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Has your company embraced more flexible remote working? Are you a distributed team? No matter what phase of working from home you are in, there are tips to help.
Before the onset of COVID-19 (coronavirus), almost four in 10 respondents in an Australian survey had never engaged in remote work from home. Now, more than 88 per cent of organisations have adopted widespread remote working practices. This monumental shift in our work environment requires reassessment of remote working practices as we figure out the best way to be productive members of staff, as well as happy and healthy humans, while working from home. Whatever stage of remote working you’re currently at, there are steps you can take to help you get the most out of your mindset and improve your remote work environment.
At the beginning of this new challenge, your remote working journey likely began with momentum and optimism. You loved whipping up healthy lunches, always dressed for your desk and would never have baked cookies mid-afternoon. Now, months on, you might be sliding slowly onto the couch in the afternoons and into slippers after lunch, with a decreasing division between the spaces you use for work and relaxation.
If you’ve started to let go of more rigid routines, it might be time to re-establish some boundaries. Think of the process as a recreation of the in-person routines you utilised when you had an office to go to, mimicking the same efficiency. Commit to waking up at the same time every day, dressing as though you’re leaving the house, only working within your designated office space and always “leaving” the office at the same time every day. Routines can be incorporated into your actual work, too: if you usually have a morning meeting with your team, don’t give that up; just move to your favourite videoconferencing platform (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc). Incorporating these habits into your working day will scaffold your hours with structure and predictability.
Now remote working is likely to become an enduring reality, it’s time to move from the makeshift set-up you threw together at the beginning of restrictions to something more permanent and inspiring. Re-energising your at-home workspace will get you excited to “go to work” every day and help create a clear divide between work and home spaces.
Consider the set-up of your space on a deeper level. Does that stack of books you’ve used to elevate your laptop to an ergonomic level demand a more permanent solution? Are you finally willing to swap your dining chair for a more comfortable and supportive option? Does your desk face the bricks of a neighbouring apartment and could you choose a more pleasing aspect? If there’s anything that doesn’t feel right about your home office space, now’s the time to switch it up.
It’s not just our own schedule we have to manage when we work from home – many of us are jostling for space supremacy with partners, kids and animals, often at a cost to our own productivity. Introduce a system of “interuptivity” signals so other family members know when you can and can’t be interrupted. This might be when you have a task that requires time and intense focus or you simply need to conduct a video call without a small child breaking in, if at all possible. Whether it’s marking up a planner with “Do Not Disturb” times, installing a lock on the door to your workspace, organising for your partner to wield the kids for half an hour or letting the family know that when headphones are on or you take your laptop out to the balcony, it’s time for deep concentration, lay down some ground rules to distinguish sacred work time.
Alongside routines that help you focus while working, schedule self- and family-time, too. Without having specific measures and schedules in place for your relaxation, it’s likely these dedicated hours for your off-time will get fewer and fewer,
resulting in an always-on approach to your work. Checking emails while cooking dinner isn’t effective for either your work or you: the effectiveness of
multitasking is now widely regarded as a disproven myth that actively hampers productivity and increases stress, highlighting the importance of allocating the right amount of time to your work and to your life.
Whether it’s a daily stroll to get a takeaway coffee from a local cafe with your partner or flatmate, or the lunch prep break you take with your kids while you homeschool, carving out time to balance your work with social touchpoints will provide restful pockets to help you switch off in between tasks, resulting in better productivity overall.
Once you’ve established the boundaries of your working from home situation, you can start embracing and enjoying the flexibility remote working allows. Instead of spending an hour commuting, mindfully dive into preparing a healthy breakfast,
eaten while reading the paper. Instead of quickly slurping coffee at your desk between meetings, head out to your garden or balcony to enjoy a bit of sunshine. There’s plenty to enjoy about remote working – and now you can really celebrate what it brings.