How to successfully work from home

With coronavirus declared a global pandemic, many companies are considering, or already asking, employees to work from home. Here’s how to prepare for remote working.

Avoiding the commute and working in your pyjamas all day may sound like fun.

But as COVID-19, or coronavirus, spreads there is a real likelihood hundreds of thousands of Australians will be working from home.

Here’s how to be prepared.

A basic working from home set-up

While most of us “make do” when we work from home occasionally, for longer periods setting up a “fit and proper” workspace is important, says workplace health and safety expert Dr David McIvor.

“The obvious things are a desk, a chair, proper lighting and computer,” says the WorkSafety Ptd Ltd chief executive.

Depending on your line of work you may also need additional equipment like a photocopier or scanner. And don’t forget the little things like printing ink, stationary and of course, toilet paper.

Take into account potential WiFi issues

The internet underpins most jobs these days – keeping us dialled into email and essential programs.

However, Dr McIvor warns that telcos are already talking about winding back speed and data capabilities “because they are anticipating so many people are going to be working from home”.

“That might slow people down, so employers and employees need to understand productivity may be less,” he says.

Discuss limitations of remote working with your manager

Troubleshooting problems and creating realistic expectations of what you can achieve working remotely is vital.

This will differ depending on your family situation, whether you have animals or housemates, bandwidth or bad phone reception.

Have the conversation with your boss early to avoid problems later on, says Dr McIvor.

Clearly define work hours and don’t forget that the discussions need to include “some sort of agreement”, he says.

Remember to clock off

“Setting boundaries between work and life is very important,” says organisational behaviour expert Dr Libby Sander.

“It’s very easy to keep working when you are living in the place you work – 48 per cent of those working from home report working longer hours,” says the Bond University Business School assistant professor.

Get in the right frame of mind for working

One major challenge working remotely can be getting into the right mindset.

“We advocate for people to be disciplined, get up at the appropriate time, put on some work style clothes,” says Dr McIvor.

He also recommends a workspace with a door, so you can literally close out what is going on elsewhere in the home.

Stay social and active

Research shows isolation is one of the biggest pitfalls workers will face.

“It can feel socially and professionally isolating, so have regular communication – preferably using video,” Dr Sander says.

“Also making sure that regular catch-ups, meetings and work coordination are happening is essential to keep projects moving forward and for team members to share information.”

A tip from Dr McIvor is to head outside daily for a walk or a little exercise to increase motivation and productivity.

And finally, the boring but important stuff

If you are going to be working from home for a long period, keep in mind that something might go wrong and you might not be covered by insurance.

“Check your insurance policy,” says Dr McIvor. Look at the fine print to make sure working from home doesn’t void your cover.

Also, you may be eligible for some tax deductions, so be sure to check with the ATO when the end of the financial year approaches.

Written by Alex White.