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Productivity and wellness tips for working at home

Dr Tim Sharp

Here are some tips to help you stay motivated

A young man holding a coffee sits on the floor and high fives his dog
A young man holding a coffee sits on the floor and high fives his dog

It’s 11am, you’re still in your pyjamas and you’ve spent more time staring out the window than getting through your emails. Sound familiar? Working from home can seem like a dream scenario – no commuting, no packed lunches, no ironing – but trying to maintain the same level of productivity you had in the workplace while quarantined at home could present a challenge.

According to Dr Tim Sharp – positive psychologist, founder of The Happiness Institute and Adjunct Professor of positive psychology at RMIT and UTS – some people will adapt better than others.

“We have different personalities and different working styles, so for some, working from home can be a fantastic and productive option,” Tim says. “That being said, it may well be difficult for those who really enjoy having other people around or for those who thrive under certain conditions, such as having the direction and reinforcement of others.”

Adjusting to working from home can also be a difficult transition if you’ve always regarded your home as your haven.

“‘Home’ has certain associations for many people,” Tim explains. “If we think of home as the place we rest and relax and have fun, then that might not be entirely conducive to productivity and working.”

You might also be juggling work tasks with supervising children’s homeschooling, which can impact on your ability to focus and maintain the same productivity levels you had in the workplace.

Staying motivated

What works for you depends on your ideal work style, but Tim’s strategies should be helpful for most people.

  • Set up your home office so it’s conducive to working effectively. “Make it as nice and comfortable as you can,” he says. “Ideally, set up in a different room or space so you can keep work and other aspects of life somewhat separate. If you don’t have space for this, set up somewhere you can easily pack away work stuff in the evenings.”

  • Try to stick to a routine that’s as close as possible to your normal work routine. “Get up at the same time each morning and have a morning routine to get yourself ready for work,” he says. “Schedule normal breaks through the day for coffee and lunch.”

  • Shower and get dressed. “Although there have been lots of jokes about wearing pyjamas all day, this might not be the best way to ready your mind for work,” Tim advises.

  • Keep in touch with your manager. “Continue to set and review goals, and importantly, to acknowledge and celebrate wins and successes,” he says.

  • Stay connected. “Keep in touch with colleagues via email, SMS, Slack, Skype, Zoom or whatever IT apps your team uses,” he says.

A man stretches while sitting in front of a computer screen at home

Looking after yourself

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused an increase in anxiety, distress and concern for many people, meaning that prioritising your mental health is even more important. With that said, Tim’s advice for maintaining mental wellbeing in these times is the same as it would be at any other time.

  • Maintain good lifestyle habits. “Eat as well as you can, get good sleep and keep exercising,” he says. “If you can’t go to the gym anymore, then don’t forget that you can still run or walk; there are many exercises you can do at home with no or minimal equipment.”

  • Practise self-care. “Keep up any other self-care strategies that you’ve found helpful in the past,” he says. “Keep meditating and keep in touch with your psychologist, if you have one – even if you shift your sessions online. Minimise the time you spend scrolling through negative news and even social media – but use social media to stay connected with friends or inspirational pages.”

  • Make use of free time. “Think about all those things you said you’d love to do if only you had more time,” he says. “Well, now you probably have more time! Read that book or write that book, watch that movie, play those games, start that craft project and spend more time with your kids.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please call:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14

  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Dr Tim Sharp aka Dr Happy smiling at the camera while wearing a navy suit and glasses

Dr Tim Sharp

Dr Tim Sharp is Australia’s very own ‘Dr Happy’ who is at the forefront of the positive psychology movement with three degrees in psychology (including a PhD.). Dr Happy is a passionate professional with a wealth of experience both in the field and the media, and is the founder and CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of The Happiness Institute, Australia’s first and best known organisation devoted to enhancing happiness. Tim really loves coffee; maybe a little too much...