This weekend, Scott Morrison announced a list of tighter rules in an effort to restrict the further spread of coronavirus throughout Australia.
Following the lead of many other countries around the world, public gatherings have been limited to just two people, playgrounds and parks will be closed and the public has been instructed to only leave their homes to buy food, attend medical appointments and exercise once a day.
Businesses have been advised to close their office doors wherever possible, which means there is likely to be another major uptick in remote working in the coming days.
Under normal circumstances, as many as one in three Australians work from home on a regular basis. However, making the switch to full-time remote working is a big leap, particularly given these stressful circumstances and uncertain timelines.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are six ways for you to maintain your productivity and focus while working from home.
1. Get into the right mindset
Flexibility is often lauded as the number one benefit of working from home. You can keep to your own schedule, take breaks when it suits you and complete household tasks throughout the day instead of saving them all up for the weekend. However, now more than ever, it’s important to maintain some level of normalcy and begin your day just as you would if you were heading into the office. Set your alarm for the same time every morning, take a shower, get dressed and start work on time. You’ll thank yourself for it at the end of the day.
2. Keep to a schedule
Your calendar will likely look a little different to normal. You won’t be heading out to client lunches, leading team briefings or catching up with a colleague over a coffee. This lack of structure could easily lead to procrastination. To avoid this, create a detailed to-do list at the beginning of each working week or day, and stick to it. Decide how you prefer to work – perhaps in set blocks of time or by prioritising tasks and taking breaks as each one is completed. Schedule your goals into a calendar to help keep yourself motivated and focussed. If you (and your partner) are juggling working from home and looking after children, this will also need to be factored into your daily routine.
Take regular, scheduled breaks throughout the day. Leave your workspace and fully allow yourself to switch off. If you can, go for a walk to get some fresh air (at present you are still allowed to do this once a day) or another form of exercise. Spend some time doing things you usually enjoy whether it’s cooking, reading, or listening to podcasts.
3. Separate work and home
Find some space at home that you can dedicate solely to work. If you’re fortunate enough to have the room to set up a home office, this is by far the best option. The ability to physically shut the door on your task list at the end of a day’s work will help you maintain better mental health and increase your productivity.
If this isn’t an option for you, setting up a desk in the living room or taking over half of the dining room table is more than sufficient. Try to pick somewhere where you are least likely to be disturbed and won’t have to move from throughout the day. Ultimately, avoid working from your bed or sitting on the couch in front of the TV – it’s bad for your back, as well as your efficiency. Consider purchasing some better home office supplies such as a desk, an ergonomic office chair or a work management platform.
4. Maintain contact with your colleagues
According to the 2020 State of Remote Work Report by Buffer and AngelList, 20% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. Given that most remote workers today will also be in some form of self-isolation, this is an even greater cause for concern. Another study found that for those who work from home for 2.5+ days a week, relationships with co-workers (and knowledge transfer) are negatively affected. To combat this, maintain regular contact with your team, even if it’s simply for a brief check-in or catch-up. Make use of communication platforms such as Slack, Teams, Zoom, Workplace, Google Hangouts, and even WhatsApp. Video conferencing is more sociable and engaging than audio calls.
5. Don’t spend hours reading coronavirus news
The news at present is both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure. It would be easy to spend long stretches of time reading updates, watching press conferences and tracking infection rate data from around the world. For the sake of your work and your mental health, don’t allow yourself to do so. Set yourself a specific period of time for reading up on coronavirus news or commit to checking updates twice a day – mornings and evenings.
6. Finish on time
One study found that 48% of employees who work from home end up working longer days. It is easy to let your working day bleed into the evening, especially when you know you’ve got nowhere else to be when the clock strikes 5.00pm. That being said, it’s still important to establish a healthy work-life balance. You’ll be much happier if you abide by your regular working hours and can spend your evenings and weekends switched off from office work.