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Making the most of our working environment.

Image of a messy desk

It can be difficult to adjust to a rapid change in your work environment. The most important thing is that you are safe and well whilst working remotely. 

Working effectively remotely is not simply a matter of transferring all of our usual practice to a home office. You may need to take time to adapt your ways of working so they are effective in this new reality.   

This section pulls together some excellent resources, many of them from UCL, to help you to adapt your new work environment to ensure it meets your needs, including tips to use technology to your advantage. It is your central point of information on working well remotely at UCL and will be updated regularly.

Create and keep boundaries  

Since most of us will now be working from home, it might seem harder to keep track of time. Establishing and sticking to a new routine can be a helpful way of managing this. Try starting the day with your most important task.  

You may be working at your screen more than before, as many meetings will be held online, so remember to take regular breaks (or changes in activity) lasting at least 5 minutes, every hour. 

In general, try to maintain a workable routine, make time for proper meals and drink water regularly. Regular hours can be adapted, according to your needs. For example, you may prefer to have some down time during the day and work in the evenings. This may be particularly relevant to those with caring responsibilities and those with pre-existing mental health conditions that impact their productivity times. The BBC has created a new resource of bitesize daily lessons to support parents and carers who are home-schooling.

Setting up your work space  

If you can, keep a dedicated work space. This will allow you to assess your new work space against the government's workstation checklist. You may wish to move furniture around to create the right set-up, or liven your space up with fresh flowers. 

We have prepared a guide to managing the health and safety of staff at UCL during the coronavirus pandemic. If you require additional assistance in setting up your work station to work remotely, and do not already have adaptive equipment, please speak with your line manager in the first instance to ensure that the need for any reasonable adjustments can be considered. 

Make use of the technology…but don't overdo it

When you are working remotely, you can feel that you must be always available to your colleagues. Technology can be used to keep in touch with colleagues but you can also use it to help you maintain appropriate boundaries around work, rest and play. 

Make effective use of collaborative tools such as MS Teams, Sharepoint and Mural, to minimise email and lengthy online meetings. Ensure materials shared are in an accessible format, agree the etiquette with colleagues for any video calls - including the use of live captions and video. Virtual interactions should not create unnecessary barriers for colleagues with disabilities. 

Remember, you are adapting to a new and evolving situation and the new way we work needs to be sustainable.  

Connecting with others   

Colleagues around UCL will be facing different challenges caused by having their movements restricted. You may live with others, have caring responsibilities and be attempting to home-school children and young people. By contrast, you may live alone without any of the social interactions you are used to. Allow yourself time to acclimatise to this new situation, to find a level of contact that is effective for work and comfortable for you. 

Loneliness is one of the most commonly reported challenges of remote working. If contact with others is poor, you may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. Try to maintain and even extend your networks at this time. Consider having work from home buddies to chat with at the same time each day or a daily coffee break with a colleague. 

Include online face-to-face interaction through video calls and regular check-ins. Check-ins need not be overlong, 5 or 10 minutes to say hi to a colleague might brighten up their day. 

When communicating via written message (such as email or Teams chat), your tone of voice and body language are no longer available to help you to communicate key messages, so choose your words and punctuation carefully and try to be as explicit as possible.  

It may be helpful to connect with colleagues with similar experiences. Both the Parents and Careers Together (PACT) Network and the Enable Network have created groups on MS Teams to keep in touch.

Further UCL resources for specific staff groups

These resources are being updated regularly.