The team at the Australian Writers' Centre are old hands at from working home. As we offer courses across Australia, we have staff all over the country. There are a lot of articles out there about how you can stay productive, organised and distraction-free – all while doing your job from your kitchen table.
But what you need right now are some realistic tips to stay sane while staying home.
Go the extra mile for your colleagues
It's easy to slip into a rut when you're working from home. That's why Course Concierge Sarah Jordan likes to keep her colleagues guessing by changing locations every time we have a video call.
“It started off small,” she says. “Moving from the kitchen to the dining room. Then changing seats, moving pictures around, shifting a statue or a lamp. I moved the fridge once and I'll sometimes put up some theatrical scenery. Basically, the team never knows what's going to be in my background. I haven't called from the bathroom yet, but it's only a matter of time.”
Sarah also recommends retaining the favourite parts of your commute. If you're used to listening to podcasts in the morning, make time to do that while you're getting ready, and keep up your lunchtime exercise routine. At the end of your workday, spend 30 minutes reading a book, just as you would on the bus or train. To make it feel more familiar, make sure you stand in an uncomfortable position with something jabbing into your side and spray some eau de sweat around the room.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Working in proximity to your own kitchen pantry is dangerous. It's full of all your favourite goodies and you don't have to ask anyone's permission to eat them. So Nat Newman recommends rationing out your cookies on Sunday for the whole week.
“I have little lunch boxes for each day and I put two cookies each in them,” Nat says. “Each day at 2pm, I eat my ration, and that's it. No more. Until about Wednesday when I break down and crack open another packet. But the rationing is a nice theory.”
Dress to impress
Everyone eventually slips into pyjama mode when working from home, especially if you foolishly decide to work on your laptop from bed. But Operations Manager Rah Gardiner refuses to give into the temptation of flannel.
“Every day is an opportunity to be fabulous,” Rah says. “Rainbows, sequins, furry coats, a pilot’s cap, I've done it all. I admit the feather boa was a bit itchy, but the team loved it. We have to suffer for our art.”
We've got a bet going about whether Rah is still in jammies from the waist down, but she remains mum on that subject.
“A lady never tells,” she says.
Have the right tools
Obviously, you've got a computer, high-speed internet, and a decent webcam. But do you have enough toys?
“You have to keep your pets entertained,” says Nicole Beaton. “Buy toys. Buy lots of toys. And then buy some more. If you don't keep your pets distracted, they'll distract you. It's as simple as that.”
We asked Nicole what her puppy Bauie's favourite toy was. Unfortunately, she couldn't hear us as cute little lovebird Comet was chirping in her ear.
Plan in advance
Our number one tip for successfully working from home comes from Dean Koorey. As a professional writer who has been home-based for a number of years, he has a wealth of knowledge to draw from. But his top tip is surprisingly simple.
“Don't have kids,” says Dean, a proud father of three. “It will make your life easier if you just don't have kids.”
Take your breaks
A big danger when your workplace is in your home is that it's easy to skip your breaks. Before you know it, you're dribbling sandwich crumbs over your laptop and working through lunch.
“Definitely step out of your office space or away from the end of the dining table to disengage,” recommends Abby Donkin. “At a pinch, it's totally okay to stand on your table. While you're there, you may as well have a dance as well. Just don't be sitting in front of your computer all the time.”
Create an appropriate auditory environment
There's a lot of research about how music and background noise can affect your concentration. When setting up your work environment, it's just as important to consider the background noise as the position of your chair.
For Farah Morada, that means creating the perfect playlist for each day.
“Today I'm on my karaoke playlist,” she says. “It started with It Must Have Been Love by Roxette. Then I followed it up with some Whitney Houston ballads. It's the perfect opportunity to really nail my karaoke routine. Don't worry about your neighbours; they're doing stuff like TikTok to keep themselves sane anyway.”
Maintain a professional presence online
Just because you're at home – and possibly in your pyjama pants – doesn't mean you can let your professional standards slip. Stay alert during video meetings, try not to yawn, and take no notice at all when half-naked people walk through the background of your colleague's video.
“Every meeting without fail, one of my housemates will walk into the call,” says Amy Goodman. “If it's not my sister doing squats, it'll be my boyfriend looking for a T-shirt. I don't know how they do it, it's like they have a sixth sense. But throughout it all, the AWC team pretend like nothing is happening, which is really admirable.”
Become an amazing communicator
When you're working from home, there's no such thing as TMI. Remember, you can't just casually mention your weekend plans or eavesdrop on the gossip about someone else's breakup. Joseph Pabiona recommends leaning towards greater communication, especially through emojis and gifs.
“Over-communication is more acceptable in this kind of working setup,” he offers sagely. “You should always use gifs to emphasise your emotions. Forget about the saying. With gifs and emojis, MORE is more.”