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In 2020, our attitudes towards working from home (WFH) changed significantly. What was once considered a workplace perk afforded to more senior members of staff suddenly became a day-to-day reality for entire organisations.
The shift caused many of us to reflect on workplace flexibility, where we’re most productive, and how to carry that forward. A 2020 survey conducted by Hays tells us, 61% of Australians think a hybrid working model, consisting of part working from home and part office working, is the most productive. 1
So if a hybrid working environment is the new norm, how do you create a home office environment that keeps you motivated and maximises your productivity?
Bethany Rands, Analyst at KPMG and provisional CA, made the transition from the office to home during her first year as a full-time graduate at KPMG. She says that although challenging in the beginning, working from home has provided her with the opportunity to replace her commute time with study time for the CA Program.
Patrick Banks, Accountant at Pye Arnold and provisional CA, spent the last year working remotely as an Accountant at KPMG in Perth. Like Bethany, Patrick says that the transition was challenging, but creating a routine helped him stay motivated and focused while working from home.
We asked Bethany and Patrick to share their five tips on how to work effectively in the new normal:
1. Create a schedule - and stick to it!
According to the 2020 Future of Work Report by Coworking Insights & Coworker, 73.9% of respondents rated having a flexible schedule as the most enjoyable part of remote working. 2
Just because you might be working from home 1-2 days a week, doesn’t mean that you need to give up your office work routine!
It is so important to set a schedule and stick to it. I set the goal for myself early on in the lockdown that I did not want to start and end the day behind my computer, so I made the decision to wake up early to exercise, and finish my workday by having a chat with a mate.
According to Patrick, it is so important to set a time when you plan to wake up, start work, take your break and finish for the day.
“It is so important to set a schedule and stick to it. I set the goal for myself early on in the lockdown that I did not want to start and end the day behind my computer, so I made the decision to wake up early to exercise, and finish my workday by having a chat with a mate,” say Patrick.
It might seem like common sense but by removing the more disciplined parts of your daily routine like your commute and in-person meetings, you may find that your time markers across the day fall away and eight hours can become an unproductive blur.
To stay productive, Patrick recommends scheduling breaks and working through a task list as this can help you achieve your goals and priorities in the time you have available.
“You can sometimes find yourself at your desk for long periods of time while working from home. Although you may be able to smash out your task list in one sitting, it is important to take some time away from your work - even if it is just for lunch,” he says.
2. Set up your WFH space
When establishing a designated working space in your home, take some time to assess whether the space you decide upon promotes productivity.
To achieve maximum focus and have minimal distractions, it is recommended this area is separate to your bedroom as your brain associates the bedroom with sleep, and you don’t want to be nodding off while trying to hit a deadline! 3
Having found that she was spending longer than usual periods of time at her desk while working at home, Bethany made the decision at the beginning of lockdown to invest in a desk and ergonomic chair in an effort to look after her body and give the space a work environment feel.
“I wanted to be comfortable when working from home, and be able to operate as effectively as I could if I were to be working in the office. I made the decision at the very beginning to plan for the long haul, and am lucky that I have a monitor set up, and a good office chair,” says Bethany.
Find a room and set it up as a designated home office as this can help you to mentally separate your ‘work from home mindset’ from your ‘relaxing at home mindset’. Try your best to keep your workspace clean and tidy to foster productivity and ongoing motivation. You can do it!
3. Be in the know no matter where you are!
Just like remembering to write things down for a team member who is on leave, it is important to put everything important in writing when working in a hybrid environment.
Patrick believes that everyone should be made aware of any significant discussions and decisions regardless of whether they are in the office, or working remotely.
“Documenting updates is extremely important not only at the office, but when working remotely. The team needs to be on the same page, know where everyone is, and be aware of any project updates at all times," says Patrick.
Taking minutes at meetings and documenting action items will prevent excessive catch-up calls and ensure there is clarity among the team.
4. Don’t give up on co-working and collaboration!
If you happen to be one of the few people working remotely in a team that is mostly office-based, there may be times when you are feeling isolated or disconnected.
We are social creatures by nature, so use virtual conferencing applications to schedule co-working or collaborating sessions with your team as appropriate.
For Bethany, regular team meetings via Skype really helped her build rapport and connect with other colleagues who were based in other states. She says that just like you would do in a face-to-face brainstorm, these sessions can be used to ask your teammates questions or their opinions on a project.
“If I haven't spoken to someone in a while, but needed their help with a project, I would pick up the phone and give them a call. The Skype video function added another element to a phone call as I can now have a face-to-face chat with them about work, and get on the same page,” says Bethany.
Bethany notes that these virtual check-ins aren’t all just professional as they can even be used to replace watercooler/tea break chats.
“Although I am based in Brisbane, I work a lot with the Melbourne and Sydney teams, and have been able to become really good friends with them and have conversations about things other than work. I have found that I get my dose of office banter which is nice.”
5. Shut down, switch off and enjoy time away from work
One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is that the line between work life and home life becomes blurred.
According to research from Roy Morgan conducted in 2020, 39% of all employed Australians reported they find it difficult to switch off from work. 4
Unlike when you are in the office, you don’t physically leave your work space to signal to your mind and body that you’ve finished your day of work. Setting clear boundaries and establishing balance between work and the other areas of your life are essential to preventing burnout and preserving your wellbeing.
Have a specific time when you ‘clock-off’ and work towards getting your tasks done by this time. Try to resist the temptation to stay online just a little longer if you can avoid it. While it’s a given there will be times when you may not be able to have a hard stop, treat those times like a special exception and prioritise achieving a balanced lifestyle.
We hope with the above tips you should feel ready to tackle hybrid working and continue to maximise your goals for success.
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