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How to thrive while working from home

Working from home because of Coronavirus (COVID-19)? While some employees take to working from home like a duck to water, for others it’s challenging and isolating.

The main aim is to work effectively to meet deadlines and expectations.

Here are some ways you can thrive while working from home. You can also check out Comcare’s Working from home checklist.

Understand your organisation’s work-at-home policy

First, check what your organisation’s work-at-home policy is. Read it carefully so you fully understand your rights and obligations and your employer’s rights and obligations. If your employer asks that you work from home, they should have you complete a self-assessment for work health and safety.

Understand your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance

You need to check if your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance has any restrictions you need to know about when working from home. Such insurances can have some restrictions so talk to your employer about these. It could be, for example, that if you’re making coffee and burn yourself or trip down the stairs you won’t be covered. In some cases, such insurances might not cover you if you’re working outside the normal hours you’d be working if in the office.

If you injure yourself while at home, follow the same process as you would if at work. Inform your supervisor as soon as possible and fill in a claim form within two days maximum.

Set up a dedicated workstation and work area if possible

You may already have a desk set up at home. If so, great.

If you don’t, aim to set up a workstation that is free from distractions and only work from there.

  • Ensure you have an ergonomic chair and a good screen.
  • Maintain good posture while working (upright or slightly reclined, maintaining a slight hollow in the lower back). Use your hand to hold the telephone or mobile or wear a headset (no cradling). Keep wrists upright when typing.
  • Avoid slouching about on the couch with your laptop or tablet (your back will love you for it). Don’t hang out on the floor in front of the tv.
  • Make sure lighting is sufficient
  • Ensure you have airflow.
  • Clear walkways and other areas of clutter and trip hazards.

Set up collaborative communications tools and stay in touch

Heaps of collaborative tools are available and they’re easy to use. Talk to your work colleagues about the ones that best suit your occupation. To stay in touch, aim for at least three face-to-face conversations a day on a communications tool such as Skype for Business, Zoom, Slack or Basecamp.

Lighten your day by ‘having lunch’ online at a set time with colleagues and/or a ‘daily kickstart’ online meeting. Communicating using these tools will help manage a sense of isolation.

Work regular hours

Working from home isn’t about sleeping in for as long as you’d like or hanging out all day. If you work from 9 to 5 in the office, then work from 9 to 5 at home. Instilling discipline will make you more productive and make you feel you’re at work. Avoid working longer hours, even if tempted to do so.

Set daily deadlines

Write down what you want to achieve each day and meet your deadlines. This will help establish routine. Being productive will help you feel better and manage your time better.

Don’t work in your pjs

You don’t have to work in business attire when working from home (unless you’re, say, on a video call with an important client or senior management). However, working in your pjs isn’t a good option. Some research says that dressing smart casual, and comfortably, helps you get into the work zone.

Set a schedule

Set and stick to a schedule. Get up at the same time every day, hop in the shower, get dressed and start—just as you would if you were going to the office.

Take proper breaks

Schedule breaks every 30 minutes including mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon tea, and stick to them. Make a cuppa. Eat a piece of fruit, go for a walk around the block and get some fresh air, stretch, practice a bit of meditation or yoga, listen to the radio or music.

Eat regularly and well

Don’t spend your day with your face in the fridge. The fridge shouldn’t be a diversion from work. Have something to eat during your breaks and drink plenty of water.

Look after your mental health

Establish boundaries around your work hours with your partner, children and house mates so you can concentrate without interruption (as much as possible). Indeed, minimise all potential distractions.

If you’re feeling increasingly lonely working at home, or isolated and/or anxious, talk to your boss or use your workplaces employee assistance program. An initial discussion can work wonders.

Don’t get lost in ‘other stuff’

Don’t get lost in doing non-work related ‘stuff’ like laundry or cleaning while working from home. Those who do are often surprised at how much time they’ve wasted.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do a chore or two on one of your breaks, like emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash, but make sure it’s manageable and the type of chore that doesn’t consume most of your day.

BTW: Avoiding ‘other stuff’ includes online shopping!

Email tone

The volume of emails may well be higher now that you’re working from home and can’t so easily talk to colleagues in person. Sometimes emails miss the ‘context’ of a face-to-face conversation.

Be kind to others and don’t get too caught up on the tone you think someone is using in an email. You may think they’re being curt. They might be run off their feet. Cut people a bit of slack. And don’t forget that email wars aren’t helpful. Pick up the phone and talk.

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