Advocating for Defence families

Working from home? Tips to keep calm and carry on

To say that Australians are facing major disruptions now is an understatement.

It’s completely normal to be feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable as we navigate practical challenges and do our best to resolve fears and concerns. Please remember that your mental and physical health are paramount at this time.

At this temporarily tumultuous time, take care of your mental and physical health as first priority. If all you can do is fall in a heap… then get back up again, that’s ok. Reduce the pressure and work commitments if it’s best for you and your family and if you’re really struggling due to your partner being away/deployed, consider calling the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.

If you’re trying to figure out how to be a stay-at-home worker (and perhaps also a school teacher!) here are some tips.

Similarly, if you’ve suddenly found yourself out of work, now could be a good time to re-think your career plan, upskill (lots of free courses online) or apply for the Partner Employment Assistance Program.

  • Find acceptance and gratitude

The Coronavirus shows us that there is a lot in life we can’t control. Accepting that and being grateful for what we have and the choices we can make is very powerful.

Be present in the moment. Don’t get lost in fear and anxiety; for example, meditate, look at favourite art, take a walk or be in nature. (Great article from University of California, Berkeley).

  • Prioritise (with a growth mindset)

growth mindset means believing we can learn, evolve and find success for ourselves rather than believing we are limited.

Could there be positives from this change in routine for your family’s work, health, hobbies, relationships and learning?

Do a HUGE brain dump of the things on your mind before trying to prioritise anything. Get all of your thoughts and worries out. You can do this in an ordered fashion or a mind map or with post-it notes, whatever.

Then figure out what needs to happen first, today. Then this week. What’s important but less urgent? What things fall in to the ‘maybe later’ or ‘do if I have time’ categories?

  • Establish a schedule

Amanda McCue, Career Development Professional and Military Partner Employment Advocate says setting a schedule is paramount.

“It can be flexible (it’s one of the benefits of working like this!) but without a core schedule I get distracted. I work in blocks of time, setting dedicated times to work on different projects and have a start and finish time to avoid overworking,” she says.

Figure out who needs to do what, when. If managing children does one parent prefer the morning shift? Ask your manager/team to have meetings at times that work for the family.

How can you maximise your most energetic times for the most important work? (Good advice here on Atlassian’s blog and the ‘Perfect Day’ exercise.)

Share the schedule and To Do lists with everyone, ideally via an app.

  • Communicate

Keep communication lines open with colleagues, managers and clients to keep you productive. This is also good for your sense of normality. (However, less communication might actually mean you can get more work done!)

Danielle Ward, Career Development and HR Practitioner, says that “it’s all too easy to lose touch with the daily office going-ons when you work remotely”.

“Without regular contact, you risk missing out on key information and news about your organisation, work environment or industry. It’s also important for maintaining relationships and ensuring everyone is well supported,” she says.

Leanne Wakeling, Parenting & Military Family Lifestyle Mentor, says working remotely doesn’t have to mean working alone.

“Zoom, Google Hangouts, even Facebook Messenger facilitates ways of connecting and coworking,” she says.

  • Set up your environment for focus

Dress comfortably, sit on a good chair, ensure lots of light and fresh air and quiet (or background noise if you need). If you don’t have a quiet room get good quality headphones.

Break your work into chunks or use the Pomodoro technique to focus for 25-minutes (or similar) and then have a break.


There are heaps of free project management, timers and communication tools available, see the resource list below.


Claire Harris is a Communication Consultant with Innovate Communicate and is a social entrepreneur. She has been working from home/cafes/libraries/coworking spaces for 4+ years and is the Founder of Cowork Coplay – Coworking with childminding. At home she’s a Navy partner, mum to a toddler and has the honour of living with two Russian Blue cats.

@claireharrisoz (Twitter)

@CoworkCoplay (Facebook)

Resource list

General reading


To do lists

Timers to stay focused for blocks of time

Project management and communication tools

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