4 tips for successfully working from home

- March 2020

By Melissa Russo, Senior Manager at Parbery Consulting

As the true impact of COVID-19 takes hold in Australia, many of us are thinking about if we are equipped to start working from home. We’re beginning to consider questions we haven’t had to ask ourselves before and adopt new ways of looking at how we can get our work done.

Working from home once or even twice a week is already common practice for many larger organisations. However, in organisations where working from home is not as popular, you can expect a steep learning curve. To get through it, we will also need to help each other through the adjustment process. Here are my tips for successfully working from home.

1. Create a work environment at home

Getting your home set up as a work station is only the first step in the process. The next step is to start thinking about what your normal day will look like when you work from home. A good place to start is by thinking about what your normal day looks like when you go to the office.

If you are prone to getting lost in your work you may need to set reminders for yourself to take regular breaks including lunch to build this habit. If you would normally head out for a walk at lunchtime, keep this as part of your routine when working from home. Write down your day’s activities and make sure to draw a fine line between work and non-work activities. It’s easy to start getting distracted by non-work activities when at home so be sure to have a clear to-do list and know what your next work task is.

2. Keep your normal routine

Keeping your normal routine as similar and familiar as possible is essential. If you normally pick up a coffee from the coffee shop near work, then continue this routine by visiting a coffee shop close to home or plan to make your own coffee at home to start your day.

Think about how you typically start your day when you arrive at work. If you are anything like me you like to say hello to your colleagues, so again have a think about what this looks like when you work from home. If your organisation uses an instant messaging tool such as Communicator or MS Teams, this could be a good way to say hello and let your colleagues know that you are online.

3. Stay connected

The key to successfully working from home is to stay connected to your team-mates, remembering that you won’t be hearing the conversations that occur normally within the office space. If you normally met with your team on a weekly basis, it may be time to reconsider the frequency of your meetings to ensure you stay connected. If you don’t have one already, consider introducing a 15-minute daily meeting each morning.

Try and stand up during these meetings. There are many benefits of a daily stand-up, particularly if you stick to a strict agenda and timeframe. A typical stand-up meeting agenda may ask each participant:

  • What they achieved the day before
  • What they plan to achieve today
  • If they have any issues requiring escalation or support

Setting aside time each morning to stand up also encourages you to keep good posture, present more effectively and develop a new routine to help structure the way you work from home.

4. Use technology as a bridge, not a barrier

When working from home, don’t forget to pick up the phone as you would when working from an office. If you would normally drop past a team mate’s desk to ask a question, give them a call or connect with them through instant messaging. It’s often useful to be able to see and hear your colleagues where possible. Make sure you use your computer and phone as a bridge for connection rather than a barrier.

If you work in a team where you need to often host face-to-face consultations, workshops or events, it is important to consider how you are going to take these online. Where whiteboards and sticky notes are typically used, consider platforms such as Trello. Where you normally rely on larger gatherings, consider broader channels such as webinars and live streaming services.

Working from home can make you feel socially isolated, so consider getting on the front foot and planning a couple of virtual coffees each week. You may choose to set up virtual coffees with either one person or with a number of people, it’s up to you.

We don’t know at this stage how long we will be working from home for, but by continuing our normal routine from home, we will slow the spread of COVID-19 while being as productive as possible.