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How to work productively when you have noisy kids or housemates

And that's not mentioning other work-from-home considerations such as difficulty in transitioning to the new arrangement and lack of an ergonomic workspace.

Remember that scene from Armageddon where Bruce Willis tells Liv Tyler that he’s not coming back? For those who are newly initiated to the world of working from home (WFH), it can feel like working from outer space. Swap flying asteroids for crying kids, and space shuttle maintenance for household chores and you get the picture. 

So here’s the big question: While humanity battles the threat of COVID-19, how can we win the productivity battle at home against countless distractions? Here are some ideas from the team to help you stay focused and sane.


Some Singaporeans can save two to three hours on commuting when working from home, but that benefit, along with others, can vanish into thin air without proper planning. Just take a look at this chart by Bloomberg, which shows that people in the US and Europe are working more hours than usual after the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) was implemented in light of COVID-19.

Looks like for many in the West (the US, not Jurong), working from home just means working more. Here are four possible reasons for the decrease in productivity:


  • Parents have to spend more time tending to kids.
  • People spend more time cooking.
  • Without a like-minded team around you, it’s hard to get the help or inspiration you need.
  • The bed looks like a real good place to be.

READ: Buying property? Why you should plan like a single-income household


But this doesn’t have to be the case. We should be able to adapt to new ways, especially if it is beneficial and if we are in this for the long haul. In fact, many have realised that working without the constraints of a 9-to-5 routine can be inspiring. To optimise your WFH experience, here are some things you can implement to make this thing, well, work.


Although working from home saves time on ironing, changing into a decent outfit is essential as T-shirts with ragged collars and pajamas can trick your mind into thinking it’s an off day.



Instead, dress up like you’re actually going to work and sit at a table that’s not in your bedroom. Treat the day like you’re heading for the office because keeping a routine will help your body to transition better.

And if you’re going to be in and out of video calls, you might want to have a casual blazer handy, so you can look like a million bucks – even if you don’t have a million-dollar property.


Many companies care about the ergonomics of their working space – something which employees may take for granted. At home, adding minor (and cheap) improvements to your workspace can make all the difference.



For example, if your feet don’t touch the floor when you’re sitting on the chair, get a foot rest. Not having a good foot plant causes horrible sitting position that can ruin your back and shoulders.


READ: Selling your flat soon after MOP: Is it as smart a move as you think it is?


Also, make sure the top of your computer screen is at around eye level. If you’re using a laptop, try getting a stand beneath it. Bad positioning causes slouching and over-rotation for your shoulders. Last but not least, get a wrist rest if you’re using a keyboard and mouse. Carpal tunnel is no joke.


Let’s start with the usual scenario, which are regular office hours with a lunch break in-between. If this is your schedule, have at least two three-hour, work-only blocks (that’s six hours). These stretches of time is where you’ll get some serious work done with no distractions or breaks.



If you’re lucky enough to be able to work flexible hours, listen to your body clock and work when your mind is most active. By tapping into your energy levels, you can get solid work done and have something to show the next day. For instance, if you're extremely productive between 7pm and 2am, use the morning to check emails and catch up on menial tasks, then get the bulk of your work done at night.


With no one to jio you for lunch, working from home can lead to bad eating habits, especially if the nearest eatery is a 15-minute walk away in the hot sun, and ordering in is expensive and not sustainable.



Although cooking can be time consuming, you can ensure you’re not spending too much time and energy on it by planning your meals. It lightens the mental load, and stocking up on groceries and marinating your meats in advance will save you time. 

One tip is to use the oven; it lets you continue working while the food is cooking. Some recipes to try include grilled (or baked) cumin chicken, and oven-baked (or pan-fried) seabass.


Parents working from home might be tempted pacify their active kids by giving them more screen time, but that is a bad idea. Parents will tell you that art projects are the best way to keep the little ones occupied. An example of an art project is to put together a tree made from felt. Papier-mache projects are great, too.



Be sure to show off your kids' masterpieces in a prominent area of your home, so they’ll feel that their time has been spent well and that will motivate them to keep doing art.


READ: Why I chose to buy an Executive Condominium instead of a BTO or resale flat


The shortcut to art projects? Lego. Tip: To save money, get the freeform Lego pack and perhaps get your kids to build a 2,000-unit condominium.


You might find that your housemates (also on WFH) might get a bit noisy, especially if their work involves being on the phone from nine to five. Short of finding a new place to rent, try earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.



To appease landlords who complain about the increased usage of electricity and gas, you might want to request for a lower rent so you can pay utilities separately (and get that in writing). Or, offer to pay for the next air-conditioner servicing. Reach an understanding amicably as you wouldn’t want to sour the relationship moving forward.

Working from home will definitely be part of the 2020 zeitgeist. Now that businesses across various industries are realising that #wfh can be productive, don't be surprised if it becomes the new norm – perhaps not a full week, but one or two days that could make all the difference for work-life balance.

This story first appeared on

Source: CNA/bk