Follow these six steps to help you make the most of working from home.
31 March, 2020 | by Natasha Boddy
1. Get the basics right
You can do desk work comfortably from home for a full day if you get the basics right, says Ted Dohrmann, managing director of ergonomics consultancy Dohrmann Consulting.
Start by finding a flat surface with enough room for your computer and any other work material. Ensure you have enough leg room and your thighs should not be squashed.
Pick a chair that lets you sit and work at the right height.
"Don’t be tempted to buy a multi-adjustable chair - cheap or expensive - just because it is labelled ergonomic," says Dohrmann.
"What matters is whether your set up fits you, enabling comfortable, well-supported posture. Specifically - your lower back should be well supported, your shoulders level, and your feet supported without under-thigh pressure."
If you're working from a laptop, if possible, try to use a separate keyboard, mouse and screen. Don't have a second screen? Raise your laptop so the top edge of the open screen is just below eye height.
Dohrmann also recommends using headsets for long phone calls, and taking advantage of dictation functions on your computer or phone to minimise keyboard and mouse use.
Importantly, ensure your workspace has adequate lighting.
But if you have had to buy items to work from home - and those costs have not been reimbursed by your employer, you may be able to claim a tax deduction for some of your expenses. (Read our guide here).
2. Stay mentally healthy
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful time for many workers - from concerns about loved ones to the disruption facing the work day.
Beyond Blue lead clinical adviser Dr Grant Blashki says it's normal to feel anxious, but he urges people to keep perspective and remember it is temporary.
Be creative around staying socially connected. Try having virtual coffees, lunch dates or catch-ups over Skype, Zoom or Facetime.
Working from home increases the risk of loneliness through social isolation, says Cassandra Goodman, a facilitator and coach at Arianna Huffington's wellness start-up Thrive Global.
"Make a list of the relationships that really nourish you and commit to a daily connection with those people," she says.
Use support services, such as employee assistance programs, through work or online support services such as Beyond Blue, which also offers online chat forums.
3. Don't fall into bad habits
When you work from home, you can sometimes fall into the trap of not taking adequate breaks, stopping work when you should or poor sleep patterns such as going to bed later than you normally would.
Wellbeing and resilience expert Stuart Taylor, chief executive of Springfox, recommends reinvesting the time you'd normally spend commuting to exercise and commit to daily relaxation.
"Don’t neglect the basics, including a healthy, nourishing diet and eight hours sleep each night," he says.
It is crucial to look after your mental health by doing things like maintaining a healthy routine like you would if you were going into an office, says Dr Blashki.
"Try and structure your day because we know that's really good for people's mental wellbeing," he says.
Remember to take breaks: short, frequent breaks are better than long, infrequent ones.
4. Stay focused
Many people will probably begin to feel strained working from home for long durations, says Indeed's head of career insights, Jay Munro.
"Certainly, many people will be used to working from home one day a week or so, but anything longer than this and we tend to really feel the consequences," he says.
With distractions such as kids, pets and partners, it can be easy to lose focus when working from home for long periods,
"At home, it becomes important to focus keenly on the essential work and not the tasks that are no longer possible," he says.
It often requires us to re-evaluate our priorities, and practise greater discipline and focus.
"This is typically a lot easier in the workplace, but at home we’re met with many more distractions, so it’s crucial to be able to set boundaries and regulate ourselves."
Try to set boundaries if you keep getting interrupted by your children or partner.
If you're working at home with kids, embrace a flexible, yet disciplined schedule, says Darren Murph, head of remote at software company Gitlab.
5. Keep communicating
Just because you're out of sight, doesn't mean you are out of mind for your boss.
Being out of the office means communication with your boss and co-workers is perhaps more important than ever.
Gabrielle Harris, managing director of management consultancy Interchange, recommends letting your boss know what you're working on, how you're tracking and where you might be having gaps.
"As an employer you look at that, and think 'great, this person is on top of their game'," she says.
"They're able to clearly articulate to me where their areas of focus are, how I can help them and then what resources they require to be effective in what they're doing."
6. Monitor your social media
While it can be useful to tune into the news or the Prime Minister’s address, it’s less helpful to constantly be exposed to thousands of other opinions, many of which can be anxiety-inducing, says Taylor.
Our minds don't cope well with a 24-hour cycle of bad news.
— Grant Blashki, Beyond Blue
Dr Blashki agrees.
"Manage your social media diet. It is possible in our contemporary life to have a 24-hour stream of the most depressing news that will take you down the plughole of despair," he says.
Dr Blashki recommends identifying authoritative sources of information to stay on top of the news, but limit your social media consumption.
"Our minds don't cope well with a 24-hour cycle of bad news."