From the onset of COVID-19 nearly a year ago, many companies and employees have found themselves in the unprecedented situation of having to work from home. With companies scrambling to digitalise everything to enter this unknown landscape of remote working, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the new systems in place and the overall new landscape of your 9-5 workplace is your living room. 

Here are some practical tips to make working from home easier so that you can increase productivity and easily adapt to remote working.

Use technology to your advantage

Now more than ever, remote working tools are plentiful and help make every aspect of working from home easier and more efficient. For documents that you’d usually share with the team through a flash drive or on the companies network, you can now easily share through a file-sharing site like Dropbox or Google Drive. Cloud storage software makes storing and sharing content within a remote team easier and more efficient. Using conferencing and video calling software like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom makes having meetings and collaborating run more smoothly, while collaborative tools like Asana and Trello make it possible for teams to keep track of their workflow, manage their work and have tasks clearly delegated so that no member of the team gets left behind. Slack is also an excellent tool for workplace communication. All the technology is out there, now it’s up to individuals and companies to use it to their advantage.

Finding a good work/life balance

Anyone who has experienced working from home would know that it can be difficult finding a good balance when the lines are blurred between your workspace and your home and family space unless you clearly differentiate between the two. This is why remote working is notorious for employees overworking, especially when they should be on a break. In order to establish a work-life balance, you first need to find ways to differentiate between work time and leisure time. One way of doing this is by having set work hours after which you switch off from work completely. During those leisure hours, it’s important to do things that get your mind off work and de-stress. You can use your free time for things like getting some fresh air with a walk outside or reading for leisure (you’re already in the house all day, make the most of the outdoors). You should also insist on having a lunch break during your workday, just like you would if you were in the office. If you’re juggling kids you may need to also set aside family time and time for family activities. 

Save on utilities

Many people don’t realise that by being home during your workday, your utility consumption also increases. You should be mindful of how much water and electricity you are using. Instead of cooking full meals for breakfast and lunch, make simple sandwiches to save on electricity costs. Instead of running the aircon the whole day, close the blinds or curtains to keep the sun out. Drinking way too much coffee? Why not get a flask of hot water instead of boiling a kettle 10 times a day? Some other simple ways of reducing electricity costs are switching to energy-saving lights and making the most of natural lighting by opening the curtains during the day in darkened rooms. Switching to LED lighting makes a big difference. Make sure to also unplug unused electronics – it can be easy to forget to switch off your computer when you’re finished working for the day but little actions like this make a big difference. Here’s an article about 7 ways to save electricity with Citiq Prepaid.

Invest in your workspace

While working from your bed, the couch and sometimes even the bathroom is convenient, it isn’t always the most conducive environment for productivity and certainly not good for your back. Having a home office or just any dedicated corner of the house for work ensures that when you enter that space, you enter into work mode. Considering how much time in the week you spend working, it makes sense to get the most comfortable office chair and a large work desk. On the same note, if you can, you should invest in high-quality technology that makes your working from home journey more comfortable. Something as simple as switching to a better wifi router or buying a UPS when there’s load shedding will enable you to work smoothly and without unnecessary disruption. If you need a new computer, tablet or phone, among other things, to do your job more efficiently, it might be worth enquiring with your employer as to whether they could reimburse you for it. We chatted to Thula, the Developer Team Lead at Citiq Prepaid for his tips about the right workspace and this is what he had to say: “1) Pick the right space in your home: set up your workspace in a part of your home that offers the least distraction and has good lighting. 2) Consider ergonomics: research the best placement of your laptop or monitor and keyboard to reduce fatigue and risk of repetitive stress injury.”

Keep track of work expenses

On that note, and especially for remote workers that aren’t going back to the office anytime soon and need to be reimbursed for office expenses, it is imperative to keep track of your work expenses. The way we work is changing with more employees working from home. Employers are more open to reimbursing home office expenses when everything has a paper trail. Installing a prepaid sub-meter in your home office can easily show how much electricity you use for work, making it easier to claim back from your employer.

Prepaid sub-meters do not replace the main Eskom or municipal meter, it is actually illegal to do this. All the prepaid sub-meter does is monitor the electricity portion of that area that it is installed in i.e. your home office or outbuilding. Your employer could purchase the tokens for your prepaid sub-meter directly or you can claim it back as an expense. The amount spent on tokens each month is then reimbursed to you, the property owner, so you can pay your main utility bill from Eskom or the municipality in full.

Working from home is definitely not going away anytime soon, or maybe ever, therefore looking for smarter ways to manage your working situation at home is highly recommended.