In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis sparked a working from home revolution. Up to 40% of Australian workers did their jobs from home offices, spare rooms and kitchen tables, compared to around 8% the year before in 2019 and it seems many of us would like to keep it that way. According to the Productivity Commission’s 2021 Working from Home Research paper, 85% of Australian workers say they’d like to work all or partly from home on an ongoing basis, post-pandemic.

But while rolling out of bed and tapping at your laptop in your jammies sounds blissful, it’s not without pitfalls. While some report that their physical and mental health is improved by working at home, some find it difficult to focus or stay motivated and productive and others struggle to switch off or maintain a healthy work-life balance. If hybrid working is your new way of life, these time-management skills and tips can help you stay productive, healthy and happy.

Consciously Bookend Your Work Day

Making set times for exercise or relaxation will help you be productive when you work from home.
Making set times for exercise or relaxation will help you be productive when you work from home.

To stop your work and home life bleeding into one, it’s important to set routines and cues that build separation. “Have a classic routine that you do prior to work that triggers your workday,” says Kate Christie, CEO of Time Stylers and author of Me First: The Guilt-free Guide to Prioritising You. “For example, I power walk to the beach, go for a swim and then have a hot shower.”

Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of not-for-profit mindfulness app Smiling Mind, which runs corporate programs to help workers manage mental health and stress, says a wind-down routine is just as critical. “For many this is exercise, calling a loved one or a few minutes of mindfulness meditation,” she says. “When you can’t create a physical barrier between where you work and where you relax, habits like these help us form a mental barrier.”

SEE ALSO:  How to Switch Off From Work When Working From Home

Do Most of Your Work During Your Most Productive Time

“Understand exactly when you’re at your best – when you’re most engaged, awake, energetic, productive and creative,” Kate says. “Then build a 20-foot bulletproof fence around that time.” Schedule your most high-impact, valuable tasks for this time and let the rest of the family know that this is the no-questions-asked, ‘Do Not Disturb’ time.

Divide Your Day

“Your day isn’t a marathon. It’s a series of 100 mega sprints. So sprint for 30 to 45 minutes and then have a 10- to 15-minute break,” says Kate. Addie suggests another useful time-management skill is giving yourself small rewards after you complete tasks. “For example,” she says, “a podcast episode, getting outside for exercise in a lunch break or enjoying your favourite afternoon tea snack.”

Hot Tip: Productivity apps can be useful but be aware that there are thousands on the market and different apps suit different people and different needs. You could ask friends or colleagues for recommendations but some to try are Forest, Structured and Any.do.

Bring the Family on Board

Getting your kids to work alongside you for a set amount of time can help them develop time-management techniques.
Getting your kids to work alongside you for a set amount of time can help them develop time-management techniques.

Small children can be one of the most vexing distractions if you happen to be working at home with kids who are sick, on holidays or remote learning. “If you’re lucky enough to have a partner and you’re both working from home, coordinate your calendars and take shifts,” says Kate. If you’re on your own with school-age kids, set them up with a desk next to you and explain that you’re going to work quietly together, then have a break and play. “Make a game of it,” says Kate. “Get them to set the oven timer for 30 or 40 minutes, then tell them when that timer goes off, ‘I’m all yours’.” It’s a great way to get them to start developing their own time-management skills.

Sort Out Your Tools

Set yourself up with all the ergonomic home office essentials and you can work from anywhere.
Set yourself up with all the ergonomic home office essentials and you can work from anywhere.

Not everyone has a private office at home where they can work, but you can make sure you have a good chair that supports your back and a laptop stand so you can move your laptop from room to room and keep it at an adequate height. “With those basics in place, my belief is that you can work from anywhere,” says Kate. 

Good stationery is also a must – Kate likes a good old-fashioned notebook and pens and also suggests liquid chalk for writing on mirrors or windows (which can then be wiped clean). 

What To Try