Australia’s COVID-19 response has been lauded around the world for its success at containing the spread of the virus and keeping the number of positive cases in the country relatively low. However, the pandemic has still caused major changes to the way we all live and work.

According to a survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research that was released last June, about 32 per cent of working Australians were engaged in remote work at the height of the economic lockdown. For industries whose employees typically worked in offices, the figures were much higher: 58 per cent for those in the finance and insurance industries; 51 per cent for employees in public administration; and finally, 47 per cent for those in the communications industry.

Despite the lifting of the public health orders to work from home that precipitated this shift, many of the country’s employers do not seem to be in any hurry to bring their workers back to the office. In fact, after seeing the positive results of offering more flexible working arrangements, several companies have become more open to the idea of making these arrangements permanent. However, there are plenty of lessons we’ve learned from working from home and if you’re new to the concept, you probably won’t be your most productive self at the outset.

Working from home requires a fair bit of adjustment.

Here are four tips that can help:

Add Structure to Your Day

While some workers might view not being tethered to a rigid schedule as an advantage, it’s one of the things that most employees struggle with when they first start to work from home. The lack of structure can really throw some people off, and what’s worse is that most of us barely even notice it happening. In an office environment, most of us can focus solely on our work, however, at home, our attention can easily be divided.

The best way to address this is to clearly designate your time. Specify the hours in which you want to commit to doing work, and you’ll be less likely to be derailed from your tasks. Those who need a bit of help in this department might want to consider taking a look at time management apps to build a functioning routine that won’t be difficult to stick to.

Guard Your Time Fiercely

One of the best privileges of working from home is that you no longer have to commute to the office. However, work only being steps away can also have its disadvantages. Mainly, it can be difficult to “switch off” from work mode, which can result in you logging more hours than necessary and neglecting to set aside enough time to take care of yourself.

Your brain can’t differentiate between “time to work” and “time to rest” unless you create clear boundaries for both. Set limits for yourself, or only work during the hours set by your company. It’s also a good idea to schedule necessary breaks from your screen to rest your eyes, stretch, have lunch, or grab a fresh cup of coffee. Because we usually remember to attend to these needs by way of taking social cues from others, it can only be too easy to forget about them. You can set reminders to do these on your phone, computer, or wearable device.

Use Tech to Your Advantage

Most workers typically have a basic understanding of how to use the work tools they have to complete their daily tasks. However, many of them may not be tapping into the full potential of these tools. At the same time, they may not be aware of the many other programs, extensions, and applications out there that can help them do their work more quickly and efficiently.

For example, some employees think of and use Microsoft Outlook as an email client and nothing more. In truth, though, it’s a powerful application that they can use to manage their contacts, calendar, and tasks, in addition to a wealth of other features. Making an effort to better know the tools you have at your disposal, and learning about ones that haven’t been assigned to you by the office, can shave minutes off your tasks. Those extra minutes can add up, leaving you more time to do what you love and a better work-life balance.

Stay in Touch with Your Colleagues

Finally, one of the major issues that remote workers often face is a sense of disconnection from their colleagues and teammates. When employees work remotely, they lose the ability to immediately communicate with others—and though pulling up an instant messaging window only takes a few seconds, it’s no replacement for getting to talk to someone face to face.

This disconnect can negatively affect productivity when employees are unable to reach each other quickly to discuss urgent work-related issues. It can also have an impact on both individual and team morale. To maintain good working relationships, it’s important to be proactive. Taking the time out to chat with fellow employees, whether it’s to update them about how things are looking like on your end or just to check-in, can make a big difference in both your work and mental well-being.

Of the many measures that have been implemented to minimise community transmission and keep the population safe, it’s the shift to a work-from-home model for many Australian employees that may be the most significant. Experts also believe that, even after we weather the challenges of the pandemic, the future of white-collar work is in hybrid models that combine working from home and working in office environments. Keep these tips in mind, for more productive remote work which is an important skill for employees as companies continue to move toward more flexible work arrangements.

Still working from home? Need some tips to be more productive? Here are some online courses that you may also want to enrol in to upskill.