Australian Community Workers Association Australian Community Workers Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people (including us!) working from home. But as we settle into this new normal, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.

Now is the time to review your home set up and daily routines to see if they are the best they can be. Are you still working productively, practicing ethically and, importantly, taking care of yourself?

Find a routine that works for you

A great piece of advice we have heard is to go through the motions of your old morning routine. Set an alarm, have breakfast and pretend you’re heading to the office. Structure helps you stay on track, as does a daily task list.

That said, working from home offers newfound flexibility. Check with your boss if you can adjust your schedule or if you are expected to be available during normal business hours. For early birds and night owls, this can be a good time to take advantage of your most productive moments. Many managers will be happy with your output rather than keeping to a strict time schedule.

Establish clear boundaries

The risk of distraction is high when you’re at home, particularly if you live with others. Make sure they understand when you are and aren’t available to limit your chance of getting side-tracked. This may involve negotiating with your partner if you have small children or letting older kids know which parent to turn to when. This also applies to part-time workers who may need to remind co-workers that they only work on certain days.

Make the best of the space you have

Laptops make it so easy to work from the couch but, while tempting, this is not always best for your back. Not all of us have a desk at home so you may need to get creative. Find a dedicated space with decent lighting and a chair that encourages good posture. Small touches, like plants, can help liven up your new work area.

Many furniture and home décor businesses are still trading online and offer contactless delivery. Just remember to keep any receipts for tax time (or reimbursement if you’re lucky). The ATO has advice on what you can claim.

Get up and move around

Regular breaks, fresh air and new scenery help keep your mind and eyes sharp while also warding off cabin fever. Outdoor exercise is allowed under current restrictions (as long as you practice social distancing) but even a quick break to play with your pets can re-invigorate you. Just like when you are in the office, eating at your desk may save time but will start to drain you.

Check in so you don’t check out

Keep in frequent contact with your co-workers so you stay connected. Email and messages are fine for routine questions, but we recommend holding a regular phone call or Zoom meeting as well. This has the added benefit of giving you extra, much needed social interaction while still staying safe.

Be proactive with ethical practice

The way you practice may have changed but the ethical standards which govern community work still apply. Clients have a right to privacy, and you are responsible for ensuring this is upheld. All work devices should be password protected and never left out unlocked and unattended. Written case notes should also be kept away from others. Similarly, phone or video calls that involve sensitive information should only be taken where you can’t be overheard.

Professional boundaries are still important even if the way you contact or communicate with clients has changed. It may help to reiterate the boundaries to your clients once again, so you and they are both clear that they still apply.

Take care of yourself

Feeling anxious or isolated is understandable during these challenging times. If you are struggling to cope, please reach out for support. Mental health organisations like Lifeline and Beyond Blue have information and assistance specific to the impact of COVID-19.

If your productivity is lower than normal, don’t feel guilty. Not everyone thrives working from home and that’s okay. Talk with your boss if you are really struggling to adjust – you are probably not the only one. Everyone is trying their best in difficult circumstances. Go easy on yourself; the most important thing for you and your workplace is that when we all come through this we are ready and enthusiastic to go back to work. Stay safe.