Still yet to find your groove after two years in your home office? We asked an expert for their best working from home tips to help streamline your day.
Ask anyone how they’re coping with work from home life, and you’ll get a different answer. While some love their one-room commute and newfound personal freedom, others are still struggling with issues like noisy kids, distracting housemates or a lack of workspace.
If you fall into that latter category, this might help. We invited psychologist and career expert Suzie Plush to share her advice on how to make your home office lifestyle work for you. Here’s what she told us.
Maintain a positive work from home routine
Suzie’s first and most important piece of advice is to keep up your healthy pre-pandemic habits—and avoid slipping into Saturday morning mode during your work week.
“It's so easy just to get up and start working in your PJs and do whatever hours suit you,” she says. “But to be productive and feel like you've got a sense of focus, it's important to have a positive routine, starting with getting dressed for the day.”
Dress to impress
While we’re all best friends with our trackies at this point, Suzie says it’s still best to avoid wearing anything you would be embarrassed by if your neighbours dropped in. Clothing affects your mindset; if you feel sleepy or sloppy, chances are you’ll work that way too.
Wearing the same clothes day to night also blurs your working hours with your down time, preventing your brain from recognising when it can fully switch off and recharge. So be sure to include some costume changes in your routine to help flip that mental switch.
Shape your day through food
It’s widely believed that how you start your day will shape your day, so make sure you’re fuelling your mind and body with good energy too.
Suzie recommends having a nutritious breakfast–whatever you need to kickstart your day so that you feel healthy and alert. This could also include getting your blood flowing with a morning walk, some yoga, or clearing your mind with a short meditation session.
“Do whatever is going to make you feel like your old ‘work self’ to help put you in a better frame of mind and set yourself up for a win.”
Get the most out of your workspace
Having a space where you can focus without too many distractions is important for getting through your tasks. In a perfect world you’d have access to a workspace that’s separate from the bustle of the rest of the house, such as a study or spare bedroom. If not, don’t worry, because there are still a lot of ways to make your limited space work for you.
“Sometimes it’s not possible to have a separate workspace, so the alternative may be to negotiate with the people you live with,” Suzie says. “Identify and agree on times when you’d love some space and quiet time for work.”
“Aim for a scenario that provides you with the most privacy possible to minimise distractions,” she adds. “You can then plan when to tackle tasks that require the most focus versus those you can do on autopilot.
“No matter what space you end up with, you can make the most of what you have by ensuring your workspace is clean and organised.”
Declutter your environment… and your computer
Clutter can really impact your ability to focus. “Have some filing systems or some drawers in place where you can put all your work materials,” Suzie suggests.
The same rule goes for your computer too. While it’s easy to let your desktop get overrun with documents in progress, giving it a quick tidy on a Friday arvo will help you feel more in control when the next week starts.
Communicate openly with the people around you
While you’re probably well settled into your routine by now, it doesn’t hurt to have another chat about your remote working arrangements with those you live with, especially if there are things that aren’t working. This can help you uncover any simmering resentments and hurt feelings on both sides.
“People are not mind readers, so tell them what you’re thinking and feeling: ‘Look, I've got this important project due today’ or ‘I really need to get a couple of hours of quiet time this morning’.”
If you can get them to simply keep music and televisions turned down during that time, or take the kids out for a walk, it won’t be a wasted conversation. Giving your family or housemates a friendly warning in advance will improve how you cooperate and avoid unnecessary conflict.
How to work from home effectively
Set short-term goals
Suzie’s advice is to set yourself goals and priorities every day. Breaking a large project into smaller chunks and giving yourself targets to achieve every day will help you to stay on track.
While you should be clear about what you want to achieve, you should also manage your own expectations and those of your colleagues.
“In this current climate it's all about managing pressure,” Suzie explains. “Mostly the pressure you put on yourself. If you are unable to work as effectively as before, that's OK.”
Take regular breaks
No matter how dedicated or conscientious you are, the human brain can only focus for relatively short periods of time.
“If you're working for hours at a time with no breaks, your ability to think clearly and focus will decrease, along with your productivity.”
“Set yourself an alarm after 45 minutes to get up and stretch your legs, have a snack, have a drink of water… then go back to what you were working on feeling a bit fresher.”
Be kind to yourself
Whatever you do, Suzie says, remember that although this new world order has stretched on longer than expected, it’s also temporary.
“Give yourself a bit of grace and do the best you can.”