In the coming days and weeks, it is likely that working from home will become more common for a number of UTS staff. While working from home might seem like a dream for many of us, it also comes with its own challenges. Here are some tips, tricks and resources that might help in adjusting to these strange times.

Blending work and home life

The spaces we inhabit have an enormous impact upon how we live, we develop habits and practices that are linked to our environment. If our home is where we do the washing, cook up dazzling meals and flop on the couch for some screen time how can we also effectively work in this space?

  • Try to work your normal workday hours. Getting ready for work as normal can help you to delineate your work activities from your usual habits in the space. If keeping your pyjamas on all day was major incentive for working from home, you could also compromise by only dressing the top half of your body for work (essential for video conferencing with colleagues).
  • Have a dedicated workspace. Even if it is only a temporary occupation of the dining table – having a specific place where you will be working that is consistent will help you to focus. If you have space for something more permanent this will make getting started easier each day and you can start planning to claim that sweet $0.52 per hour for your home office when it comes to tax time!
  • Set clear expectations with others that are in the home with you, be they housemates, pets or children. When are you working and when are you available for a cuddle on the couch or discussion of last night’s TV episode?

Give yourself space

In this age of ubiquitous connectivity many of us struggle to set healthy boundaries between our work life and our home life at the best of times. When that separation is no longer delineated by a change in location, boundaries may become even more blurred. How can we care for ourselves while working from home?

  • Take a break. As mentioned above maintaining regular work hours can help us to focus, but it’s equally important to maintain regular breaks. Now might be a good time to try out the Pomodoro Technique and focus on tasks in 25 minute periods with regularly set breaks.
  • Get some exercise. Many work-from-homers recommend getting up and going for a walk around the block for both the change in scene and as a strategy to get the body moving. Smell the roses and wave to the neighbours (from a distance).
  • Set up your workspace. Ergonomics can sometimes go out the window when there is a comfy couch and pillow to prop yourself up on but what might seem comfy at first might leave you stiff and tired. Set up your workspace as best you can to avoid risk of injury by following the UTS Computer Comfort – Workstation Ergonomics guide.

Work is social

For most of us, interactions in the workplace make up a large part of our social life. These interactions may be fulfilling (or perhaps sometimes frustrating), but they are also key to how we work together. How can we ensure social connection and communication is maintained when we are not face to face in the workplace?

  • Be clear about what you are working on to your colleagues and make use of broader team-based channels. Those casual water cooler conversations just aren’t happening anymore so there is danger of losing the ‘peripheral’ awareness we take for granted in an office environment. Microsoft Teams is a good example of a team-based communication platform.
  • Consider connecting via web-based video tools whenever possible. Seeing your colleagues can give you more information than reading their words or even just hearing their voice. Consider making multiple short video calls each day to maintain connections and help each other feel like part of a team.

Kids in the kitchen

While most schools are still in operation, it is possible that at some point, your children may need to stay at home more often (for example, during school holidays). So, what happens when we put kids into the mix for working from home?

  • Try the Pomodoro technique. Depending upon age and temperament, some kids may respond well to short challenges that could fit in and around a Pomodoro-style approach, which involves giving them short periods to work independently while knowing that a parent will be available soon to assist with the next stage of a project or task.
  • Provide educational entertainment. Screen time plays a role for many parents in managing their children, but this doesn’t always need to be a passive experience. Educational programs like ABC’s Behind The News could be combined with short writing or drawing tasks, and of course the video game Minecraft can be used to encourage creativity, design and coding.

Be kind to yourself and your colleagues

These times are stressful for many of us as we navigate significant change and ongoing uncertainty. Work may become more stressful as we strive to maintain high standards of work we are accustomed to achieving, our personal lives may also be impacted.

  • Proactively check in with each other. We don’t have those incidental social interactions that help to let us know when our colleagues are struggling, so explicitly reaching out to check how others are going might be the connection we need to be okay.
  • Make use of resources. Head to the UTS emotional well-being page for further ideas on how to look after your own mental health.

For further ideas and resources, make sure to check out the the UTS Remote Working Safety and Wellbeing page.

  • One suggestion my friend who is teaching year 11 and 12 with 2 young kids at home put on Facebook yesterday was when she’s wearing the “pirate” hat, there’s no disturbing her! Just an idea 😛

    (Of course, I just lock my distractors in their cage, but they might be furry)

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