Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more people – in Australia, and around the world – are working from home than ever before. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 31% of people with a job worked from home in September 2020, compared with 12% in March, before social distancing measures were introduced.
Already many employers and staff are seeing the benefits of working from home, from reduced overheads for companies, to increased job satisfaction, lower stress levels, and a boost in productivity for employees.
Research by Information Age shows that 85% of Australians surveyed said they were equally, or more, productive when working remotely, compared to being in the office. For most of us, there’s probably room for improvement though. We’ve pulled together these handy working from home tips, including top productivity apps, to help you stay on track and enjoy a fruitful working day.
1. Use time trackers to maximise productivity
One of the biggest challenges facing those working at home remotely is distraction. The TV, restless kids, that pile of laundry – all these things can make it easy to lose focus. That’s where using a time tracking app can help. Try integrating apps like Time Tracker with RingCentral’s communications system to stay focused and keep tabs on where your time is being spent.
If managing your time generally isn’t an issue but you find yourself procrastinating, why not give the Pomodoro technique a go? Also known as the tomato timer, it encourages you to break work down into manageable, focused 25-minute sessions with short breaks in-between.
Researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that we’re most productive when we take regular, short breaks, as it can help increase focus. Practice the Pomodoro technique to try and cut down on wasted time.
If you’re on the phone a lot during your working day, another great way to keep on top of your time is through call metrics software like RingCentral Reports. Using historical call data, the software tracks productivity and provides key insights into how your company utilises your phone system to improve future call usage.
2. Create a dedicated work space
As well as tracking your time, one of the best ways to work from home without distraction is to ensure you have a dedicated work space. This doesn’t necessarily mean setting up a separate room as your home office, it’s just about ensuring you have a work space that is separate from your home life.
Working from the couch may seem tempting, but it can make it difficult to switch off and leave your work behind at the end of the day. Try setting up a dedicated corner for work; ideally somewhere quiet, where you can close a door and won’t be distracted.
This could be a desk in the spare room or in a corner of your kitchen – but avoid the bedroom if you can, as any work stress could translate into disruptions to your sleep. Invest in an ergonomic chair with plenty of support for your back, and try to make sure your workspace has some natural light, which will help your energy levels.
3. Get the best tech for remote work
It’s estimated that around three in 10 Australians are able to do their jobs from home. If you’re one of them, chances are you rely on a computer – and maybe a phone – to get your work done.
If your team members have recently started working remotely, it’s crucial that you equip them with the best tech for the type of remote work they’ll be carrying out. It’s also important to figure out which tools may work best for them, rather than simply sticking with the same old systems and processes you used in the office.
It’s likely that colleagues will be using different devices, so the best way for your team to work remotely from home is to implement a unified desktop app communications system. That way, all communication tools are in one place that’s accessible from any device (including Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices), keeping everyone connected with minimum disruption.
Once you’ve implemented the right technology, make sure the team is fully up to speed with how it all works. After all, no one wants to miss an important team briefing or client catch-up because they were unsure how to use the team collaboration software or cloud phone system.
4. Don’t let working from home translate to working alone
Professional isolation – feeling out of touch with others in the workplace – can impact job performance and make remote workers feel less sure about their knowledge and abilities. Researchers at the BI Norwegian Business School found workers were often left feeling unmotivated, disconnected, and unsure about tasks when they had less contact with their colleagues and managers.
Having the right communications systems in place makes all the difference. It allows employees to keep in touch easily while working remotely from home. Daily communication can boost worker confidence, help people feel part of their work community, and in turn maximise productivity.
RingCentral Office can help keep your teams stay connected wherever they are. Whether it’s video conferencing, phone calls, or team messaging for real-time collaboration, make it a regular fixture in your working day.
5. Appreciate your animal co-workers too
Across the world, our pet cats and dogs are unanimously purring and woofing with happiness at spending the whole day with their favorite human, now most of us are working from home. But our pets aren’t just great company – spending time with your four-legged friends can reduce stress levels too.
As anyone who owns a pet knows, there’s no better early morning wakeup call than a fuzzy paw to the face. That means cats and dogs can be excellent at helping you get out of bed early, as well as firmly reminding you when it’s time to take a break – those lunchtime walkies aren’t going to happen without you. Not to mention, your cat’s sure to remind you to give work a rest by taking a well-timed nap next to you, or on your keyboard if you’re really lucky.
6. Get an early start
Pet owners already have a leg up when it comes to this tip. While you might have more flexibility on your start and finish times while working from home, getting up early can be a great way to kick the day off. If it works for Apple CEO Tim Cook (he rises at 3.45am), and Michelle Obama (she ‘sleeps in’ until 4.30am), then there may be something in it.
When you’re working in an office, your morning commute helps you wake up and prepare for what the day will bring. But what about when you work from home? The transition from pillow to PC can be tricky, but diving straight into your biggest task as soon as you wake up can actually make you more productive.
You may have heard of the phrase ‘Eat That Frog’. Originally coined by American 19th century writer Mark Twain, and turned into a bestselling novel by productivity consultant Brian Tracy, your ‘frog’ is your most important task of the day. The idea is that by tackling your ‘frog’ first thing in the morning, you’re setting yourself up for a more successful day.
Just think how motivated you’ll feel when you tick off the biggest task on your to-do list. The rest of the day will feel like a breeze.
7. Set yourself a strict schedule
So, what’s our final tip for how to work from home? Try to be strict with your schedule. Whether you work full-time from home in Australia, travel abroad regularly, or spend some of your time in an office, planning your time carefully is key to a more productive day.
According to Professor Libby Sander, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond University, discipline is integral to working from home – and setting a strict schedule, with clear boundaries between work and home life, will help you to stay productive.
This doesn’t always involve working from 9am to 5pm. It could mean starting earlier in the day if you’re a morning person, working into the evening for night owls – or even working shorter days and spreading your hours out over the week. If you’re a team manager, make sure your team members take regular breaks (like they would in the office), and don’t forget about your own breaks.
Let us help you stay connected
Remote working is becoming common across a wide range of industries, from healthcare and education to retail and financial services. If you need a hand finding the best communications and productivity tools to spark engagement and boost efficiency among your teams, we’re here to help.
Originally published 25 Jan, 2021, updated 13 Jan, 2023