Is working from home your new normal?

28 January 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way we live and work. With companies big and small around the world rolling out mandatory remote working policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many of us have made the shift from office to home-office overnight.

While some organisations, in particular tech and start-up companies, have experimented with remote work options for years, work-from-home culture hadn't truly taken hold - until now. Many businesses have been remote for several months already, and some, such as Twitter, have decided to let employees work remotely permanently, even after the pandemic passes.

For those who can, working from home opens up an entirely new way of working. But although it has plenty of advantages (hello, extra hour in bed), it can also come with challenges. Here are our top six tips for working from home.

The first thing to consider is how well you are set up to work from home. Don’t worry if you don’t have the space to create a proper home office. Whether you have the luxury of a spare room or use a section of your kitchen table, the goal is to carve out a space that you can associate with work. Having a dedicated workspace is important for promoting productivity and will help you feel more organised.

Set up your computer and other work tools in an area where you can concentrate without distractions and interruptions. Make sure you have good lighting and that your desk, chair and monitor are ergonomically positioned. Establish the habit of working only in your work area and leaving it when work is done. You want to create a sense of ‘going to work’, even if that only means moving from the couch to the kitchen counter.

As tempting as it may be to sleep in or lounge around in your pyjamas at the kitchen table, most successful remote workers agree that following a regular, business-like schedule is essential to WFH success. Not only does it make it easier for your co-workers and business associates to communicate with you, but establishing a regular routine – preferably one that mimics your office practice – helps draw clear lines between work and home.

When your office is also the place you sleep, eat, and spend your free time, it’s easy to work less than your average work day – or even more. Know when you want to start and end your workday, and if you need to take a break from your screen, schedule it in. It’s important you maintain your regular working hours – do at home as you would as if you were in the office. 

While it may be tempting to roll out of bed, turn on your computer, and stay in your pyjamas for the entire day, dressing for work is important for both your productivity and mental health. Dressing casually is definitely a perk of working at home but getting “ready for work” is a daily ritual that helps keep you on track. It will also help you maintain a professional appearance for any virtual meetings and allows you to take those Zoom calls at a moment’s notice. 
Studies have shown that employees who work remotely often end up working longer hours. Although your home office may feel somewhat more relaxed than your formal office, it is just as important to take regular breaks at home; get up from your desk and move around just as you would in an office. Research has also found that short breaks throughout the day are more beneficial than less frequent, longer breaks. If possible, set a time during your lunch hour to go for a walk or run to get some fresh air. You could also ‘go for lunch’ with a colleague or another friend working from home via Skype or Zoom.

If you share a home – and now a workspace – with family, partners, children or roommates who must also stay home from school and work, it’s important to communicate when you have meetings or need quiet time. Do what you can to physically separate your working space from your living space, especially if you have children at home. Setting boundaries with other members of your household while you work is key.

And finally, just because you can’t communicate with your co-workers face-to-face doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be communicating with them regularly. Isolation is one of the biggest concerns for people who aren’t used to working from home. One way of interacting with colleagues is through specialised apps designed for working remotely. Two worth considering are the chat app Slack and video conferencing app Zoom. Both services have free basic plans.
If you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t forget to take the time to look after your health and wellbeing. Allianz Care is here to help: our mission is to keep you well, wherever you work in the world.