Practical tips for effectively working at home

Published: March 23, 2020

I've been working remotely for over 10 years now and will happily preach the benefits of it to anyone who wants to listen. However, over the course of recent weeks, I've been reading a lot of articles and commentary around the challenges of working from home, and I have been reflecting on the when I have found it difficult and I wanted to share the lessons that I have learnt to help me work through those times.

Firstly, the big one. Distractions. Distractions come in many forms and are different for each of us. I'm lucky enough not to be distracted by day to day things, like cleaning the house or watching the midday movie - however I am distracted by the news. Events such as the protests in Hong Kong, recent bush fires throughout Australia, and currently the unprecedented crisis of COVID 19, would have resulted in me sitting in-front of the TV for hours, or endlessly reading any article I can find online. However, I now limit myself to accessing news online to only during lunch time and do not turn the TV on until I've finished for the day.

If you're constantly jumping between work tasks and reading news online, it is important to remember that even though you're only on the news site for 5 minutes, it will take you 15-20 minutes to pull your mind back to the work task. Think about setting a side time to browse or watch the news, but also give yourself a deadline to get back to work.

Motivation is a key factor in successfully working in isolation. If you enjoy your job, this generally wouldn't be a problem - but unfortunately during times of uncertainty, this is a challenge that we will all face. My first tip for working through this is simple. Just do something. Because doing something is better than doing nothing at all. But try and do something that will have impact on your working life when things improve. Clean up the files on your computer, clean up your inbox or uninstall all those programs that you haven't used in 5 years. You'll feel like you are being productive (because you actually are), and it will help you be more productive when there is less uncertainty to challenge us.

My second tip on overcoming a lack of motivation is to find something on your to-do list that you actually enjoy doing, and if you can't find something that fits that criteria - find something that you can do without much thought, get it out of the way and off the list and leave the heavy lifting for when you are more motivated.

Although distractions and motivation are the two main challenges that I've faced and the challenges that I think those who are now finding themselves working remotely will struggle with, here are a few other practical tips that I think are very important.

  • Get dressed! and make your bed (trust me..)
  • If your house is quiet, play some music or listen to the radio
  • Have a dedicated work space, even if it is the kitchen table. Don't sit on the lounge.
  • Stick to your regular working hours as much as possible.
  • Take short breaks, go outside and get some fresh air
  • Call your work colleagues, even if it just for a chat
  • Don't cancel meetings, do them virtually

Article by Danielle Walters