AS confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to increase exponentially around the world, more and more Australians are being asked to work from home to curb the spread of the virus.
While a national lockdown has still been ruled out by the national cabinet, which is unconvinced of the effectiveness of a shutdown at this stage, many workers are bracing for drastic changes in the near future.
So how does one prepare to turn their living room into their work cubicle?
Career development practitioner Megan Walk has eight years of experience with working from home, consulting to people who want or need to transition into a new career.
A member of the Assembly of Catholic Professionals in Brisbane archdiocese and a South Brisbane parishioner with her husband, Deacon Adam Walk, Mrs Walk said this pandemic was a stressful time for workers.
She said people who were forced to work from home because of COVID-19 could benefit from some of the advice she offered her clients.
Have a routine
Establishing a consistent routine is key to having a productive day, and it shouldn’t be restricted to any work-related activities.
Anything you can do in the morning to prepare you mentally for the day should be considered.
“What I do, my routine, is – and partly because of our dogs – I get up, take dogs for a walk, have a coffee, and then I start work,” Mrs Walk said.
Mrs Walk said regular breaks were also necessary.
“So if you’re working from home, making sure that like you would at work take regular breaks, have a coffee, and also that you’re switching off,” Mrs Walk said.
Review your environment and set boundaries
Mrs Walk said employees needed to be able to physically set up in your home with the right equipment – Internet access, technology, security software – and that these should be provided by their organisation.
She said it was also important for organisations to be transparent about how they would manage their employees services, such as phone and internet bills.
“The interesting thing around this current situation is if need you to go from work, I assume (organisations) are potentially providing a laptop, hopefully paying for phone calls, but how are they working that with Internet access?” Mrs Walk said.
Also consider whether the space is appropriate for your work, and could it help you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“Maybe setting up in a room where you can shut down the laptop and close the door,” Mrs Walk said.
Setting boundaries for availability would also ensure you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
“Sometimes the trap for some people, especially if they tend to be a workaholic, is when you leave your office, you have emails on your phone,” Mrs Walk said.
“I will have clients who flick me through their stuff at night but I don’t review that until the next day.
“I think the more you’re available, the more people expect you be available and that’s not healthy either.
“All the research shows we’re much more effective when we have balance.”
Communicating your expectations
Employees who have been advised to work from home need to be able to clearly communicate any personal situations that might affect their job performance, like whether you have young children at home.
“It could be tempting as a manager to go ‘everyone’s working from home’ but no one’s connecting back in,” Mrs Walk said.
“It’s all well and good for people to say ‘work from home’ but does that work for them?
“If they’ve got kids, then it’s the organisation or manager’s responsibility to consult in that situation.
“I get why we’re doing it and trying to keep everyone safe and that’s great, but discuss how that will work for them so they feel like they’re part of their process.”
Don’t forget human interaction – even in self-isolation
Working from home, particularly due to self-isolation, does not mean employees should not at least have virtual connections to colleagues and clients.
“I imagine now there’s lots of virtual meetings happening and phone meeting catch ups,” Mrs Walk said.
“When you’re consulting that can be quite isolating.
“Someone like me who’s an extrovert, if I spend too much time on emails and reading people’s resumes, I get quite flat by the end of the day or two days.
“If you are an extrovert, you need to make sure, as part of your day, there is some interaction with people.
“For me it’s phone meetings where I can do face to face meetings.”
Mrs Walk said in the case of a pandemic, social connection would be important for those who have been asked to self-isolate.
“Just making sure that people are checking in with people and making sure they’re ok, particularly those isolated people,” Mrs Walk said.