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Working from home, or a mix of home and office, appears here to stay. How can you make it work best for you?
There’s no denying working from home, even for just one day a week, is one of the major workplace changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
By October 2020, around two in five Australians in the workforce had pivoted to working from home.1
However, the Productivity Commission has suggested that while there were a lot of positives arising from the wholesale move to remote work due to COVID-19, there might also be some negatives.2
On the one hand, it said workers might enjoy an increase in flexibility and leisure time due to reduced commute times.
On the other hand, remote work has risks, both for workers distinguishing the divide between work and leisure, and for businesses potentially facing drops in productivity, as well as innovation.
“Innovation is elusive and often occurs through serendipitous person-to-person exchange. While new ideas can foster through virtual exchange, it is perhaps less likely,” the Productivity Commission found.
If you are planning on working from home, or a hybrid model of at-home and in-office work over the long-term, you may want to think about ways it can best work for you.
Save travel time and money
Working from home might provide you with greater control and flexibility over your hours and allow you to work during the times you find most productive. You might also have more control over common workplace distractions, such as noise, to do more of what’s called “deep work”. And, you can choose to increase the comfort level of what you wear while you work.
Greater control and flexibility
Missing social interaction
A lack of face time with co-workers and colleagues means you might miss out on the camaraderie and possibly inspiration of the office setting. Working from home can get lonely, so it’s important to talk on the phone and organise digital link-ups, not just communicate via email or social media.
One of the risks to your physical and mental wellbeing may be overworking. The lines between work and home may become blurred as you can’t escape work. As there’s no one seeing you put in those long hours, you may also be judged solely on the numbers you deliver, rather than your work ethic.
Working remotely involves active management.
The key is to find a routine that works around any home commitments and that helps you overcome the temptation to procrastinate. A schedule can also ensure your productivity remains high and your work as rewarding as if you were in the office.
Assign a workstation. Wherever you are working from, make sure your equipment is set up properly, ergonomically and mindful of health and safety.
Designate a work-free zone
Consider a space in your home as work-free and just for relaxing. Designating a space that is not for work is part of creating healthy work-life boundaries.
Take scheduled breaks
Taking scheduled breaks keeps your mind fresh. It is important to take regular eye breaks instead of staring at a computer screen for hours, while taking regular physical breaks also balances work and wellness.
Integrate physical and creative activities
Schedule physical and creative activity into each day to keep your mind fresh and control stress. At the office, you may have designated time during a lunch break to walk outside, so keeping up those habits may be important.
Establish a firm quitting time
A set quitting time helps you feel as though you have control over your work. Also, don’t underestimate the transition from work to leisure that may have previously been designated by the commute. Try including a transitional period as a substitute for the commute such as a walk around the block after work before dashing off to prepare dinner.
Be open about isolation
Take steps to avoid feeling isolated such as having regular one-to-ones, meeting people face-to-face and keeping in communication with people throughout the week. However, if you are accustomed to or enjoy social interaction as part of your work and feel you may become isolated from the team when working remotely, there are several actions you can take:
If you do decide to change your working pattern, set a trial period to do this and then review its effectiveness.
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1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 16 November 2020, Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, at www.abs.gov.au
2. Productivity Commission 2020, 19 November 2020, PC Productivity Insights: Australia’s long term productivity experience, at www.pc.gov.au
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