Still working from home? Here’s how to make it easier
The coronavirus pandemic really has caused some huge changes to the way we live, communicate and work in just a few short months. Could any of us have imagined calling our friends to arrange a socially–distanced coffee meeting this time last year? Would any of us have thought about the pros and cons of homemade versus disposable facemasks?
Even if we find a vaccine for covid-19 in the next few months, many of the changes wrought upon us will be here to stay – for good and bad. Chief among these changes is the dethroning of the office space from our work lives.
Almost two thirds of Aussies say they want to carry on working from home
At least, that is, for two or three days a week. A survey by Boston Consulting Group found that 60 per cent of Australia’s workers would like to carry on working from home (WFH) for at least two days a week. Some workers will need to carry on shielding for a few months longer, while some may take the plunge and decide to work entirely from home long after the pandemic is over.
It seems that this desire for a hybrid working environment is driven by the mix of social interaction, as well as the routine, physical collaboration and lack of distractions at the office, with the lack of commute and increased family time of WFH.
If you’re among the Australian workers who will be working from home for the foreseeable future, whether it’s fully from home or a hybrid, then you need to make it easier for yourself. Here’s how.
Make sure your IT equipment is up to code
If you’re using a desk, chair and computer combo in order to carry out your role, then, even if it’s at home, it must be safe for you to use and your employer may have to perform an assessment.
You might not have a dedicated desk space, or you might have to share and swap with someone else in the household. If this is the case then you can make things more comfortable by using a laptop with a separate keyboard and mouse so that you can adjust their positions when you move to another setting.
Invest in noise–cancelling headphones
You might not realise it, but the humming of a busy office has a kind of white noise effect, allowing you to tune out and concentrate. At home, you might hear your neighbour’s dog, the water sprinkler, the children a few doors down or even your own nearest and dearest arguing over a computer game.
All of these noises are concentration–killers, so dampening them down for at least some of the time with headphones and Rainfall Sounds Vol III is a good solution.
Reduce your bills and other household expenses
You can take advantage of the government’s streamlined 80 cents per hour work expenses tax deductions, which is easy and runs until the end of September, for a start. This will help you to recoup some of the extra expenditure on cooling, heating, lighting and broadband, but why stop there?
If there was ever a time to review your utilities, your loans, credit cards and even your mortgage, then it’s now. You may have had to dip into savings, or even withdraw funds early from your super fund, and now you’re wondering how to replace them. Cutting down on your bills is a good way to get some cash together to plough back into your super, or into a term deposit.
Have a set morning routine
Just as you had a morning routine before setting off on your commute, you still need to have one before you set off to the bottom of the garden or to the corner of your kitchen.
Having a weekday morning ritual “tells” you that you’re preparing to go to work and that you need to get into work mode. This could be anything from 20 minutes of yoga to walking the dog or applying your mascara. As long as it follows roughly the same order each morning, then you’ll have the right signals that tell you to log on and knuckle down.
Turn off your work devices at the end of the day
You need to draw a definite line between work and home, even though there may be no physical differentiation. This could be done by having a work–specific laptop and phone, which get powered down at 5.00pm and left alone until 8.00am the following day. Then, it’s time to cook, go for a walk or pick up your personal devices for a bit of fun and socialising.
Give yourself permission to stay connected
Before covid-19, you might have preferred to leave your phone and tablet alone for the evening after work, believing that a short digital detox each day was beneficial to your mental health.
While it’s probably true that getting away from your screens is usually good for your emotional health, we’re not in usual or normal times. Online interactions, in fact, have replaced many in–person social meetings and have become essential for maintaining friendships and family relationships.
Don’t feel guilty, then, about holding video calls with groups of friends and relatives, even if you’re just chatting aimlessly. You could even double–screen by meeting with your chums over Zoom and watching a TV show or a film together.