The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the workforce, with thousands of Australians either losing their jobs, having their hours reduced, or being forced to change they way they work.
If you’re one of the fortunate ones who has held onto your job, the chances are that you’ve been sent to work from home (if your position allows you to work remotely). To a lot of us, that sounds like a great deal—I get paid as usual, get to stay in my pyjamas AND don’t have to commute, sign me up!—but working from home has its challenges, perhaps more so than the usual office grind. These challenges range from isolation and loss of routine, to lack of productivity and loss of quality of life. Sound extreme? It isn’t: in software developer Buffer’s 2019 Annual Report State of Remote Work, 19% of survey respondentsreported that their primary difficulty with working remotely was loneliness, and 22% encountered difficulties with unplugging after work. But enough of the doom and gloom. In that same report, respondents also raved about the flexibility of the arrangement, increased productivity and the chance to spend more time with their loved ones – that sounds better, right? Let’s look at some of the ways you can stay happy—and productive—in the comfort of your own home, because we’re going to be here for at least a little while.
1. Get yourself set up
It’s certainly tempting to work in bed, or work from the couch, but these comfortable areas should be preserved for leisure time if possible. In a time of confinement and isolation, it’s a good idea to separate parts of your home for business and leisure, so that at the end of your working day, you still have something to look forward to, like curling up on the couch in front of your favourite Netflix show. Having a designated station set up for work also helps maintain a sense of routine and normality while you’re away from the office.
2. Wake up early(ish)
Speaking of routine, try to do the things you’d usually do before heading into the office, such as ruing the piercing noise of your alarm clock, showering, getting dressed, making a coffee and eating some breakfast. If you start your working day at 9 and wake up at 8.58, chances are you’re going to be in a bit of a slumber for what should be the most productive hours of your working day.
3. Dress for success
Did somebody say get dressed? “Why on earth would I get out of my pyjamas” – you, probably.There’s a very good reason: if you dress like you’re going to sleep, your days are going to very quickly become a blur. Now, I’m not saying to dress head-to-toe in formal gear (please don’t, you’re allowed a simple pleasure in this instance), but consider wearing clothing that you could get away with on a casual day in the office. Dressing like you’re going to leave the house and go for a walk (even if it gets to a point where we can’t do this) is a good place to start. If there’s no way to talk you out of wearing your pyjamas, try to at least mix it up every couple of days – if you’re spending an entire week in the same sweaty flannelette PJs that your mum bought you for Christmas five years ago, chances are that you’re going to go stir-crazy sooner rather than later.
4. Schedule breaks (away from your station)
Working from home during a quarantine period means that your old routine of leaving the office to go and buy a greasy burger from across the road at lunch time has been cruelly snatched away from you. This change leaves you more susceptible to falling into the trap of eating lunch at your desk while checking emails and doing, you know, other work stuff.
There are some great apps that will force you switch to off from your work for a break during the day, such as Time Out for Mac and Smart Break for Windows. Both of these apps allow you to program your own breaks and lock your screen for a set period of time. They also have a mindfulness feature that will remind you to give your eyes a break from your screen periodically.
Finally, don’t coop yourself up inside all day. If you have a yard or a balcony, try to eat lunch outside and get your Vitamin D fix.
On the topic of breaks, taking a moment to stretch every hour is even more important than when you’re in the office, as you likely don’t have the same ergonomic setup that you usually enjoy. This article from Beyond Blue gives you five quick and easy ‘desk yoga’ poses to incorporate into your day. If you find it difficult to remind yourself to stretch periodically, my advice is to place a couple of stickers around your workstation that will catch your eye throughout the work day. Each time you see one of these stickers, give yourself a minute to embrace your inner yogi – your muscles and joints will thank you for it.
6. Seek feedback and check in
Now this is an element of face-to-face contact that sometimes gets taken for granted, and you’ll find it’s one of the first things you’ll miss when working from home. Humans thrive off positive feedback: for most, nothing in the work day beats hearing your colleagues say “great job”; additionally, if you have work in progress, it’s helpful to get clear guidance from your stakeholders as you complete the task. The solution? Pick up the phone and give your colleagues a call, ask them for their feedback and work collaboratively.
Seeking feedback isn’t the only reason to pick up the phone, however. You’re likely going to miss the little interactions that make the office an office, such as discussing your weekend plans, what’s happening at home, the goings-on of the world and having your daily horoscope read out to you by your favourite astrology enthusiast. After all, you’re used to spending a large portion of your life with these people – chances are that you’re going to miss being around them eventually.
If you have the capacity to conduct video calls, these are even better.
Ah, the best part of working from home – you can now play whatever music you like, however loud you like. These are countless studies on the benefits of listening to music – both from a mental health and productivity perspective. This article published by Medium offers a helpful insight into the science behind music’s impact on your brain.
The key to getting the most out of music at work is finding what works for you and sticking to it. You don’t want to be wasting time flicking between songs, so find yourself a playlist or two that offers a good mix of ambient sound and positive vibes. For what it’s worth, this blog was written with Working from Home playing in the background, a 7.5 hour playlist comprised primarily of soul music from the likes of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, with a modern twist that includes the Arctic Monkeys, The National and The War on Drugs.
If you have any tips for working from home that you find helpful, please share them below! In the meantime, check in with your colleagues, get some sun and take care of yourself as we work through this challenging period.