With many businesses now encouraging or mandating that employees work from home amid global health concerns over the COVID-19 virus, millions of people can expect to have their daily and work styles impacted.

If you aren’t accustomed to working from home, this article will help you to become the most productive, and for those of you who aren’t that great with technology (like me) here are some tips that I have learned while building an online career development academy.

Getting into work mode in a space that’s not your regular office can take some getting used to. There are some positives – you can save time on the commute, you can work in your pyjamas (although I don’t recommend it), you can spend more time with your family and get stuff done around the house that you’ve been meaning to do for ages.

However, there are some challenges including a sense of isolation, loneliness, and an ability to be more distracted. I started working from home regularly in 2016, so I thought I’d share some of my best tips.

STEP ONE: Declutter.

If you are working from a spare bedroom, a set up office or your own bedroom – it’s important to make sure that the space is free from clutter and you can focus. Step one is to declutter! Make your space as work friendly as possible. This will also stop you from getting distracted.

STEP TWO: Get the right software.

You need to make sure that you have the right licences and software that you need to attend meetings digitally. Make sure you check with your company policies here – some businesses have specific guidelines about what you can use. Personally, my favourite platform is ZOOM.  It’s fantastic and it’s free to sign up. I have the Pro version, which is fabulous, but if you need a quick solution to attend a video meeting, it takes only a minute to sign up.  What I love about it is that I get my own personal meeting room and all I have to do is send the person that I want to meet with the link. With the Pro version, I can hold group meetings, record them to the cloud (which is fantastic for coaching sessions because I can send the video to the person) and you can use it on any device. I personally use a microphone because although my computer has built in audio and camera, it’s a much better sound with the microphone. I think I bought it from JB HI fi for under $30.00. Another great thing about ZOOM is that you can choose a virtual background, so if you are in your bedroom or have kids running about in the background the person is not distracted. Also, if you are in a large room with lots of people in it, I recommend staying on mute so if you have a dog barking or a kid laughing in the background, it won’t distract everyone else. You can press the spacebar when you want to talk.

Another program I recommend is SLACK – it’s a great way for a team to communicate and share documents etc. A few of my clients have recommended Microsoft Teams – but investigate and find one that is right for you.

STEP THREE: Up your internet!

Typically, home internet isn’t as good as at the office. When I first started working from home, the first thing that I did was make sure I upped my internet. Also, if someone else is watching Netflix, you don’t want to be frustrated by your browser being slow.

STEP FOUR: Take regular breaks.

When you are in the office, people stopping at your desk for a chat, or going to the kitchen to get coffee provide extraverts like me with regular breaks and also an energy boost from chatting to someone. When you are working from home as an extravert, it can get lonely. Taking breaks to call a friend to say hello is really important. For introverts who are happy to not talk regularly, it’s still important to take regular breaks.  I found keeping up my routine as if I was going to the office – getting ready in the morning just as if I would be going to work puts me in the mindset of a “day at work”. A good reason to take a break at the moment is to wash your hands!

STEP FIVE: Keep using your diary.

Set yourself a calendar of meetings and timeframes to get things done. I found just writing a to do list wasn’t as good as setting up my day in my calendar like I would at work. It helps me to stay focussed on what I need to be doing. Block off time to work on specific projects and set reminders for important tasks.

STEP SIX: Eliminate distractions.

I find when working from home for some reason I’m much more easily distracted by emails. Turning your emails notifications off when you need to be head down on something makes a huge difference. Also, STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA! It’s a vortex that can suck you in for hours.

STEP SEVEN: Avoid loneliness.

Make sure you check in with your friends and colleagues regularly. Studies posted after the SARS quarantine showed people showed signs of psychological distress, with the highest reason being a sense of isolation. A quick “are you OK?” call goes a long way. You can also spend some time working on your networks – are you connected to all your clients and colleagues on LinkedIn? Take the time to make those connections – LinkedIn is a great platform.

If you are feeling isolated or lonely – please reach out to a friend, and during this time of crisis – stay safe, keep calm and wash your hands!


Ineke McMahon is the co-founder of the Path to Promotion (P2P) learning and development academy. Ineke’s experience comes from two decades of experience as an executive recruiter placing executives, including CEOs and Board members. Ineke holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, A Bachelor of Business (HRM) and sits on numerous committees within her sectors of expertise. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Property Industry Foundation and has also served for six years on the Property Council of Australia’s diversity committee.


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