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The ultimate survival guide for working from home

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Working from home doesn't come naturally for most people.

There's a lack of social interaction, a need to be self-disciplined, and a tendency to work a lot outside hours.

It does become easier but it's like any new environment, it takes time to get used to.

coronavirus working from home survival guide

It helps to feel part of a group so regular meetings are essential. A 10 minute catch-up at the end of the day - through video if possible, so you can see your colleagues - can help boost morale.

But be warned, lots of meetings can slow productivity so if you're getting too many invitations to meetings, prioritise the ones you do want to be part of, preferably those with a set agenda.

You should also discuss expectations with your manager - it's stressful feeling like no one knows what you're doing. Establish your expected output is and make sure to provide regular updates on your progress.

Here are tips for managing your workflow while maintaining your peace of mind.

1. Plan

Try to establish a routine around what times work best for you. Having kids or other family members at home means you may need to adopt some flexibility into your work schedule.

If you have more than one family member working or studying from home, try to maintain a regular schedule.

For many people just starting to work from home, it can be easy to let work take over and forget to take breaks, be conscious to plan some breaks just to grab a drink and stretch the legs.

2. Prepare

Physically arm yourself for the day - get dressed, do something that acts as a buffer between getting up and getting to work - read the papers online, read a book, go for a walk, do yoga, run or whatever you need to do before launching into your workday.

Distinguishing between work and my home life often means a better ability to focus on the job at hand.

3. Location

Avoid working on the couch, if you can. Setting up a dedicated work space - whether it's a home office or your kitchen bench - helps to establish a mindset of work.

4. Closing

Pack up at the end of the day, especially if you don't have a dedicated space where you can close the door. Make sure you leave your workspace tidy so that you can have some mental distance from work when the day ends.

If you're having trouble transitioning back into home life at the end of the day, take time out with the kids, spend some time in the kitchen or garden, or go for a walk.

5. Sharing space

It's vital at this time to make rules with whoever you are sharing the house with. At the moment you might be working at home with a partner or children or both - you should make sure that you are able to work quietly when you need to and you have a space that should be respected.

For partners maybe you need to take turns as the priority worker to make phone calls or have quiet time in the study. At the very least, you need to agree to be courteous when the other is on the phone, and give them space and not feedback!

6. Kids

It all depends on the age of the kids but broadly:

  • Set up a routine for the kids that involves school, free time and housework (if they're old enough).
  • To avoid getting distracted by the kids, opt for noise-cancelling headphones and listen to music or a podcast while working away.
  • Suggest quiet entertainment options like board games and jigsaw puzzles.
  • Ask your older kids to pitch in to take care of the little ones.

7. Other household distractions

It's easy when you're first at home to get side-tracked by the washing up, the dusty surfaces, or the window that needs a clean. It's important to stay focused and relegate anything non-work related to a time outside your work hours. From experience, this becomes easier over time.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Julia Newbould is a financial writer and commentator with a background in journalism. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.
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