Working from home has undoubtedly been one of the biggest talking points of the coronavirus pandemic. On Instagram, it’s been mentioned 1.5million times. TikTok #wfh videos have amassed a staggering 248.8 million views.
But the end is nigh. In the next month, Australian businesses will drip-feed staff back into offices around the country. And it’s likely those who’ve missed coffee runs, attire other than casual-wear and even their colleagues will breathe a hearty sigh of relief.
But Melbourne-based productivity and life coach, Sandy Ewing, says to simply return back to the traditional working day is actually missing a unique opportunity. She believes this time, where businesses and staff have evolved to survive through a pandemic, has been a brilliant testing ground on productivity away from the working model we’ve followed for decades.
“There’s no doubt that working from home has been hard for most. We’re creatures of habit so when our routine vanishes it can be hard to focus,” Ewing explains. “But what this time has shown us is that the idea of sitting at a desk for a set amount of hours every week is just a bit outdated and probably not the most ideal way to fuel productivity.”
Ewing, founder of Life Coaching Melbourne, says that flexibility has always been the key to productivity. “Every individual is unique. Some of us are motivated in the morning. Others come up with the best ideas when the rest of the world is asleep,” says Ewing. “That means the 9-5 model is unlikely to be the most productive environment for most people.”
Her biggest advice is to tune into your “peak energy hours” and try to do your “top value ROI work” within these hours. Use your “off-peak hours” for answering emails, returning calls and completing admin tasks. But perhaps the most important is that when at home, try and switch off from work. “People who use their peak energy wisely tend to wrap up earlier,” she says.
Prioritise what’s important
It’s no secret that the biggest issue for those working from home over the last few months has been a lack of motivation. When a pandemic is raging outside it’s understandable that an email from Eddie in IT is suddenly a low priority. But Ewing says that’s actually an attitude to take into post-pandemic work.
“The biggest killer to productivity is giving everything the same weight of importance,” says the productivity coach. “It’s why ‘burn out’ was one of the biggest terms used in 2019. Instead, one of the tools that I try to teach is knowing which tasks to let go of and which tasks to hone in on that will give you the greatest value-output in the next hour.”
Step away from work
Some of Ewing’s advice is simple, such as always taking a break. After all, it’s no secret that as modern work-life pressures have increased the simple break has seen its demise. “Most of us will have been popping a wash on or doing the dishes quickly between Zoom meetings during our working day in lockdown,” she adds. “Those are small breaks and that time is essential to stay focused.”
But her biggest advice is to always follow a morning ritual. “Simply take five minutes to visualise what you want from that day,” says Ewing. “But it’s not only about looking forward. Take a moment to look back to the day before or maybe the week before and try to learn from it.”
Four steps to boosting productivity
- Supercharge peak hours. Know the time of day you’re most motivated and put high-value tasks within this time frame.
- Rate your load. Write down what you need to do that day and then rate each task subjectively.
- Embrace the break. Set an alarm on your phone to take a break every two hours for 15 minutes.
- The morning ritual. Take five minutes each morning and focus on what needs to be done.