Working from home is a flexible opportunity that more and more Australian companies are embracing.

Many examples yield promising results for businesses embracing a telework policy, including increased productivity and motivation, and decreased turnover.

Working from home: a quick how-to guide

But while it may be a boon for businesses, for those of us required to work remotely, working from home can be both helpful and a hazard. While it may be more flexible and safe, a poor working environment at home can counter the aforementioned benefits.

If you’re new to the telecommute, it can be hard to know where to begin when setting up a productive workspace. Here’s a quick guide that will allow you to get started.

1. Identify your specific office needs

Depending on your area of work, your work station might look different to your colleagues. Think about your equipment: will you need a lot of space in which to sketch out wireframes? Will you need a big screen and good lighting to review finance calculations? Start small with a list and identify what you’ll need.

The aim is to minimise distractions while you’re working. If finding what you need isn’t quickly at hand, think logistically. Power banks and power sockets, pens and paper, deskspace and a good chair, and any accessories you’ll require to function throughout the day: these things are important and need to be considered when working from home.

2. Find a quiet, peaceful spot (that’s not your bedroom)

While it may be tempting to work from your bed in pyjamas, avoid it. Studies have established that establishing good sleep hygiene is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and working in the same space you sleep can negatively impact that.

Instead, find a spot that is well lit and as free from distractions as you can get. Natural lighting is best: this study found that natural light can decrease eye strain, drowsiness, and headaches, and increase alertness.

It’s here that you should set up your home office. Gather all the items you identified earlier and organise your space in a way that is most conducive to you. Psychological research has identified several office productivity hacks that you can implement at home: try adding a few plants, and personalise your space with decor, photos, and art.

Remember that you may be able to claim some benefits next tax time. To make this easier to do, keep track of your expenses, and separate your workspace from the rest of your home as much as you can.

3. Establish office hours (complete with breaks)

Setting limits may be difficult, but it’s essential in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience burnout. If your company works the typical 9-to-5, then it’s a straightforward solution: continue as usual. However, if you are free to set your own hours, work according to your strengths. If you know you’re more creative and productive in the morning, then schedule your day around that, before your cognitive resources start to wane.

And just as office hours include a lunch break, don’t forget to take time to step away from the computer. Take time to eat, rest your eyes, get some fresh air and a bit of exercise if time and conditions permit.

You can also claim tax deductions for the hours you work at home. So having regular office hours makes it easier to track the hours you work at home and easier to claim these back at tax time. PwC has written detailed guides on working from home tax deductions.

4. Check-in regularly with your team

The most common complaints from remote workers is the experience of loneliness, and miscommunication between colleagues. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020, both came in equal first place as the biggest struggle remote workers experience.

Regular video chat check-ins are a good way to combat these issues. Not only does it allow a greater degree of communication, but it’s also a good way to foster human connection: the antidote to loneliness.

As workplaces begin to move their offices online, investing in a dedicated home workspace will help you to continue working productively. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works best for you; from how you schedule your work day to how you decorate your office, the ideal workspace is different for everyone.

Looking for a job that allows you to work from home more often? Robert Half can help.