Working from Home: Staying Focused in a Relaxed Environment

We are entering a new time in our age. Most of us haven’t seen a pandemic like this in our lifetime. The last pandemic in Australia was the Spanish Flu which occurred just over 100 years ago. With the last pandemic being so long ago, a lot of the management methods, as well as how governments handled the spread, are not as appropriate now as they were back them. It also creates any entirely new concern for businesses to be concerned about: How do we help manage the spread whilst trying to still remain open for business?

Advancements in technology have allowed businesses staying “open for business” to be a lot more achievable. With many roles being able to be completed from  home. But what is it you need to be able to work from home?

It’s quite simple really…All you need is a computer that can easily run all programs that you need to complete your work; and a high-speed internet connection that can handle the influx of video meetings!

If people don’t have experience working from home, they can struggle with three things; discipline, focus, and commitment. The below tips will help employees to create their own discipline and remain focused when in an environment that is designed to help you escape work. These are:

  • Get ready for the day
    • Don’t work in your pyjamas!
    • Get yourself ready for the day as if you were actually going into work. Do your normal routine (shower? Breakfast?) and dress appropriately (no lounge-wear) that will help your mind separate home from work.
  • Get organised
    • create filing systems, schedules and to-do lists
  • Have a set work-space
    • store all work-related files, reference materials and supplies here. Make sure it emulates that of a true work environment.
    • Make sure that it suits your needs. Are you more productive in the mornings? Are you a creative (Do you need an environment that provides inspiration)?
    • Avoid home distractions by having an office space separate to other rooms such as the lounge room, but ultimately it is up to you to stay focused.”
    • Make sure that all office equipment you would use frequently is within reach to minimise the potential for distractions.
    • If you don’t have the room for a designated work-space then your next option is at a table. Just make sure that your work-space isn’t on the couch or in bed otherwise the work-space will feel too relaxed.
    • Make sure your work-space looks professional and pleasant for when Zoom calls are appropriate.
    • Claim a clutter free zone to provide you an environment that doesn’t provide distractions
  • Plan you day
    • This will help minimise your distractions and maximise your true productive times.
  • Be computer savvy
    • Make sure you are knowledgeable in the software on your computer and the programs required to complete your tasks.
  • Limit the number of times you check e-mails
    • Personal experience has led me to check my emails every couple of hours. I began setting an alarm every 2 hours from my start time leading to my finish time. This instilled the idea that for those 2 hours between checks that is my time to knuckle down and get to work.
  • Brush up on your communication skills
    • Conveying what you are trying to say clearly and concisely through email can be difficult. Whilst mobiles, instant message, and software like zoom make it easier to stay in touch; having the ability to communicate effectively to others in your organisation through email will add to your communication skills.
  • Set office hours
    • Set up a schedule or time slots to complete activities for the day. This will be especially helpful when your children are at home instead of at kindy/prep/school.
    • Try keep all conversations with work colleagues strictly work related whilst your operating from home.
  • Take breaks
    • Consider taking the time to get up and go for a walk or stretch. You would do the same usually when you’re at work, but it would be in the form of going to the lunchroom or water-cooler or going to talk with your co-workers.
  • Get out of the house
    • This is a bit harder to do during this time but try and get out of the house as well.
    • Where necessary, set up outside meetings
  • Don’t handle personal tasks during work hours
    • Don’t do any housework or favours for neighbours and friends during your scheduled work hours (babysitting, laundry, and so on)
    • Similarly, don’t allow working from home to be a time to catch up with friends and family. Let them know you are working from home and that you should only be contacted outside of your normal working hours unless its urgent.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
    • Make sure to schedule into your day regular exercise, keep healthy snacks around the house and drink plenty of water.
    • Take a 10- minute walk around the block. Get the blood flowing. Get the brain thinking about something else than your work for a brief moment. More often than not you will come back from it revitalised and invigorated, with a fresh point of view.
  • Be a perpetual student and prepare like a teacher
    • As everyone is different, keep researching and practicing new ways to try find what works for you.
  • Stay connected
    • Make yourself readily available through all forms of contact.
      • If your concerned about how much communication is too much, then make sure to over-communicate until told otherwise. This is because of the negative impact a lack of presence in the workplace can have. The lack of presence will result in your boss feeling left in the dark and questioning the effectiveness of working from home.
    • Schedule face time
      • On the back of the above, make sure to schedule weekly meetings with your boss and/or team to communicate what you have been doing over the week. In this current climate, this is achievable through Zoom.
    • Log off
      • Make sure that work and life don’t seep into one. When you’re at work, you’re at work. As soon as you finish you need to train your brain to switch off. If you have an idea that is worthwhile looking into further, jot it down and revisit it tomorrow when you’re physically/mentally prepared for what’s to come.

How do I stay focused when I’m looking after my children at home?

From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, kids attending schools and how they can be a source of spreading the virus, has been on the minds of a lot of parents. As more parents are being told to stay home for safety’s sake, more parents are pulling their children out of day-care and school to try limit the chances of their children contracting the virus.

Any level of productivity you have experienced in the past should be completely forgotten. When it comes to working from home with children the idea that you can complete the same amount of work that you would usually do at work whilst at home is nothing but a pipe dream. You need to be open to the idea that you won’t be nearly as productive as what you have been in the past. Working from home with children essentially means your working two jobs so you need to be prepared as well as opened to the concept of failing in both aspects; not because your bad at them both, but because you will not be able to provide your full attention to either.

So how do I complete my role, both as an employee and as a parent as best as possible? Well there are three things that you should do.

  • Create a schedule – You will need to identify what work you are required to complete and also what tasks you are required to complete as a parent. In creating this schedule, you need to be open to the idea that your ordinary working hours may be altered because of certain tasks that will need to be completed as a parent. For example, most newborns and toddlers require a lot of stimulus however will go down for naps regularly. During these nap times is when you should be organising your virtual meetings. Or be open to the idea that you may be more productive at night than you are in the day.
  • Communicate with your boss – let them know what you’re working with at home. Let them know your schedule. Let them know you can only be a part of meetings at certain times through the day. Let them know what you are working on during these times and provide them an appropriate expectation of when it will be done.
  • Be Open & Flexible – Understand that things could arise at any moment and change your schedule for that day. You need to be able to adapt to these changes where needed.

Lastly, now is a perfect time to embrace technology and use it to your advantage. As schools begin to explore the idea of teaching students through online learning platforms you will begin to see your children using it more often. This is okay, this will make your “working from home” life easier. Similar to your own work schedule it may be effective to create a schedule for your children as well. Creating time throughout the day to make sure that your children are getting everything done that needs to be done, from homework/schoolwork, to exercise, to making sure they are eating properly and at the correct times.

The hardest thing to do whilst working from home, especially during our current CoVID crisis, is to not treat this as a holiday for you and your children. Should it be treated as a holiday you will begin to notice key failings in your work as well as your health. As more and more people are being told to self-isolate or quarantine, physical and mental health can begin to be affected. Physical and mental health will begin to deteriorate if you don’t have the proper stimulus, aren’t eating the right foods, and aren’t trying to keep your body moving in some way.

Get in touch with a HR Consultant at Bramwell Partners if you have further questions about employer or employee obligations whilst working from home.