Since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of various measures to curb the spread of the virus, the practice of working remotely from the typical office has become a trend. As Singapore strives towards endemic living with the Transition Phase to COVID-19 Resilience, which would see 50% of the employees returning to the workplace (known to most Singaporeans as the “Team A and Team B” arrangement), it is clear that remote working will still remain a key part of our lives in the foreseeable future.
The rushed transition from working in office to working at home just before the Circuit Breaker saw many scrambling to carve out a home office with whatever they have and adapting to new ways of working as fast as they could. With work-from-home arrangements being an essential part of the new normal, it makes logical sense for us to evaluate our work-from-home needs and seek ways to improve our experience.
Many of us have come a long way since the beginning of our work-from-home days, where the regular usage of video conferencing applications such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom for work and presentations was almost a whole new ball game. From setting your favourite image as a virtual background to creating multiple breakout rooms for discussions in smaller groups and using quirky video filters for informal calls, these applications have become an integral aspect of how we live and play in the wake of the pandemic.
As we continue to cut down on social gatherings and do our part to keep the community cases low, web developers strived to help fill the void that was left behind by the lack of physical interaction with new technologies. Innovative video conferencing applications such as Gather Town can help individuals explore new ways of having a virtual interaction with their family, peers and colleagues while retaining some of the warmth and physical aspects of the real world which is hardly possible on the typical video call software. The creators of Gather Town sought to “build a better way to meet online” by designing a video chat platform capable of “mak[ing] virtual interactions more human”.
Besides having the usual chat and video call functions, one of the biggest selling points that make Gather Town unique is its Metaverse. Users appear as a customisable virtual avatar, walking around and interacting with others in real time. Greetings and quick conversations can happen without the need to create virtual meetings and multiple discussions can happen in the same space. Shared documents can be edited and brainstorming can be done using the in-app whiteboard function. Users can even replicate their real-world office space on the Metaverse. Be it casual conversations or serious meetings, everyone can enjoy themselves while still getting work done.
The working space at home would be where many would spend most of their day in during their allocated work-from-home days. The days leading up to the Circuit Breaker had probably led to the creation of less-than-ideal home working spaces which may not be as conducive as the office due to the need to make the switch to remote working quickly. One year on, it is clear that our home working spaces are here to stay. It is now time for us to improve these spaces for a better work-from-home environment conducive for us to stay focused and get the job done.
For a start, de-clutter your work space. Organise work essentials and keep any items that are not required for work away from the space to minimise the distraction. Invest in a better chair with good back support to make the long hours working from home more comfortable. Switch up to better equipment such as a wireless mouse and headphones – or maybe even a separate large screen – for a seamless, higher-quality experience. Those with a more generous budget can take a step further and consider giving the space a small makeover, such as getting a fresh coat of paint in a lighter tone for the walls, changing the lighting of the room or giving the air-conditioning unit a much-needed maintenance.
With the introduction of remote working, keeping regular hours seemed to have become a challenge. The segregation between work and leisure becomes increasingly unclear as we bask in the convenience of a more flexible schedule and work from the comfort of our homes. Some of us may find a decrease in productivity during working hours, while others may feel the pressure to reply work-related emails and text messages late into the night.
A good way to ensure productivity while getting sufficient rest would be to keep a detailed schedule of work meetings, personal errands and even breaks. For greater productivity, you may want to schedule the main bulk of your work to your most productive period of the day (i.e. if you find it easier to focus in the morning, it would be great for you to tackle most of your work then). Make use of tools such as a time tracking mobile app or focus strategies such as the pomodoro technique to help you make the best of your planned schedule. The pomodoro technique is said to help users improve concentration and productivity while minimising fatigue by alternating between 25-minute focused work sessions and 5-minute breaks (15-30 minutes every 4 cycles). To save more time, consider preparing multiple meals or pre-ordering food over the weekend.
For many, working from home has created pockets of free time that would otherwise be unavailable. Besides using the time for a much-needed pampering session or to catch the latest Netflix series, it is also a good idea to allocate some time for personal enrichment. The Internet has much to offer in terms of content for us to improve ourselves, be it online courses teaching users how to code, audiobooks on a wide variety of topics or hours of workout videos on YouTube.
Online platforms like Udemy and Skillshare offer a plethora of courses on just about any topic or interest that you may have. Curious about business operations and advertising? Facebook Blueprint has more than 90 e-learning courses available on the topic. With a wide variety of resources available online, upgrading ourselves on-the-go has never been easier and would certainly spice up a regular day working from home. Apart from enriching our daily lives, acquiring new skills would certainly give you a competitive edge over the others if you happen to be looking for a job.
Assess your needs as you adapt and apply these 4 tips to enhance your work-from-home experience. While it would definitely be worth the time, effort and money to improve the quality of our hours spent working remotely from home, do also remember to take a step outside for a breath of fresh air, or if time and safety measures permit, go for a short stroll nearby. After all, getting some sunlight and exercise is beneficial for our physical and mental wellbeing.