The start of the new decade has been dramatically affected by the rise of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic fallout. In March, following social distancing requirements from the Australian government, AH Jackson & Co took steps to set up staff to work remotely.

As a result, we at AH Jackson & Co are settling into a somewhat new “normal” which has given a whole new meaning to “work-life balance”.

If you have been fortunate enough to move your office to your home, we have put together a list of ways you can stay productive while working remotely.

1. Set a routine
The number one tip that has been shared around our office is to establish a routine. To make it a smoother transition, try to keep it similar to how it was when you were required to travel into the office.

Create the right mindset to WFH by waking up at the same time each morning – don’t fall into the trap of sleeping in. Have some breakfast, change out of your pyjamas (don’t worry we understand that’s the hardest part) then kick off your day with the same tasks you would as if you were in the office.

Make sure you’re also taking regular breaks, just as you would in the office. Staying active can be a challenge when you’re in a confined space so making the time to incorporate stretching, a walk in your garden or a break to play with your pets is a great way to do this.

The same goes for lunch. If you usually do something at a specific time during the regular working week at the office, make sure you do it when working remotely too (e.g. go for a lunchtime walk, get take-away from your local restaurants or sit outside and enjoy the sun for a while).

2. Find the best spot in the house
If you don’t have a fully kitted out ‘home office’, find a space that is functional and practical and make this your dedicated space to work from. If you don’t have a separate room, find an area with minimum traffic flow and consistently use the same space, so your mind goes to “work” mode when you sit at your spot. Make your space a stress-free zone by ensuring there is no clutter around to distract you.

3. Decide how you work best
Do you work better with music in the background or a room of silence? Studies have shown that a blend of soft music combined with soothing nature sounds activates the calming part of your brain, helps you concentrate and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. At AHJ, we are accustomed to music playing in the background to keep productivity levels high.

Discouraging personal intrusions by communicating with your housemates/family about what working remotely means to you and set some guidelines. Interruptions can cause you to lose your focus, procrastinate or get behind on a deadline. Indications you can use to show you are at work and are not to be distracted including closing the office door, wearing headphones or placing an object on top of your monitor to signal “please do not disturb”.

Just because you are home doesn’t mean you are “at home” – avoid the routine home activities such as reading books, laundry, washing dishes or watching television.

4. Working remotely with kids around
Working remotely can be difficult enough in itself, but when kids are a part of the equation things could become a bit more challenging.

Similar to step one, setting a routine and realistic expectations early will be essential for colleagues and your family. Write a realistic to do list the day before with key work and home activities you will need to achieve the next day. Stick to your regular routine as much as possible, if you’re a morning person use the early morning hours before the kids are up to sit down and get to work. If you work better later in the day, set your routine around those times. If you have a partner, tag them when they arrive home from work so you can work on your achievable for the day. If you’re more of a night owl, log in after dinner while your partner entertains the kids and pump out some work.

Remember to take regular breaks as you usually would, preparing snacks and meals the night before will give you more spare time the next day. Take your lunch and regular breaks with your kids and spend time with them. Stay active and go for a walk around the block and play in the yard with your kids for morning and afternoon tea.

Kids will be kids and interruptions are inevitable; however, you should set expectations with kids on distractions, so everyone gets the most out of you being at home. If you don’t work well around noises and mess set up expectations about how loud and messy they can be while you’re working.

It is possible to maintain productivity and professionalism at home – together as a family unit.

5. Stay social
This could sound a little counterproductive; however, we are built for social interaction and staying connected with those around you is essential. We’d recommend setting up virtual coffee chats with coworkers to start your week, or at the start of each workday. Routinely catch up on the phone or FaceTime with that person you usually make coffee with each morning – don’t lose that social connection just because you are working remotely.

Don’t forget family and friends too, set aside time or use your breaks to call or email close contacts and stay in the loop. In these times of uncertainty, we’re fortunate to have many different tools and ways we can reach out and connect with those closest to us.

6. Leave work at work (even when you’re not at work)
This can be difficult as there is always more work that can be done, especially if this is busy business time and work hasn’t slowed down. However, simply put make sure you log off when the day is done, and treat your WFH hours like regular business hours. Ensuring you keep work reminder out of sight by closing the office door, or putting away notepads and electronic devices will keep them out of mind and allow you to recharge your batteries.

Working remotely comes with a commitment to numerous boundaries, and if you do it long enough, you’re bound to feel the dull ache of loneliness from lack of human interaction. However, if you set yourself up with these simple steps, the time you spend telecommuting could be your most productive yet. These tips will help you stay focused and balanced, no matter how long we’re weathering the storm.

Further, if you would like to discuss any of the above measures or the financial impact you are currently facing, in general, please feel free to email your AHJ contact or or call (07) 3253 1500. Please note, however, that our office is currently unattended and our telephones are diverted to messages. We will endeavour to call you back as soon as possible.

For mental health and wellbeing support during the COVID-19 outbreak please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348.