From setting up your desk to what you wear, Aussies are adapting to working from their homes. And this is how to make the most of the new routine.
From setting up your desk to what you wear, Aussies are adapting to working from their homes. And this is how to make the most of the new routine.

How to nail working from home

You're on a conference call from home and your kids are screaming in the background. The kitchen bench has become a makeshift office. The home snack bar is always open and you're wondering if pyjamas have become appropriate workwear.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone.

As many Australians transition from open-plan offices to working out of their living rooms, business experts offer their tips and advice to help us navigate working from home.

Entrepreneur Peta Ellis says it is key to allocate a dedicated work zone for maximum focus and productivity.

If you don't already have an office, she offered simple ways to create one.

 

Pub or assistant? Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello with her adorable pooch, at her home office. Picture: Brett Costello
Pub or assistant? Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello with her adorable pooch, at her home office. Picture: Brett Costello

"Set aside some space in your home where you can sit comfortably; kitchen table, bench, deck, or spare room," said Ms Ellis, who works at Tribe Global, a consultancy firm helping companies mobilise their workforce.

"Clear it from clutter to avoid visual distraction, make sure there's air flow and good lightning can help with concentration."

The Comms Department managing director Bec Brown, who launched the entirely remote PR and communications agency eight years ago, said a priority was to keep structure and routine. And that means setting boundaries.

"When you're at work, make sure you work, don't put a load of washing on, don't put on the television and don't rearrange your bookshelf," she said.

"A lot of people have been coming to me in the last couple of weeks and saying their work day feels like it never ends because it flows in.

"Have that strict cut-off time at the end of the day and maybe change your clothes and put on home clothes."

 

Let’s get physical! PR co-ordinator Liv Jacobs wears activewear in her home office. Picture: Wayne Taylor
Let’s get physical! PR co-ordinator Liv Jacobs wears activewear in her home office. Picture: Wayne Taylor

Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello, who has always offered flexible work options for staff, said always remain professional, that includes avoiding the biggest temptation.

"Don't wear PJs, they just don't work, your mindset is in bed," she said.

"It's so important for your mindset to get up, get dressed and get into something comfortable but that you feel confident in to take on the day," she said, suggesting the daily dress code should be smart casual.

With our lives changing at a rapid pace, working parents face the biggest challenge; juggling their own workloads while entertaining kids stuck at home.

Ms Ellis said parents should try to be clear with their children.

"Set a weekly schedule with a daily rhythm that the kids can follow outlining what the days will look like at home," she said.

"A morning routine, when 'focus time' needs to be used to get some home school work or 'learning time' done, when there's free play, screen time or quiet time.

"Pack their lunch boxes and let them know they can self-serve throughout the day to avoid interruptions. It will also help them self-regulate their day."

Ms Ruello acknowledged these were extraordinary times and businesses should treat it as such.

"Right now, it's all rules off and I'm hoping employers have been kind and flexible with their employees who are working at home with family commitments," she said.

"Things aren't going to be perfect and you might have kids in the background of calls but just be honest if it's too much.

"Say 'I can't continue this conversation but let me call you back in 15 minutes', that's the reality.

"Let's face these times with humour, compassion, kindness, particularly for those with family commitments."

TECH TIME

With technology options more varied than ever, Ms Ruello said the most popular ways to communicate in groups were through Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams.

While phone calls are preferable to emails, she said video should always be preference but be aware of your surrounds.

"You have to be conscious of what is behind you in your workspace when on a video call," she said. "Keep it as neutral as possible and move to a light space if you can, natural light is best.

"You don't want anything private in the background, the camera can see everything behind you."

Ms Brown strongly advised workers to make the mute button their "best friend."

"Whether that is on the phone or on video, put your microphone on mute when you're not speaking… You'll be surprised how much background noise there is."

Without being able to physically see your team, Professor Greg Bamber said there was a level of trust needed when working remotely.

"If bosses are being seen to check up on their employees three times a day, the workers will feel micromanaged and like their bosses don't trust them and that will alienate them," he said.

Meanwhile, as you face great temptation with unbridled access to your fridge, Ms Ellis suggested you treat your day like you would at work.

"Pack your lunch in the morning like you would on a normal work day," she said.

"Set a timer for structured breaks, like you normally would to limit the times you are wandering around the kitchen."

Above all, as we adapt to our new way of life, we must remain in touch with your colleagues

"If you normally get a coffee with colleagues at 11am, call them at 11am instead and have a chat," Ms Brown said.

"Keep up that regular contact with the people you normally get your coffee with, we're all craving and needing social connection."

Originally published as How to nail working from home