Tips for working at home during COVID-19 outbreak

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Graphic of people wearing face masks for Covid-19 outbreak

If your organisation has decided to close the office and have everyone work from home for fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus, it might be the first time you’ve ever worked from home!

In fact, it’ll be the first time for the vast majority of employees out there. Although working from home sounds like the dream scenario, actually rolling up your sleeves and getting down to business can be difficult in a space you normally associate with downtime!

We’ve compiled a list of top tips to keep you focused and productive when working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Follow these pieces of advice and you may find you’re at your most productive wen working from home.

  1. Avoid those websites that have nothing to do with your work – easier said than done sometimes, but there are useful apps you can install on your browser that will block these websites for a set time each day.
  2. Create a routine – you should know at what parts of the day you are at your most productive. Work around that and stick to it. 
  3. Plan all phone calls and meetings around your schedule and let others know through which hours you will be online.
  4. Allow yourself some time in the morning to wake up – when working from home you miss out on the time typically spent commuting. This time is useful in the sense that it helps you work your way up the gears to being fully awake. Recreate this time in the morning by doing something unrelated to your work: walk to the corner shop and buy a newspaper, make yourself a coffee, catch up with some menial housework, etc. 
  5. Prepare yourself like you were leaving the house – essentially I’m telling you to wash and get dressed. The trick here is to create that distinction between work and downtime. If there’s no difference between the way you approach both, you’ll be inclined to distract yourself with non-work related matters.
  6. Designate an area of your house to be your office – just like getting yourself dressed for work in the morning, create a space where you’re supposed to do work. If you work from your couch or even from your bed, you’ll begin to notice your work creeping into your downtime as your essentially sitting at your desk all day. Your favourite spot on the couch should be a sacred place, don’t tarnish it!
  7. Make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable – get a comfortable seat, but sit upright at a desk. If you become too relaxed, your mind will begin to wander and you’ll find it difficult to regain any productivity thereafter.
  8. Keep things tidy – a clean house and a clean workspace leads to a clean mind and allows for creative space. Get yourself a houseplant for your work area and maintain it. 
  9. Let in as much natural light as possible – natural light is a great source of Vitamin D and has a number of other great benefits also. So be sure to ditch the drapes!
  10. Avoid doing personal tasks – you’ve designated time for work, so stick to it. Get a few personal tasks completed during your lunch break, but worrying about these things during your working hours diminishes your output significantly. 
  11. TV/Radio can be your friend/enemy – some people find it difficult to concentrate in a quiet environment, if that’s your case, stick on the television or radio in the other room so that the noise creeps through. If you’re like me, you’ll be drawn into whatever is being discussed and become distracted. I find instrumental music very useful concentration as I can easily ignore it. This YouTube channel plays uninterrupted instrumental music designed to help you concentrate.
  12. Take breaks – no one actually works for 8 hours during an 8 working day. There are always distractions like chatting with coworkers, standing at the printer, sitting in the bathroom cubicle staring vaguely into the abyss. These all add up! So be sure to reward yourself with one or two breaks. Go for a walk around the block, grab a coffee from your favourite cafe.
  13. Once you’ve logged off for the day, stay logged off – when your home is also your workplace, you need to create clear distinctions between work and downtime as we’ve already mentioned. So once you’ve finished your work for the day, leave it. Don’t deal with anything else until your workday commences again. This should keep you focused on accomplishing your tasks in the allotted time each day.
  14. Bite off more than you can chew – challenge yourself to do more when working from home. Create a list of tasks you’d ideally like complete during the day and begin to arrange them in terms of importance. See how far you can make it through the list each day. Generally speaking, the busier you are, the more productive you force yourself to become. 
  15. Ensure you have the right equipment to stay in touch with coworkers and use it! – make sure you have the appropriate hardware and software to remain connected from home. It’s important to maintain some sort of human interaction each day, but don’t go overboard, know when it’s appropriate to organise a remote meeting and when it isn’t. It’s very important that you’re reachable at all times. If someone from the office is trying to reach you and you’re unavailable, they’ll assume you’re on the couch watching Dr Phil.
  16. Ensure that anyone you live with knows what hours each day you work for and ask them politely to plan accordingly – the last thing you want to happen is your housemate to start practising their didgeridoo halfway through your workday.
  17. Plan your meals and eat well – one of the perks of working from home is that the fridge is right there, but try to avoid the temptation of picking from it throughout the day. Try to avoid coming up with your meals on the fly, plan in advance and save yourself time. It’s also a great way of saving yourself money, as you’ll avoid the temptation of joining your coworkers on their burrito excursion. Ensure you eat well and provide yourself with all the nourishment and energy you need to remain productive after eating.

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