Coronavirus Outbreak: How to Maximise Your Efficiency During Work-From-Home Even though work from home arrangements are currently viewed by some as a compromise between staying safe and healthy, it will be an arrangement that gets a greater uptake with pros to outweigh the cons

By Ryan Lim Junwei

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Singapore's battle with COVID-19 has been observed by the world. The approach and results in containing the virus have garnered international praise from the World Health Organisation. From meticulous screening procedures to the development of a COVID-19 test kit, Singapore has put her best foot forward and successfully stayed one step ahead.

Despite good results and efforts, it is undeniable that disruptions are felt throughout industries across the world. Organisations are scrambling to adopt measures that balance output and productivity, with prudence and safety to keep business on track. The realities that working protocols will be adjusted to a "new normal" and that some of these changes will persist after COVID-19 boils over is a future that organisations need to be ready for.

Right now we see organisations splitting departments into smaller groups that work from different offices, or through alternating work from home (WFH) schedules in a bid to do their part in the COVID-19 battle. Organisations who have such arrangements in place already are facing less disruption than from those who are thrown into the deep end and doing so reactively.

Though there are positive case studies and statistics supporting productivity boosts attributed to WFH, there are also pain points and frustrations that WFH brings to the table. We feel that though WFH arrangements are currently viewed by some as a compromise between staying safe and healthy, it will be an arrangement that gets a greater uptake with pros to outweigh the cons.

Here are some tips for better health and productivity for you and your team with WFH:

1) A Routine is Essential - Set a Schedule, Stick to It

Keep in mind that WFH might not be the exclusive mode of work for some businesses, in most cases, businesses are balancing between WFH staff working along with those in the office. Firstly, keeping similar working hours across the board to keep everyone in sync is paramount. Secondly, scheduling the tasks and meetings for the day, while specifying meal times and breaks must be communicated. We personally find that slotting time for tasks that require greater mental effort earlier in the day works best. Define and distinguish between what is urgent, and what is important to get the most out of the working hours. It can be tempting as well to sleep late and wake up just before work starts, we recommend giving a buffer of half an hour to an hour to get set for the day.


Knowing what is urgent, and what is important helps prioritise tasks better

2) Improve Air Quality - Managing Performance and Health

Studies have shown that indoor air pollution can be five times greater than the air outside. For staff that WFH, home becomes the one space where they will spend the majority of their day, and this is a big concern. As we are heavily reliant on air conditioning in Singapore, sick building syndrome is an issue that we must be aware of. Along with that, the high humidity levels make mould and fungi prominent health hazards as well. Though air purifiers and dehumidifiers are viable options, they can be cost-intensive. Air purifiers and dehumidifiers are viable options and going beyond that, some schools and hospitals in Singapore have turned an active step into full stride by protecting their indoor environments with paint that actively eliminates odors and microscopic entities.

3) Beyond Email and Messaging - Leverage Digital Tools and Communication Channels

Though instant messaging apps are universally used in our daily communication, it is not the best option to get everything done on that single platform. In preparation to effectively WFH, it is important to employ other tools that complement each other and set the right expectations for your optimal workflow. An example could be using Slack for communicating and managing roles and tasks across a project, G Suite for cloud storage and live documentation, and Google Hangouts for chats and presentations. Specific platforms help make tasks and deliverables clear and communication concise.

4) Hygiene and Sanitization - a Good Reminder and a Clean Slate

Maintaining good hygiene and sanitization practices are more important now than ever, in light of COVID-19. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has given guidelines to properly clean and disinfect homes to aid in the effort. Though there are many kinds of disinfectant, a good deal of them leave behind harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could lead to other health complications. Studies have shown that ozone is one of the most effective sterilisation agents against bacteria and viruses that has been implemented by Changi Airport in their efforts against COVID-19. Make good hygiene a personal responsibility, and keeping schedules for sanitisation and home will be a safer, more pleasant space.

5) Make the Distinction - Dedicate Your Workspace, Don't Neglect Your Wellbeing

Setting aside a dedicated space for work at home will help shift and prepare your mind to get work done. Own the working space, make it a point to keep your personal life out of it as much as possible, and let your family members know not to interrupt you when you are at work. The average person gets interrupted once every eight minutes, and for WFH, we have to be disciplined. Stay off social media (unless that's your role), and know that not every email has to be replied immediately. At the end of the day, decouple from that space - discipline works both ways in keeping our schedule of when to start, and stop. It can be tempting to push for more, and that can lead to long hours with diminishing returns. Switch off, make time for leisure and exercise, this will make the WFH more rewarding.

WFH is an integral part of the mindset shift from "work-life balance" to "work-life integration". Aside from the global adversity that COVID-19 has posed, it has also fast-tracked and brought to the forefront other challenges and possibilities.

Moving forward, we believe the line between work and life isn't a static one, but one that shifts. In the near future, the responsibility of conducive output, health and wellbeing will be actively decided by the workplace and the individual.


As remote working becomes the norm, we have to pay greater attention to our spaces at home

Ryan Lim Junwei

Founder and CEO, Gush

Ryan is the founder and CEO of Gush (Livinwall Pte. Ltd.) 

Beyond Gush, Ryan has considerable experience at counseling early stages start up on strategy formulation, business model transformation and growth hacking. This has helped management teams to achieve clearer overarching strategies and bottom-line improvements.

A graduate form National university of Singapore, Ryan has actively participated in various trade associations including being a member of SMF, SCBA and SCCCI.

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