Home-working and wellbeing guidance for staff

These pages offer guidance on everything from setting up your home office and IT, to managing your physical and mental health and keeping your career development on track whilst working remotely.

If you have suggestions for improving this guide please email hr-support@admin.ox.ac.uk

IT & physical environment

Whilst many of us are working from home for part of the week, we need to try to make our new work environment as comfortable and effective as possible.  The following resources may help you;

IT guidance for home working

IT Services have collated lots of remote working resources -  Adjusting to working from home.

Tools include:

The Information Security team have also published guidance on using Zoom.

Display screen equipment assessment

The Occupational Health Service have a self-assessment tool for those working remotely.  Make sure you carry out an assessment and follow up on any issues that are identified.

Setting up your home working environment

Download the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors guidance on 'Home working and staying healthy'

Effective homeworking

 

Here are some ideas that might help you to work effectively and try to maintain a balance.

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    • Get up and dressed! Changing into work clothes will help you mentally switch to productive work mode. It will also help distinguish between ‘home working’ and ‘home life’.
    • Agree your hours and any flexibility you require (for example to manage caring responsibilities) with your line manager and let your colleagues know when you are working. Share calendars with each other so that everyone in the team knows when you are, and are not, available.
    • Set a schedule each day with start and finish times. Setting parameters for when to work and when to “call it a day” will help you maintain work-life balance.
    • Remember that many colleagues are working flexible hours and different working patterns. Stick to the hours that you have agreed and don’t feel pressured to respond to emails at other times. If you receive work emails on your mobile phone, switch off notifications out of hours.
    • If you are working outside of normal office hours, make it clear that you don’t expect replies from others at these times by including an email footer such as “I am not currently working standard office hours. Please don’t feel you should look at or reply to my emails outside of your own normal working hours.” 
    • Tidy your work space at the end of the day. Put your laptop and any paperwork away to discourage you from returning to your workstation later in the evening when your working day has finished.
    • Find ways that work for you to switch off at the end of your working day.
    • Agree realistic working patterns with your line manager, based on your own personal circumstances. 
    • If you are balancing caring responsibilities and/or sharing your work space with other household members, involve them in decisions. Don’t forget to plan, and take, breaks. For example, agree each morning when you will break for lunch and maybe take a coffee or tea break with members of your household – if can help everyone if there are regular points in the day when you are ‘available’.
    • Don’t forget you need to use your annual leave entitlement before the end of the holiday year so you could book leave to help balance work and family demands. The option of requesting a temporary or permanent flexible working arrangement to fit your working hours around your family’s needs is also always available.
    • If childcare is an issue for you, the University works in partnership with a number of childcare providers. Please check the Childcare Services' website for updates.
    • While some people find that home working helps them to concentrate on work tasks, others may find it more difficult to maintain focus without other people around them. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to:
      • Write a daily ‘to do’ list. Set out a list of realistic, achievable tasks to keep you focused, but be prepared to switch tack to respond to operational demands
      • Request regular 1-2-1s with your line manager; discuss work priorities and agree realistic milestones to keep you on track
      • If you have an agreed hybrid working pattern but would like to return to working on-site full-time, speak to your manager.
    • If your workload is unmanageable, let your line manager know and ask for support to prioritise tasks.
    • POD have a range of resources that you might find helpful for working from home – see particularly the resources under ‘Personal Organisation’ and ‘Self-Awareness’.

       

    • If you are managing a team, there is guidance to help you.  A  guide for managers on homeworking which is available to download from the right hand side of this page or from the HR Support Working from Home pages.  POD also have dedicated resources on remote working
    • Be kind and patient with each other: recognise that everyone’s circumstances are different and that we are all dealing with our own issues and concerns.
    • As a team, agree ‘core hours’ when everyone will be available for meetings and to respond to emails. Share your working patterns with each other and be clear about boundaries and expectations, for example that team members should not feel under pressure to respond to emails outside of their working hours.
    • Talk about individual preferences for keeping in touch, including the frequency with which you want to connect with each other, and try to reach a compromise which suits everyone, recognising that some members of the team may want more regular interaction than others.
    • Discuss any concerns that staff may have about each other’s wellbeing and ways to mitigate this. Some teams are asking everyone to ‘check in’ with a friendly message on a Teams chat channel every morning when they’re working to confirm they’re OK.
    • Discuss how you will use Team Chat (messaging) to communicate with each other. Consider establishing an etiquette / rule about how direct Chat conversations will work within the team, for example, that there is no obligation to respond immediately.
    • Make time for more informal communications. Ask what people are working on and share what you are doing. Being physically separated means you miss the ‘water-cooler moments’ so this is a good way to stay connected and keep informed.
    • Make time for non-work chats as you would in the workplace, for example some teams are using video calling for a coffee and a chat. See the section below for more ideas about using Microsoft Teams to support social interactions.
    • Make telephone or video calls, where practicable, instead of sending an email - though be aware of colleagues’ individual circumstances. Calls may be difficult for people who are sharing a home workspace with a member of their household, whereas other colleagues live alone and may particularly appreciate this sort of interaction with colleagues.
    • Not being in the same room means you don’t have extra information from body language or tone to get the sense of what people are thinking or feeling. Try not to jump to negative assumptions, and ask questions to clarify. 
    • IT Services have produced advice on how to run remote meetings
    • Many of us are experiencing a high volume of remote meetings and find online meetings particularly tiring. If you are organising a remote meeting consider:
      • Beginning at ten minutes past the hour to allow people to move around, get a drink, etc. between calls.
      • Trying not to arrange meetings over lunchtime (particularly bearing in mind that some colleagues may be sharing their work space with other household members).
      • Avoiding meetings longer than 90 minutes wherever possible. Where longer meetings are necessary, build in breaks. If there is a lot of business to discuss consider circulating information well in advance of the meeting so that discussion is well-informed and focussed.
    • Have a Chair – ask everyone else to mute to avoid background noise, and if someone wants to speak  ask them to ‘raise their hand’, or use the Chat function in Teams to deal with questions or incidental issues.
    • To help keep discussions targeted, and to make meetings more accessible for staff with some disabilities:
      • Circulate a clear agenda with specific goals in advance of the meeting.
      • Send papers in good time and have a protocol of expecting that everyone will have read them.
    • If bandwidth allows, have people turn their videos on - it makes it more personal and keeps everyone engaged.

    Try using Microsoft Teams to translate office social activities to an on-line environment. Sustaining a sense of normality and camaraderie might require unconventional activities. IT Services’ Guide to Departments recommends that every unit (department, college, other) sets up an ‘All Staff’ Team which they can populate, create ‘channels’, and run the social activities below (as well as formal activities).

    • Celebrate birthdays, give public praise for goals reached and projects completed
    • Add a separate ‘social’ channel on Teams for non-work chat within the immediate work team, where you might share pictures, jokes, anything of a light-hearted nature. It is helpful to keep morale up, whilst keeping work going.
    • All-staff social Teams channel:  this is aimed at encouraging social interactions across departments rather than for departmental announcements.  It's an opportunity to ‘meet’ together while we are not all working on site for the whole week and maybe take part in some wider social activities. While there might be no moderator staff are expected to behave with the usual etiquette.  

    The Centre for Teaching and Learning have put together ideas and guidance for teaching and learning remotely.

    CTL has web guidance on how your usual face-to-face teaching can be replicated or adapted to working remotely, using a range of technologies available at Oxford.

    To help colleagues, the Events Office has highlighted some of the resources available for hosting virtual conferences. View the toolkit on the communications hub. 

    Wellbeing

     

    We all need additional support. from time to time  We've signposted some sources of help below and hope you will find something here if you are need of support.  If you have other suggestions for resources you think we should add, please get in touch.

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    • Whether you are working from home or in the office, try not to remain seated at your computer for long periods of time. Take regular breaks and stand up and move around every hour, if only for a few minutes. Occupational Health have some easy to follow exercises for desk-based workers.
    • Take breaks and move away from your work area, if possible.
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water.
    • Try to get outside in your lunch break or before or after work while following guidance on social distancing.

    Use your annual leave to help you balance family  and work demands.  You might want to see if your department offer Additional Annual leave, or consider a flexible working request.

    Make use of the Work+Family Space (previously known as My Family Care)  for tips and advice on combining work with children and other dependants.  Registration is free for employees: you’ll just need your SSO and your employee number (from your payslip or HR Self Service NB this is different to your University card number). The Work+Family Space hosts many dedicated resources to help you manage work-life challenges including webinars, downloadable guides and a phoneline where you can speak to an expert on the family issue that is concerning you.

    The Occupational Health Service’s mental health web pages signpost a wide range of resources and sources of support

    Keeping physically active is vital to your wellbeing, Check out the Occupational Health Service resources page for lots of ideas about how to get or keep active whilst our activities are limited.

     

    There’s lots of fascinating and stimulating virtual theatre, music, museum visitors or other activities to be found online. Here are some suggested virtual activities to explore around the University:

    • Keeping the University Reading – digital resources from the Bodleian Libraries
    • Curious Minds - compiled by academics and staff of Oxford Continuing Education, these freely available educational resources  allow you to visit the world’s museums, libraries, language centres and more from your own home.  
    • Mercer, a global consultancy with whom the University has occasionally engaged with on reward and benefits, have compiled some resources to help with financial matters. This is generic guidance and not specifically for University employees but may offer useful practical advice.
    • There is a University 'staff top-up fund'   Read more about the fund.
    Career development
    Whilst personal and career development opportunities might look different in a new way of working where many staff are working remotely for part of the week, there are still development activities you can engage with. 

    Research Staff 

    Personal development

    • There are lots of online courses available on the People and Organisational Development website as well as a personal development toolkit
    • Molly is the IT Learning Centre's collection of online courses and resources and includes the University's subscription to LinkedIn Learning and the IT Learning Portfolio
    • The Oxford Department for Continuing Education are offering freely available educational resources through Curious Minds

    Job opportunities

    • if you are interested in changing your jobs you may be interested to explore the internal jobs board.   ‘Internal Only’ vacancies are now only visible to employees but in order to see them you need to log into the VPN and then access them through HR Self-Service
    • If you are an employee with a fixed term contract which is nearing its end you may be interested to find out more about the Priority Candidate Support Scheme