sunshine can do you a world of good when you’re stuck inside looking at a screen all day. Mounting research proves the benefits of spending time outdoors for our mental and physical health, so it’s worth booking in some time with the open sky each day if you can.
Depending on the current guidelines and directions for your state or territory, you might like to go for a walk or do a workout in a nearby park. Otherwise, you can head to your own backyard to eat lunch alfresco, read a book, or listen to music.
6. Listen to White Noise to Drown Out Distracting Sounds
If you have kids, pets, noisy neighbours, or live near a busy road, this background noise can make it hard to concentrate.
Invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and listen to your favourite tunes or white noise to drown out distracting sounds. Soothing, neutral sounds like rain or crashing ocean waves are great for masking background noise.
7. Keep in Touch with Colleagues
Social distancing can create a disconnection with our colleagues, and even introverts might find themselves missing the social aspect of their normal work environment. Our need for these connections goes beyond a bit of banter and bonding over the coffee machine; our workmates help us stay happy and productive on the job.
A recent study revealed that relationships with co-workers is “the top driver of employee engagement, with 77% of participants listing these connections as a priority”.
Regularly checking in with your workmates may help boost your morale and motivation. Not only will it keep everyone on the same page in terms of work tasks, but it’ll also be nice to talk to people in the same boat as you during these uncertain times. Try setting up a weekly video call or signing up to Workplace by Facebook to stay in touch outside of work-related emails.
8. Activate 'Do Not Disturb' Outside of Work Hours
Does anyone else feel like we’re stuck in that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s where you don’t know what day it is (without the festive spirit, of course)?
The lines between work time and personal time are blurring. Afternoons are blending with evenings. Weekdays are blending with weekends.
Working from home is making it harder to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and setting boundaries with our colleagues, boss, and clients is key to keeping work separated from our downtime. Putting work email notifications on ‘do not disturb’ and turning your work phone off outside of your working hours is a great place to start.
9. Take Sick Days When You Need Them
In a time where technology allows many of us to perform at least some of the aspects of our jobs from home, it can be tempting to soldier on when we’re sick.
But if you’re feeling too unwell to do your job, even from home, you’re entitled to take sick leave – and you should. If your contract allows you paid sick leave, your employer can’t expect you to continue to work from home. So if you’re sick, take your sick leave and leave your inbox for tomorrow.
10. Look after Yourself
It’s normal to feel a bit out of sorts with all the changes happening around us. Be sure to prioritise your mental health and make time to do things you enjoy, like taking a walk or talking to friends and family.
If you’re struggling, you can talk to one of our telephone counsellors on 1300 364 277 between 8am and 8pm Monday-Friday or 10am-4pm Saturday.
Check out our article How to Protect Your Emotional Wellbeing in the Coronavirus Outbreak for some more practical tips from one of our clinical supervisors.