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5 min read

Working from home: 25 tips from the Springboard team

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that for many people, they are working from home for a lengthy period for the very first time.  

This can be a challenging situation, but it is one that Springboard Trust can assist with. Since we began offering programmes and workshops around the country, we have had team members in each of these regions to provide on-the-ground support.

We thought it would be a good idea to canvas them for their top tips on working remotely – here's what we came up with!

1. Walk to punctuate your day 

Before you start work and when you finish work, taking a quick 5-10 minute walk is a great way to punctuate the day, putting a nice ‘event’ between your working time and your relaxing time.  

2. Make the environment feel like an office 

Wherever you choose to work, try and make it feel like a working environment. Having a dedicated work desk, some storage for your paperwork, and a phone if you need it – try and make your working spot distinctly work-flavoured to keep those boundaries.  

3. Get dressed for work (at least on the top half) 

Pyjamas are comfy, but they won’t put you in a work mindset easily! While it’s important to dress work-appropriate for video calls, most of the time you’ll only need to take care of your top half. Warm slippers, comfortable socks and – should the occasion call for it – some polar fleece trackpants can all be perfect additions to a remote working wardrobe. 

4. Use the environment to improve your Te Reo  

A few of our team members are scrubbing up on their Te Reo, using resources from Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (like the essential Kōrero Kawhe sheet) to do so! A great way to improve your language skills, especially in your downtime.  

The essential Kōrero Kawhe sheet, courtesy of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.

5. Do your chores early 

Once dressed, do the tasks around the house that need to be done – otherwise they become the perfect excuse to stop working later on!  

6. Be predictable!

Make a point of starting and stopping at the same time each day, with the same breaks in between. Personally, I like to work in 90-minute blocks, which let me get through a lot without feeling like I’m stuck in my chair.  

I like to announce to my partner that I’m going to work – even if I’m just going to the next room to open my laptop!  

7. Do a lunchtime activity 

Exercise, walks, reading, watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race – do something that isn’t work for your lunch break. You’re in the comfort of your own home, and working there shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment of that! 

8. Make some interruption rules

If you have children or family at home, be very clear and specific about your working time and the rules for interrupting – that stickman drawing might be a work of art, but it has to wait until you can pay proper attention to it!  

This lets you dedicate real, proper quality time to both your work and your family.  

9. The house doesn’t have to be perfect 

While chores at the start of the day are a good idea, the house doesn’t have to be perfect before you start. With everyone living at home, there’s always going to be something that needs doing – but focus on having your workspace be comfortable rather than the house be spotless.  

We hope you can count on your home support team to get you through the remote working days.

10. Make your start and end times clear to others

Know when you start and when you finish. Your work-life boundaries are going to blur during this time, so give yourself a fighting chance of keeping them clear with a good timetable.  

11. Change your space 

You know better than anyone where you like to relax while you’re at home – so make your working space somewhere else. You don’t want to have the places where you relax, watch TV or sleep become spaces where you’re in a work mindset.  

12. Do the same thing every morning 

Shower, breakfast, brush your teeth, open laptop. Exercise, breakfast, check emails, read the news, do the laundry, start work at 9:30am. Whatever your comfortable routine in the morning, stick to it – do the same thing every morning. It’ll help keep a sense of healthy routine in your life.  

13. Work in bursts 

Some work best in 90 minute spurts as above, while others prefer the Pomodoro method, and others like to do a big morning session then a big afternoon session. Find the amount of time you can comfortably stay working for, and build your schedule around that.  

Beware the dangers of bottomless coffee while working from home!
14. Make a to-do list last Before you finish each day, make your to-do list for tomorrow. You’ll know what you haven’t finished, and it gives your next day a sense of direction from the very start.

15. Check off achievements 

Be as pedantic as you want with listing tasks – the more you put in your list, the more you get to check off throughout the day!  

16. Pack a lunch  

I’ve already taken a two-hour lunch break to do some baking – preparing a lunch in the morning can help you keep the momentum on days you need it. 

17. Allow yourself a bad day 

This is going to be a difficult time, and for many people working from home is just not the ideal. Don’t be hard on yourself if it’s difficult to get work done.  

18. Change the energy  

Play with your dog! Make a cup of tea! Change the rhythm and energy of your day to keep things interesting.  

19. Stand up, and standup 

Standing up is an excellent way to energise a working environment – as are daily standups. The daily standup is a quick five minute meeting with your team to catch up on what you’re doing today, what you did yesterday and what your roadblocks are – it's great to get more face time too!  

20. Vary your hours 

Your work day does not have to be one continuous block of time. Take breaks when you need them, and be kind to yourself.

Don’t be hard on yourself if it’s difficult to get work done.  

21. Check people’s calendars 

We might be working remotely, but people’s schedules will still be busy. Make sure to keep on top of your colleague’s calendars so you know when they’re free for a meeting – or for a social catch-up!  

22. Make the most of phone calls 

Video calls tend to have you sitting in one spot – but phone calls give you the freedom to get up and walk around. Schedule these in for your afternoon so you can be active, maintain connection and keep on top of your work!  

23. Don’t eat at your desk!  

Or you’ll soon be wondering just where all those snacks went!  

24. Check your coffee intake 

Chain coffee drinking is a deadly trap for remote workers. Line up your coffee drinking with your timetable, or get someone in the home to hide the black gold from you lest you drink it all in the first week of lockdown!  

25. Be intentional with your social time 

Without the natural interruptions and conversations that happen in an office, you have to be deliberate about making time to catch up with people in a casual, social manner. Be mindful of schedules, but be intentional about talking to people about their day!  

More from the Springboard team

COVID-19: Springboard Response and Resources

Innovative development for school leaders The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much. New challenges rose faster than we could count, while old priorities were put on the back burner as we adapted to change.   What hasn’t changed, however, is Springboard’s commitment to New Zealand school leaders.   Throughout the pandemic, we have developed new resources and workshops – tailored to your requests and needs – that can help you get back on track, focus on your students, team and wider community, and bring everyone forward together. These are:   Recalibrate Your Strategy Resilience Leading Through A Crisis Distance Learning PLD   Additionally, we have reviewed all workshops and programmes, making them more flexible and suited to a distance learning environment.   We have full contact tracing measures, are on hand for all existing programmes and can also work with you on custom projects that fall outside our portfolio. For more information on your next workshop or event with us, please contact your Programme Manager or make an enquiry. COVID-19: General resources  NZ Govt: COVID-19 website  Ministry of Health: Latest updates on COVID-19  Prime Minister’s announcement on Level Four  COVID-19: Resources for Schools  MoE: COVID-19 home page (symptoms, announcement, advice for kura, students, parents and whānau)  MoE: Talking to children about COVID-19  National Association of School Psychologists: Resource Centre  COVID-19: Resources for remote work  Ministry of Health: Wellbeing in self-isolation  Gartner: Actions for leaders during COVID-19  COVID-19: Resources for businesses  MBIE: Information for businesses about COVID-19 

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How long does it take to change your work habits?

Leading a school means leading change.   That change might be your strategic plan, an initiative that sees people use new apps and tools, or even something as simple as a daily check-in with your team.   But as anyone who has tried to affect change in a work environment will know, it takes time. In many cases, changes put forward in a plan can up-end habits that people have maintained for years, even decades.   To truly understand managing change, particularly in a school, you need to understand habits – and how long it takes to adjust them.  The average time to form a habit is... 66 days - just over two months.   However, the research that gives us this number notes that the time taken to form a habit habits, the type of activity and how significant repetition of a task influences their automaticity (how quickly they pick something up without thinking).   This also only applies to people who are willing to change. The research that gives us 66 days also notes that nearly half the participants in the study didn’t repeat their chosen activity enough to form a habit.   And finally, the habits that research participants picked up were quite simple – drinking water, eating a specific item or doing some minor exercise in a morning period just after breakfast. Hardly organisational change at a school.   All of which is to say that while 66 days is a good benchmark backed up by research, principals shouldn’t expect automatic habit changes after this period of time just because a paper said it would.   So what can you do to help and maintain that change?   Maintaining change in a school environment  The University of Oregon’s Elliot Berkman has some good ideas on ensuring that an individual maintains change that apply nicely in an organisational context. To wit:   Have a replacement action or habit  The example Berkman uses is nicotine gum, an active consumable, being more effective than the passive patches.   In the workplace, it’s a little more simple. When your change is to stop people from doing one thing, ensure there is a practical alternative. Want everyone to stop using wall planners? Make sure you provide a clear spreadsheet, calendar or Trello board as a replacement!   2. Bring the why  Always, always bring the why. Berkman’s argument is that people will affect change more significantly if the change aligns with their personal values.   That’s where all your hard work on a strategic plan comes in. With strong stakeholder communication and by involving your whole team in a long-term plan, you hopefully already have the buy-in on why you want things to change.   If not, it’s time to consult, listen and understand.   3. Visibility and motivation  Berkman’s final piece of advice is that everyone has the capacity to change. Shining a light on the behaviour or action you want to change and providing clear motivation can go a long way, especially for people who have a deeply ingrained way of doing things.   It might not happen in 66 days – but it will happen  This may seem like a negative way to look at change in a school, using comparisons to addiction models. But at its core, implementing change through a strategic plan operates on the same principles. You are helping people move from one set of behaviours to another, and need to do so respectfully and with clear context.   Perhaps most importantly - and this is backed up in the research – missing an opportunity to perform the changed behaviour or action doesn’t mess up the automaticity. Basically – if you or anyone in your team makes a mistake, it will still become a habit. Power in persistence, everyone!

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The government's learning from home package: A summary

The government has announced a broad-ranging $88.7 million package to support families and schools as we head back into term two with the lockdown still in place.   From broadcast content to device distribution, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has emphasised the Ministry’s focus on public health, while still supporting New Zealand’s learners. We at Springboard Trust are thrilled to see this investment, and look forward to working with school leaders in any way we can. With a goal of every NZ household having access to at least one learning channel from home by mid-April, there is a lot to be rolled out in a short space of time – here is what the package entails.  More information: Learning From Home government website Minister Chris Hipkins' press release Hon Kelvin Davis'press release 1. Increased access to internet and devices  Minister Hipkins noted in a press conference on April 8 that some 80,000 New Zealand households (and therefore more than 100,000 children) are without access to either internet or appropriate devices for learning (ie laptops).  To address this, the government is working with a number of businesses and suppliers to provide connectivity and / or devices to these households. They have at least 17,000 laptops sourced already and are working with schools to safely free up devices they might have on-premises already.   While he notes that they will not be able to resolve issues for all households on day one of the school term, there will be two key priorities: secondary students with looming NCEA assessments, and households with the greatest need.   Hipkins acknowledges that there are large challenges with so many households in need, and that there are hundreds for whom internet is a technical impossibility, but is optimistic that everyone will have access to the learning they need.   2. Hard packs of learning materials   To supplement the expansion of devices and connectivity, the government is putting together some half a million ‘hard packs’ to be distributed to families across New Zealand.   These packs contain materials to support and supplement each child’s learning, with different packs going to learners of different ages.   For example, a senior primary school pack contains workbooks from Te Kura, School Journal copies, activities for inside and outside, and all requisite health and safety materials. Junior primary packs contain items like numbers workbooks, fold-out card packs, and the ready-to-read series (Mr Hipkins was thrilled to see the Little Yellow Digger in one he showed the media).   Additionally, early learning / ECE packs would be split by age group and contain jigsaws, stories, pavement chalks, pens and crayons, fabric and coloured cardboard or drawing paper.   Each pack will contain extensive resources for parents, guiding them on how to use the resources and keep their children engaged.   Speaking before Mr Hipkins, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that providing these materials helps to take the pressure off parents, who have the added jobs of keeping their children entertained and engaged in learning during lockdown.  3. Television channels  The government is launching two television channels – one in English, and one in Māori – with up to 6.5 hours of educational broadcast content shown daily. The government is exploring Pasifika options currently, and the channels are being provided by TVNZ and Māori Television.   It will focus on different age groups at different times, and cover subjects like wellbeing, numeracy, literacy, music, movement, science and physical education. There will be a range of well-known New Zealand hosts, with Suzy Cato being the only one Mr Hipkins would confirm during the press conference.   4. Additional resources for parents and teachers  Mr Hipkins acknowledged the extensive work that parents are doing in the home under lockdown, and the challenges that a remote schooling environment would mean.   This is why the fourth arm of the government package includes resources for teaching communities, and parents who want to continue their involvement in a child’s learning. Examples include Ki te Ao Mārama, announced by Hon Kelvin Davis today, as well as the re-establishment of the Te Ara Whitīki helpdesk to support distance learning.   These measures will come into place from April 15th, and will be in place for one month. While Mr Hipkins noted they were planning around the initial four-week lockdown period, these measures are designed to be sustainable should level four be extended. For more information, please refer to the Beehive website – and if your school requires any assistance setting up its remote learning environment, please get in touch with the Springboard Trust team.  

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