Tips for working from home over the long term

For most people, their first experience of working from home was as a result of the measures put in place by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is research that suggests that around 70% of employers believe the experiment has been a success and that they are considering keeping some form of working from home arrangement in place for at least 20% of their staff.

These employers have discovered that productivity is high, the team culture has flourished and that the vital flow of information between team members has been maintained. Reducing the number of people who come into a premises to work also means that business owners can think about reducing the amount of space they rent. As many businesses would have necessarily moved online during the pandemic, there’s also likely been some shift in their business model away from bricks and mortar.

But how do you sustain a healthy working from home environment over the long term?

Ensure your working space is separate from your living space

While working on the kitchen table might have been a good solution for a week or two, it’s damaging to your mental health to keep on working from there. You need a physical separation from your workspace and your relaxation/living space. If you don't have a study space, find a corner somewhere out of your living/family areas to set up a work area.

Have “me” time in the morning before logging on

Don’t drag yourself from bed to your computer. Get up earlier, do a small amount of exercise or stretching to wake up your body and have a healthy breakfast. Try to wake up at a consistent time each day - this helps to maintain your normal sleep routine, which is really important for your health and immune system.

Dress the part

While it is tempting to stay in your PJ’s all day you’ll find that you are in better mental shape if you make an effort to be presentable for all those online meetings. That doesn’t mean donning a suit, but it does mean have a shower, brush your hair and wear neat casual clothes.

Have a routine

Routines are reassuring and help us cope with changes beyond our control. Plan each day with a series of goals you need to meet and allocate times to them.

Stay connected

Social connections at work are very important, and while working from home can mean fewer distractions, it can also mean you can go a whole day without speaking to someone, which can get lonely.

Email and instant messaging are useful, but try and keep in touch with colleagues on the phone and have a real conversation. This can be much more stimulating and even more productive than the mountains of email traffic... You might even set up a daily short conference call with your team so you can all touch base and see one another, just like if you were at the office, such as a daily team meeting, video lunch dates, virtual meeting over coffee or well-being chats to check in on each other.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks and time away from your desk to stand up and move around a bit, just like you would at the office. If you stay stuck to your screen all day, your productivity levels are likely to drop. A break might be making a cup of tea, doing some simple stretches or sitting in the garden or on the balcony to get some fresh air, which will give you some screen-free time as well as an opportunity to rest your brain for a moment - which might just give you a fresh perspective for any tasks you might be stuck on.

Get moving!

Working from home can cause you to be somewhat sedentary, so it's important to make time throughout the week for exercise.

This could be going for a ride on your bike, doing some stretches or yoga in your living room or taking the dog for a walk. Australia’s national exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity (this may include activities that make you breathe harder such as cycling fast, jogging and interval training), or a combination of both. Try to build 30 minutes at least five days of the week with a routine that works best for you. Where possible, walk around the home when you take phone calls and get up as often as possible for a stretch.

Don’t let work time bleed into home time

One of the benefits of working from home is the flexibility. When you need a break you can watch a video for ten minutes or read a chapter in that book you’re reading, or Facetime a friend. But the risk is that these activities become seductive and take much more than your planned break time. It’s a temptation to tell yourself that you’ll finish your work tasks after hours, on the weekend – that you are putting in the hours, just not 9 to 5. And while most employers are happy for you to apply flexibility, too much flexibility can impact on your home life and your ability to disconnect from work and totally recharge. Where possible, use those core working hours to get your work done.