Support for Home Working


Some of you may be well used to working from home, but might find that in these circumstances, the reality is different to what you might be used to.

This may be because you are sharing the space with other family members or because you are now working at home continuously rather than just on specific days.

We encourage you to blend what has worked well for you in the past, what might be required in your own circumstances, as well as the ‘general’ tips on this page.

Top tips for managers

Information on:

  • Resourcing your team
  • Communication
  • Pastoral care and connection
  • Building trust and flexibility

Top tips for supporting remote teams


Advice and Guidance for Parents and Carers

As many staff now find themselves working from home, and begin to adjust and acclimatise to the technology enabling them to do so; we are all likely finding that the day to day reality of working activities can and will be very challenging.

The challenges will come for many different personal reasons, for example being on our own at home during the day, having caring responsibilities for family members locally, or sharing more time every day with our immediate family members. In each case, our own circumstances will be unique and often difficult; and we know not all days will be the same.

Given each colleague’s specific circumstances, this guidance document cannot give advice which will apply for all. It can however offer more general tips and perspective that would hopefully be of use. Colleagues will have their own ‘top tips’ and have seen other best practice advice, so if there is anything that colleagues feel would better improve this document, please do share with the People and Culture team.

  • Overall Guidance

    The University is very aware of the current challenges that colleagues face. These challenges are affecting almost all of us, no matter role, grade, or location. In the very early days of this pandemic, it is important for all of us to appreciate and understand the emotional impact of adjusting to juggling work requirements and parenting / caring responsibilities in the normal hours of work.

    Achieving the right initial balance

    We encourage everyone to focus on achieving the right initial balance as routines and regimes develop. It is really important that all of us who have ‘people management’ responsibilities continue to have conversations with those colleagues for whom they play that role. These conversations should be honest and open, and focus on the realities of each person’s circumstances; appreciating that a rhythm and routine will come in the days and weeks ahead. Separate guidance has been created for all of those who have Line Management responsibilities.

    Line Managers

    We encourage Line Managers, particularly in the early days of this pandemic to have open conversations with colleagues to see how specific arrangements and flexible approaches can be made to support initial challenges and uncertainties. Some colleagues may not of course wish to discuss personal matters, and this is of course totally understandable – however as a Line Manager, please do try to have conversations which focus on how best to accommodate current circumstances.

    We know as well that even at the best of times, sometimes we can struggle to know what to say or do for the best. If as a Line Manager or colleague you find yourself needing additional perspective, please do contact People and Culture colleagues for guidance as may be required, through usual contacts, teams and channels.

    The overall advice is to find local solutions to address specific circumstances – the conversations that each of us are having now are designed to deal with circumstances in the early days of this pandemic. As the situation evolves, further advice and guidance will be updated as required.

    Values

    Our University has core values of Integrity, Collaboration, Enhancing Potential and Inclusion – and focusing on such conversations at this time enables us all to bring these values to life, ensuring that the experience for each of us, juggling our roles as both employees and as human beings is the best it can be at this time.

  • External Advice and Guidance

    For those colleagues who have caring responsibilities, either in the home or locally, you will naturally be following all relevant advice from government, health and specialist organisations. In this document, we will not repeat this, reflecting the variety of information that is accessible and the pace of change.

    However, some colleagues have pointed to the page from Carers UK as a particularly useful reference point

    As with carers, those colleagues who are parents with children living at home will naturally be following all relevant advice from government, health and specialist organisations. These external resources provide insight and perspective on how best to approach ‘home-schooling’ our children; as well as how to juggle the demands of family and work responsibilities.

    We would draw attention to two articles which parents may find useful.

    • Parenting NI may be of use to colleagues considering how best to help their school aged children adjust to the reality of home-schooling
    • UNICEF parenting tips provides parenting tips structured around six themes:
      • One-on-one time
      • Keeping it positive
      • Getting structured
      • Managing behaviour
      • Managing stress
      • Talking about Covid-19.
  • Policies and Procedures

    It might be that given the nature of specific arrangements, some colleagues make a decision to avail of existing policies and procedures, where they foresee the need to take a specific amount of time away from their work.

    The University’s policies can be accessed at https://www.ulster.ac.uk/peopleandculture/policies.

    If colleagues consider that this is a practical solution for their specific circumstances, they should again speak to their Line Manager in the first instance.


Workspace

Set aside space in your home

If possible, set aside a space in your home for you to work in, this may be a home office or simply use your dining room table.

Do not be tempted to use your sofa or an easy chair in the living room.

Workstation setup

Set up your workstation, you may not be able to carry out a complete assessment but do remember the main points as shown in the below diagram.

You may need to use books to set up your screen to the correct height, cushions to adjust your seat height etc.

Image of correct workstation posture

Ground rules

Set some ground rules with the other folks in your home who share your space when you need to be working, they need to be clear about what they can and cannot do during your work time.

Remote Access

Information on how to get access to University systems is available from ISD.


Maintain Regular Hours

Set a schedule

Set a schedule and stick to it, get up in the morning and complete your normal morning routine. Set yourself a start time and finish time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many home workers maintain work-life balance.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks, 2 shorter breaks and a longer midday break for lunch, away from your home work station, make a cuppa , go for a short walk etc.


Communication

Take part in all the Skype meetings that you are invited to, these times are an excellent way to maintain team relationships.

Make use of your ability to make telephone calls using mobiles or Skype instead of sending an email and waiting for a response. Talking to your work colleagues is good for your mood and mental wellbeing.

Ensure that all your contacts, team colleagues are aware that you are working from home.

If there is a facility on your desk telephone to forward your incoming calls to your mobile or home telephone number, this will assist with communication.


Wellbeing

As many staff are starting to work from home, the Wellbeing team has pulled together a guide to help support you in maintaining your wellbeing while working from home.

We will continue to add additional advice and guidance over the coming days, but for now, a few tips to make working from home as seamless as possible:

Set aside a specific place to work

Set aside a specific place to work where you will be undisturbed. While it may feel nice to prop your laptop on your knees and work from the sofa or even bed this is not a great idea.

Get dressed for work

We tend to associate certain styles as being work and others as being home so, dressing for work helps to switch our heads from home to work and puts us in the right space to work effectively especially when not in our normal workplace.

Take your lunch

Take your lunch at the same time as you normally do and take it away from your work area. This helps to ensure our mindset is in the right place to work effectively.

Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing

It is very important to look after your wellbeing during this period of homeworking so, following on from the Public Health Agency (PHA)’s ‘Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing’, we would recommend that you do the following:

  • Connect

    While we may not be in our normal office, we are still part of the Ulster University team, so it is absolutely vital that during this time we stay in touch with our teammates and colleagues.

    Use Skype for business to ask questions, to check in and to maintain contact with those around you.

    Consider how you might connect not just around work matters – if you for example normally have a team tea-break, look for ways that you can maintain this, even though you will all be enjoying your tea in different locations

  • Be Active

    This is hugely important, while our sofas might be comfy and our houses nice and warm, we also need to remember to get up and stretch our legs.

    If you are fit and able to do so, go for a walk around the block at lunchtime, have a walk around the garden to get your blood and creative juices flowing.

    Sports Services have teamed up with Les Mills to help you work out from home.

  • Take Notice

    Working from home is a change of scenery and it allows us to see our homes in a new light.

    We can also try mindfulness to get to know ourselves better and if other members of our family are at home at the same time this is an opportunity to practice something new, like meditation and self-care with the people we care most about.

  • Give

    During this period of uncertainty and heightened anxiety, it is even more important than usual that we do our best to look out for each other, and in doing so, look out for ourselves.

    During your breaks and over lunchtime:

    • consider if it is possible to check in on a neighbour?
    • Maybe someone in your street has just had a baby and needs something?
    • Maybe an older couple would love some help?

    These are amazing ways to also take notice, to learn, to be active, as well as to give.

  • Keep Learning

    What new things can you do while working from home?

    It is a new way of working and gives us the opportunity to develop our IT skills, or to take on some new responsibilities that fit better with this type of working?

    We can also use this as an opportunity to learn how to do things differently.

    It is very important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing that we keep learning, so, what is it that you can learn to do, to help you manage this new way of working?


Data Protection and Working From Home

In these difficult times, remote working presents both significant benefits but also potential risks.

Whilst staff may have remote access to information held on our secure data centres and approved cloud services, this may now be without the protection typically available on site.

This is even more significant if staff are using non-corporate personal computing devices.