Hello and welcome to the more than 1 million Australians who will soon be joining me in working from home!
Judging by how many of you were buying desks, chairs and computers at my local Officeworks this morning, you are woefully unprepared for this so I’m here to help.
People think the best part of working from home is working in your pyjamas and no longer suffering the commute.
Yep, they’re definitely upsides.
But the best part is not having to find a different way to write “farewell and good luck” in an oversized novelty card because now even Bob from Finance has had a gutful and got another job.
Truly a gift.
But there are lots of perils of working from home. I should know; I’ve been doing it for three years and I have fallen down the rabbit hole of every single one. I have been productively unproductive many times and I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
TIP 1: Set up your workspace
I don’t mean put your laptop on the dining room table. If you can, designate an actual space in your home for work. Even if it’s just a small student desk from Kmart shoved in the corner of your spare room.
If possible, keep it away from noise and make sure you’ve got light and some sort of airflow. Sitting in a dark, stuffy corner is unlikely to be productive for most of us.
Make sure you get a decent office chair if you don’t already have one. A dining chair will not do. They are designed for short bursts of sitting to eat; they are not designed to be comfortable for hours.
Whatever is going to work for you and your situation 80% of the time is going to do the job. Right now I’m typing this on my couch so you know, do your best.
TIP 2: Figure out your coffee, lunch and snack situation
“I’m going to save so much money. When I start working from home, I’m going to make delicious salads for lunch every day! – Me, 2017.
The sheer lunacy of that statement really makes my head hurt.
I don’t want to stop you from going out to get lunch. It’s one of the few times during the day that I actually leave my hermit cave and see other humans but I want you to plan for it.
If you intend on saving money and making your own lunch and not going out to get coffees or a muffin for morning tea, you’re going to have to plan it that way.
Have everything ready to put together in your fridge or even put it in a lunchbox so someone else doesn’t eat it.
Hide your best snacks in your workspace and keep a spare long-life milk on hand. You know someone is always going to use the last of the milk and leave you with no choice but to waste an hour going out.
Be prepared. If you’re having a really productive day, reaching for a quick snack so you don’t lose your mojo is the best thing you can do.
TIP 3: Don’t go to Officeworks
This pains me to say it. On the last Census I listed my religion as “stationery” so I get the pull to go there and buy everything that matches and looks great. The reality is, you can probably make do with what you have.
You do not need 6 different coloured post-it notes or 3 packets of matching pens and you certainly don’t need a notebook with an inspirational phrase on the front. Like a dagger to my heart it is.
The stuff you’ve accumulated from hotels and conferences and a few things you’ve stolen from your workplace – yep I know all about you – will suffice.
If you absolutely must go, take a list and a responsible adult with you. And keep the receipt for tax time.
TIP 4: Make yourself a schedule
Yeah, I know. You thought by working at home you could just be light and breezy and work when you felt like it. Ha! Fool. Nope. It’s now even harder to get motivated to work because you don’t have to. Nobody’s watching.
By all means, if you have the ability to set your own hours and work when it suits you, do it. But make sure you follow through.
I have learnt the hard way that I don’t want to work during the day at all but I really don’t want to work at night when I could be watching Survivor.
Make your choice and stick to it.
TIP 5: Do not do housework
I am probably the person who is the least interested in housework on the planet, possibly even in this universe but trust me when I say this: working at home makes you notice everything.
Within the first six months of working at home, I had developed a strange and frankly disturbing obsession with tile grout. I just wanted to clean it all the time, especially when deadlines were approaching.
And living in a house that was entirely tiled meant the possibilities to find new tile grout were never-ending.
So don’t be working away and then think “oh I’ll just put on a load of washing.”
NO. STOP THAT.
Because you won’t just put on a load of washing. You’ll see 50 other things that need doing, and just think “oh I might as well just do that too” and then 4 hours later your house is clean and you’ve done no work.
If you couldn’t do it from your office job, don’t do it now. Housework is for before and after work and lunch breaks if you are so inclined.
Or – as is my preference – not at all.
TIP 6: Resist the urge to go out
At this time of the unspeakable virus, this tip is probably less relevant than normal so let’s replace “go out” with “socialise.” Don’t ring your friend for a gasbag during work time. Make a time with them – like you would any appointment – and stick to it.
When I first started working from home, I filled my days with coffee catch-ups and lunches and hours lazing down at the waterfront. I was living my best life and being an unbelievably smug jerk about it.
Until I’d get home at the end of the day and realise I’d done absolutely bloody nothing. I’d be up until the wee hours of the morning getting things done. It felt awful and I constantly felt rushed and strung out.
It might have been the caffeine from 68 coffees in my system, though.
Your job is how you make your money. Take the breaks and have the catch-ups but don’t do that instead of working. You’ll just burn out.
TIP 7: Take regular breaks
Just like you would at work, get up occasionally and take a break.
Go and make yourself a coffee and lament the state of the kitchen.
Go for a loo break and have a whinge to the nearest pot plant about the latest decision by management.
Get 5 minutes of fresh air and enjoy the fact that you haven’t had to complain about how cold the air conditioning is inside. You don’t need scarves where we’re going!
Find a good amount of time that you can work for, power through and then enjoy your breaks.
If you’re a parent and have kids at home, reconsider the wisdom of leaving your home office at all. A pee bucket and sink wine works in prison.
Think about it.
For those of you taking the plunge into working at home, it really can be excellent for the lifestyle but it’s going to take some getting used to.
Trial and error is your friend here. Find what works, get your shit done and then spend the rest of your time distracting yourself from the collapse of civilisation with Netflix…until the NBN packs it in.