How you can work from home effectively through coronavirus

There are five useful practices that can help boost engagement with work and study online, according to UNSW remote working experts.

Speaking at UNSW Business School’s recent webinar on adapting to a positive online way of working, Professor Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic said research into telecommuting has uncovered the risks that are important to consider when working from home.

These include constant interruptions, jobs encroaching on personal life, conflicts in families and lack of communication with peers.

To navigate these, Professor Cecez-Kecmanovic, along with UNSW Business School’s Senior Deputy Dean Professor Leisa Sargent and Professor Frederik Anseel, shared five useful practices that can help boost engagement with work and study online.

Set boundaries and stick to a routine

Setting boundaries between work and personal life, such as ensuring a dedicated workspace and time to work at home, is a fundamental first step to working efficiently.

“Persisting with a daily routine has been found to be highly important, as is limiting news and social media engagement throughout the day,” said Professor Cecez-Kecmanovic.

Past research has also shown that constant engagement actually has a negative impact on productivity and work-life balance.

Instead, she said “maintaining meaningful connections with colleagues, other students, teachers or research teams” has been found to be more valuable.

Reimagine the meaning of education and work

“The unprecedented and uncertain conditions we now live in compel us to assess the importance and meaning of education, work, family and friends and to rethink what truly matters in our lives,” said Professor Cecez-Kecmanovic.

Evidence of the reimagining of the role of education and work in the new digital environment is everywhere.

“If we observe what’s currently going on in our Business School, we see ample examples of radical changes,” she explained.

“We see an example of radical new learning and teaching practices such as innovative lectures and engaging students in debate, conducting exams, interacting with students and establishing online spaces for informal interactions.

“These new experiences are likely to lead us to rethink the meaning of education and what it means to be a high quality academic.”

Be kind to yourself and others

Professor Sargent also urged people to reimagine their lives and to ensure that work and family time is protected in this new online way of working.

“Meaningful connections with colleagues remain critical, so working out how you can maintain those connections is really fundamental,” she said.

While it is important to look after others, she said self-care is also critical to ensuring good health and wellbeing.

“For me, that means connecting with family and friends: we have coffee-call catch-ups and wind-downs, for example, and we do that at the end of each day.”

She also suggested getting enough sleep, exercise and taking care to venture outside regularly “whether that’s a balcony, backyard or a walk with the dog” and to find a sanctuary for downtime.

Prioritise a few goals

It is also important to set realistic expectations on productivity and to not get bogged down if it is lower than normal during this time, said Professor Anseel.

One way to do this is to write down a list of top priorities and establish rewards for tasks that are completed to meet them, but be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved.

“All the current evidence on working from home comes from a ‘normal situation’, whereas this is not a normal situation,” he added.

“We’re in the midst of a crisis.”

Recognise that this is a crisis

But perhaps the most important step is to accept that this is not ‘working from home’ under normal conditions.

With this in mind, Professor Anseel summed up the following recipe for staying sane during coronavirus:

  1. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s okay to not be productive.
  2. You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work.
  3. Take time to sort out technical aspects and develop some structure at home.
  4. Don’t try to just transfer your normal work rhythm and routines to your home environment. It won’t work.
  5. Making progress is one of the most rewarding activities. Reward yourself.
  6. Go easy on yourself but also on others. Sometimes we are each other’s worst enemy.
  7. In times of crises, you are more at risk of suffering from mental health problems. Be aware. Keep an eye out for others.
  8. Think about what you will do when we all get out of this and how you will look back on this time.

For the full article on how to work from home effectively through coronavirus, visit BusinessThink which shares the latest UNSW Business School research stories, analysis, evidence-based opinion and insights.

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