Student and Registry Services


May DEOLO update: taking care of yourself when working from home

15 May 2020

Most of us in SRS have been working from home now for long enough that it has started to feel like the new normal (as overused as that phrase has been!). To some degree we are galvanised by the sacrifice of key workers and others who are required to travel to work, and we do our best to support each other (whether that means staff, students or prospective students) through the parts of our lives that connect to UCL. It is important to remember as we sit at home that we are doing our jobs in difficult circumstances and that working remotely during this crisis requires a careful approach to managing our workloads and personal safety.

Part of the challenge is ensuring that our workspace is safe to use. Most people will not be able to provide themselves with the same quality of workstation at home as they would be used to in the office. However every member of staff should use the Display screen equipment (DSE) workstation checklist available on GOV.UK to identify any problems with their workspace, and to try and find simple solutions. For some people that may be more difficult than others due to health conditions, physical impairments or also because of their home living situation. UCL has not been encouraging or significantly subsidising mass ordering of equipment  and this means that we are required to be resourceful in our efforts to improve our workspaces. That may mean eschewing a laptop riser in favour of a pile of books or using cushions to make our seats more comfortable rather than ordering office chairs.

With limited space for an office chair I found that an ergonomic memory foam seat cushion was useful to convert my dining chair into something comfortable enough to spend all day on. Some people may live in such a small space that there is little equipment that would help them. If it is only possible for you to work on your bed for example or there is another reason you are finding it difficult to work safely, you should speak to your line manager about your situation. It may be appropriate for your hours to be reduced or for your workload to be adjusted in other ways. The limitations we have in making our workspace safe are unique to this crisis, and we shouldn’t feel forced into unsafe situations by the demands of work.

It’s easy to feel lonely at home when we might be struggling to keep motivated or feeling anxious about work pressures – there are no work friends nearby to turn to for solidarity. Keeping in touch with colleagues and sharing experiences is important – perhaps you could check in for a quick 3PM video chat with colleagues once a week on Microsoft Teams, even if it’s not a work-related meeting. Joining a staff network, a trade union or visiting the Remote, Not Distant at UCL site may help you connect with the UCL community as a whole along with giving you some ideas for improving your workspace and wellbeing. Staff who consider themselves disabled may wish to join the Enable@UCL staff network, which is also open to non-disabled staff with an interest in promoting disability equality at UCL.

There will be plenty of people at UCL who have long-term health conditions that put them in a high-risk group and will be continuing to work from home to support UCL through this pandemic. Staff and students across UCL are facing varied challenges during this pandemic and as we keep our physical distance it’s important to remember that staying at home is only one of the ways that we can look after each other. We can use our professional connections to support our colleagues through sharing experiences, advice or even just by sending a weird GIF.

Daniel Potrykus SRS Assistant DEOLO (Disability)