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Fives lessons from working from home

What can we expect in and of our work moving forward? It’s a question many of us are thinking about, particularly regarding the way we work. While many have been excited to get back to some office contact, we’re realising that one of the few constants in 2020 is constant change and a need to embrace flexibility across all aspects of life.

We asked professionals in all kinds of positions across Australia about their experiences working from home during coronavirus restrictions. Here’s some of the key learnings in working remotely and how we can work flexibly moving forward.

1. Opening minds, opening opportunities

“I would love the flexibility to work from home for one day per week.” - Sarah, Recruitment Consultant
“It’s been seamless and something I’ll be looking to do more often rather than feeling like I’m missing out on ‘face to face time’ by not being in the office. I’m currently planning to spend two out of four days in the office.” - Prue, PR Manager.

One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic has been the widescale uptake of working from home and entire workforces experiencing some sort of flexible working arrangement for the first time. During the pandemic, many previously inflexible workplaces had no choice but to work remotely.

The tangible proof that businesses can run - and thrive - working flexible practices has big implications going forward. Flexible work is not only possible but is a win-win arrangement for employees and employers.

We are seeing conversations had and strategies rolling out to implement flexible work practices permanently going forward. Companies such as Twitter and SA Water have already announced flexible work practices are a key part of how they work from here on in. If you'd like more continuing remote working, check out this article: How can I keep working from home?

2. More trusting relationships with colleagues

“I now have a much more personal relationship with my colleagues. I understand their family situations, challenges and drivers. I would say this has allowed us to become more closely aligned and help each other work as a team to achieve goals.” – Sam, Commercial Manager.
“We are 100% remote team anyway, however, the team started to turn on their cameras during COVID whereas generally, we wouldn’t. One team member started it, saying ‘hey let’s do cameras’ and it has grown from there.” - Declan, Small Business Owner

It seems ironic but in many cases removing face to face contact has made us better communicators. The coronavirus crisis has opened up our eyes to the needs of those around us as we navigate changing landscapes and in doing so has better imbued our workplaces with empathy.

Prioritising clear communication, being upfront and honest about issues impacting your work output and better appreciating the time spent socialising with colleagues were big learnings during isolation. Continuing to put teamwork and trust building first will help make our workplaces more agile and happier places where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

3. Doing more with less

“I’m pretty used to WFH so I know I have a window to work between kid drop-off and pick up so I generally don’t do distractions; limited time equals motivation to push through.” - Declan, Small Business Owner and Dad of two.
"I think I feel less bound to go to the office. I can be more productive all round by working from home and only going to the office for a specific purpose occasionally." - Gillian, Human Experience.

Working from home has taught us the importance of doing more with less. With so many rapid changes, many of us have been called to rearrange our lives in big ways. Accepting that productivity isn’t simply measured by hours in the office has been a huge lesson for many during the coronavirus. In fact, changing up hours has been a positive for many. Getting up early to exercise and then get work done at the desk, or making the most of when you’re most productive (such as those night owls) has proven just how adaptable and agile we can be as workers.

4. Finding balance

“On the home front, it’s been lovely to duck out for a play and cuddle in the middle of the day with my son, and to catch up over a coffee with my husband.” - Prue, PR Manager.
“More time to walk the dog in daylight hours during the winter months.” – Carolyn, Senior Work Health & Safety Consultant

For many, isolation has been a time for realising what is essential and what isn’t. While there were/are stresses and challenges to working from home, particularly with children, there were/are also opportunities to find time to appreciate small, simple acts that bring joy.

As we find our balance in working flexibly, particularly in the office and remotely, making an effort to continue prioritising the important moments we’ve discovered during isolation is important to our ongoing wellbeing and success.

5. Caring for our health and wellbeing

“I have a good set up but as a WHS consultant I believe staff should maybe produce a photo of their work environment as an adjustable chair & set up is really important. I have heard of people working from their home sitting in bed, which is concerning.” - Carolyn, Senior Work Health & Safety Consultant

It’s important to remember we still need to stay safe and be vigilant. That means prioritising health and wellbeing in every sense, including general office setups. Coronavirus forced people to work from home under very rushed conditions and in some cases lapses occurred in WHS.

Whether you’re staying at home or resettling in the office, ensuring good ergonomics at your workstation will keep you healthy in the long run see this article for tips on how to step up your at-home workspace.

Likewise, fuelling your body with nutritious food, enjoying regular exercise and not throwing social distancing out the window will help ensure we can all stay our healthiest heading into new flexible ways of working.

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