Almost a year to the day ago we published ‘Working from home: Designing for the new normal’. Back in 2019, however, working remotely was territory traversed almost exclusively by the freelancer or self-employed. In light of recent events, more and more of us are becoming acquainted with kitchen bench conference calls and other realities of life in lockdown.
For those of us lucky to be working in these strange times, we are navigating a new reality with new challenges
I am working from home and have two children who are embarking on the adventure of remote learning. We have tried the dining table as a shared workspace. Fail. My 13 year old is now working in his bedroom and I am praying he has the discipline to avoid the YouTube tab on his computer.
My other child flutters between the kitchen bench and the ‘study’. Let me just say, it’s a work in progress and we are trying our best to make it work for all of us. Some friends are doing work shifts at home where one parent has a shift for dedicated work, and the other looks after kids and vice versa.
As we’re all discovering fast, what was often revered as the dream situation is harder than it seems.
We thought it was a good time to revisit some of our tips for working at home with a new lens. Hopefully our own experiences and research will leave you with a few handy suggestions to weather this storm in your own way.
Working from home on a good day is full of distractions - pantry, laundry, fridge, social media, pantry again. Incorporate children, partners, housemates and/or pets. Our self-discipline, patience and focus has never been so tested.
How can we stay productive amongst this all?
Take time to map a realistic routine and articulate a structure for your week. By designating work hours and communicating these to others, it will help you stay on track but also indicate to those around you that space and quiet is needed.
Follow a similar structure each work day. Wake at the same time. Walk or stretch. Make coffee. Shower and dress for work (we hate to say pyjamas are not conducive to a productive day at work). However you like to spend your morning, make it habitual.
Create your workspace
Productivity is also influenced by your workspace, so where possible it’s important to separate your work environment from living spaces, or at the very least create designated work zones.
The same is relevant for children. Professor Waters from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Positive Psychology tells ABC to create zones within the house. She says, ‘Of course this is easier said than done if you live in a one-bedroom flat, but it can still be effective to make distinctions. "Say: 'This is where you go to school, this is where you relax, and this is where Mum goes to work',"’.
Keep this designated space simple, calm and free from distractions.
If a spare room or study is available, keep it minimal in design and clutter free to encourage focus. Especially in smaller homes, we suggest the inclusion of multi-functional pieces, like the Scrivette desk below, which serves both as a desk and storage - keeping loose documents and stationery out of sight and mind.
Other important elements for a productive workspace include good lighting. We prefer natural sunlight or soft overhead lighting where possible. When choosing where to position your desk, avoid direct light on the screen.
Music is another useful way to block out external distraction, especially if working alongside housemates or partners in a shared home office. Need some inspiration? At the studio we have SBS Chill, this Chilled Classical playlist and, recently, the New Moon playlists by The Joshua Tree House on high rotation.
Caring for our mental health
Isolation has made us realise the value of human interaction in our day-to-day. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression are very real for many of us right now. Working from home needs consideration and planning to prevent exacerbating these feelings further.
In another ABC article, we are reminded that we no longer have an excuse to walk and get a coffee, catch public transport or converse with colleagues on different floors, so we must remember to move. In the article Dr Jodi Oakman, leader of the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors at La Trobe University, suggests we put triggers in place to remind us to move throughout the day. Be it an alarm or device that reminds us, move around, take a stretch, go outside, and remember to breathe, on the hour every hour.
Most importantly, try to switch-off from work when the day is over. Stylist Ruth Welsby, interviewed in Domain, suggests keeping the door open when working and shutting the door (with computer inside) when the work day is over to symbolically separate work from life.
A simple suggestion from the article we especially liked, ‘For those working from the kitchen table, Welsby suggests creating a schedule so you can manage social time with work time and not blur the two. “Some visual cues can help and make the work zone feel nice too, like putting a tablecloth down when it’s time to eat.”’
We suggest a digital detox (at least no emails!) in the evenings with one notable exception - technologies like Zoom, Houseparty or Facetime which allow us to stay connected and foster a sense of normalcy in this uncertain time. Call up a friend and share an after-work wine from the comfort and safety of home.
Although our Plyroom team has temporarily left the studio, our online store is open 24/7 and we’re still available for digital showroom visits. It’s important for us to stay in touch with our community, so connect with us on Instagram or keep in touch via email if you have any questions regarding working from home.
Stay safe and stay indoors.
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