New resources to support home-working and staff wellbeing

These pages pull together information to support staff during this time regarding ways of working, connecting with colleagues and  looking after your own wellbeing.

Do you have stories or tips about sharing your work space with others in your household? Have you found some silver linings during this time that you wish to share? Or maybe your team has a really creative way of keeping touch?  Share your stories by emailing internal.communications@admin.ox.ac.uk

HOMEWORKING AND WELLBEING FOR STAFF

This guidance is being frequently updated, so please check back regularly for updates. 

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IT Services have collated lots of remote working resources into a new webpage -  Adjusting to working from home

Tools include the main Work remotely page, ‘quick start’ guides on the ‘IT tools and guides for home working’ page, and ‘how to’ videos and courses on the ‘how to work remotely’ page, including how to use Teams, OneDrive, and working productively.

In response to demand IT Services are also offering an online presentation to help you use Nexus365 and Teams

The Information Security team have also published guidance on using Zoom

As well as the resources listed above guidance for employees on working from home, including IT guidance, can be found on the Contingency planning Sharepoint site.

  • Stick to your usual routine!  Get out of your PJ’s and dress as you normally would for a dress down day at work; be presentable enough to have video conferences with colleagues.
  • Larks and night-owls may find their timing drifting, but we all need to stay interacting with each other so try to stick to your normal hours so that you are in touch during core hours.
  • Agree your hours with your line manager and let your colleagues know when you are working and when you will be off-line.
  • Take coffee and lunch breaks as you normally would; contact colleagues and arrange a virtual chat over coffee/lunch.
  • Get up and get outside for a break when you can.
  • If you can, try to set up in a separate room, as free as you can make it from household distractions;
  • If you have a home PC set up a new, password protected, work account in Windows and follow the IT Services advice for setting up work remotely
  • Laptops have notoriously bad ergonomics, in the short-term do what you can to add a keyboard and mouse.  In the longer term a larger screen will also help you, but at the moment you may find there are supply issues for new IT equipment.  Your local IT team may be able to help by allowing you to take home a larger screen – get in touch with them to see what local rules apply.  
  • Home tables and chairs are often not best suited for home working, your arms should be angled slightly downwards towards your keyboard not upwards.  Try raising your chair if possible and/or using cushions.  Put books under your screen to raise it to eyelevel.  Have a look at the Display Screen Assessment training to help you set up your working area well.
  • Talk to your family and agree your home-working timetable so that you set boundaries for quiet, uninterruptible time and for family time.
  • Establish and try to keep to a routine, this will help you, and those you live with, to keep a sense of normaIity and manage anxieties.
  • Save, save, save your work!  Try using the cloud based OneDrive for back-ups if you don’t have remote access to your network drive.
  • Watch the on-demand webcast from Bright Horizons on 'Best practice for remote working in the context of COVID-19'.

You’ll also find Webinars on-demand covering topics such as Building Resilience for Working Parents and Carers, Managing Work & Family in Complex Changing Times, Long Distance Caring.  There is also a special Coronavirus series of webinars covering  Best Practice for Remote Working, Supporting your team, Managing your Support for Elderly and Vulnerable Dependants,  Maintaining Domestic Harmony & Positive Relationships, Talking to Children and Young People About the Virus and its Impact, Boosting Immunity & Healthy Living in Extraordinary Times, The School-Free World & Managing your Children at Home, Reasons to be Cheerful: Keeping Entertained and Connected from Home   

  • Take your annual leave as you had planned and use the time to explore nature and minibeasts in the garden, and use online resources as well as good old-fashioned family games
  • Let your line manager know if you need to take time to care for children and dependants – there is additional advice for line managers here
  • Encourage school age children to stick to their normal routine during term-time but take advice from their school and be prepared to be flexible to help you all cope
  • Where possible, make plans with your partner to divide the childcare, and stick to the plan
  • HomeLearningUK is a curated resource being led by educators who have come together to offer time and expertise to support colleagues, parents and students in the UK and beyond
  • Young minds is an excellent resource to support the mental health of young people and has produced a set of resources to help young people manage their mental health during the pandemic.
  • IT Services have produced advice on how to run remote meetings
  • Have a Chair - everyone else go on mute to avoid background noise, and if someone wants to speak they ‘raise their hand’ - depending on the conference system used that can be via that very function (raise a hand) or via a chat message the Chair
  •  Have a clear agenda set out at the beginning - with specific goals
  •  If bandwidth allows, have people turn their videos on - it makes it more personal and keeps everyone engaged
  • Avoid extremely long meetings (stamina wanes much more quickly when you are not in the room with others)
  • Be kind and patient as we settle into this new way of working
  • Have a look at the new guidance for Line Managers
  • Keep connected – arrange frequent and regular virtual meetings
  • Microsoft Teams is a fantastic tool – start practicing using it as soon as possible with your team
  • Encourage your team to keep connected with each other; including virtual meetings just for coffee and a chat
  • Use phone and virtual conferences where possible, remember that e-mail messages can be a blunt tool and don’t always convey subtleties
  • Give everyone permission to spend time understanding their IT connections: remember some will find this harder than others; be prepared to help and consider buddying staff up so that they can help others to get set up
  • Recognise that if you, or your team, are working on home devices it may take a while to get used to the new set up and differences in the speed and capability of individual devices may be frustrating
  • Everyone’s home circumstances are different, be patient and tolerant, it’s going to take a while for your team to find a new rhythm
  • Suggest sharing calendars so that everyone in the team knows when others are free and when they are not available
  • Agree boundaries and expectations with your team – some will want to work in the evenings, others may feel under pressure if they receive emails at all hours
  • Remember team members will also be dealing with their own health issues; caring for vulnerable family members and managing childcare
  • International staff may be feeling even more isolated and worried about their family and friends – consider linking them up with a buddy
  • Try to stick to normal hours, working from home makes it harder to separate personal and work lives.  Some people will find themselves working without a break, others will find themselves tackling the laundry and managing bickering children
  • If you do work out of normal hours, make it clear that you don’t expect replies to suit your own timetable
  • Be empathetic and support your team to settle into new routines
  • Have faith in your people: their wellbeing depends on feeling like they are doing a good job
  • Be kind to yourself; this is hard for you too: take time to think through and discuss new ways of working; and give yourself permission to investigate and understand new systems

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

CTL's new web guidance offers a range of ideas about how your usual face-to-face teaching can be replicated or adapted to work remotely, using a range of technologies available at Oxford.

 

  • Research Services have put together a set of FAQs for externally-funded research staff which answer the most pressing questions asked by research staff with respect to funding in the current situation.
  • Keep connected with your team: use Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype to have regular catch ups as a team and in one-to-ones
  • Supervisors will need to keep in close contact with DPhil students – they may well be feeling completely at sea.  Regular contact will help keep them structuring their work
  • Line managers will need to keep in close contact with research staff. Regular contact will help to structure your work and enable wellbeing support. If your PI is a clinician focusing on medical duties and you do not know who will lead your team, contact your head of department or departmental adminstrator/HAF for advice

  • Ask colleagues if they might like to join you in writing partnerships or virtual boot camps
  • The Careers Service are continuing in a virtual capacity – book an appointment to talk through any aspect of your career development via Career Connect; and look out for our online Researcher-specific support during Trinity term.
  • Keep connected with other researchers through Oxford Research Staff Society
  • The Thriving Researcher is a programme of meet-ups on line, including social coffee mornings and sessions for people who want to start to think about the impact of COVID-19 on their research plans. It is free and open to all research staff at all universities. 
  • Take part in a Vitae survey into the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the working lives and wellbeing of doctoral researchers and research staff. The findings could be used to inform institutional policies for meeting the needs of these groups during the current and future public health crises. The survey closes on 3 May. 

     

  • If the nature of your job means it’s hard to work from home, use the opportunity while you can to develop your skills.  There are lots of online courses available on the People and Organisational Development website as well as a personal development toolkit
  • Molly, the IT Learning Centre's collection of online courses and resources, includes the University's subscription to LinkedIn Learning and the IT Learning Portfolio
  • Learning and development can be a way of supporting wellbeing and resilience in itself

  • Talk to your line manager about what skills development would be good to do right now
  • Oxford Continuing Education, are offering freely available educational resources through Curious Minds
  • Try using Microsoft teams to translate office social activities to an on-line environment. Sustaining a sense of normalcy 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 - make time for casual conversations
  • Team check in: During a shutdown in 2018 Glasgow University found that staff spent time worrying about each other’s well-being. A suggestion is to ask everyone to ‘check in’ on a Teams chat channel every morning when they’re working to confirm they’re OK, as well as a ‘Goodnight’ check out at the end of day. Another idea is to have some form of scheduled Daily Meeting to prioritise the day’s work.
  • Team social:  Add a separate ‘social’ channel on Teams for non-work chat where you might share pictures, jokes, anything of a light-hearted nature. It is helpful to keep morale up, whilst keeping work going.
  • Team world news:  Pandemics are scary. Some people will want to deal with this by discussing it (perhaps particularly those living alone – see above) and some people will find it a worrying distraction from work. You could have a separate channel for this discussion to make it optional
  • Team Chat (messaging) Consider establishing a new etiquette rule that you can start a direct Chat conversation with someone but there is no obligation to respond immediately. This seems to be the remote-working version of wandering over to someone’s desk to ask a question. If you are messaged on Teams and can’t respond in an hour please let the person know.
  • All-staff social Teams channel:  This is aimed at encouraging social interactions and not for departmental announcements, rather an opportunity to ‘meet’ together while we are away from the office. While there might be no moderator staff are expected to behave with the usual etiquette. Suggestions for topics might cover:
    • Social discussions, giving staff the opportunity to chat, ask questions, schedule coffee breaks.
    • How are you keeping active while at home?
      • YouTube Yoga?
      • a walking challenge (for those who want to join in) to record our steps and relating this to a real walk e.g. the number of steps it takes to walk Lands End to John O'Groats? 
    • Book clubs – find a book or TV programme and arrange a time once a week to discuss on Teams.
    • Tips for breaks away from your workstation
    • Online game challenge
    • Recipes for tinned food, competitions?
    • Photo of the view from your window, cat, dog, parrot?
  • Some teams have started having an online get together where people talk about what they have done, problems, thoughts, etc. They keep this to 20 minutes and after that everyone has their favourite drink ready. Anyone for a Quarantini?
  • All-staff departmental webinars: If you have a Team set up with all departmental staff, then you could consider holding a weekly online meeting with all your staff to keep in touch with senior management. This would help people to think at a departmental level, above their team and immediate contacts.

This is a difficult period for all of us: the following sources of support may help protect your mental health

Keeping physically active is vital to your wellbeing is going to be an interesting challenge over the next few weeks, here are some sources of ideas for how to get some exercise at home

There’s lots of fascinating and stimulating information to be found online, here’s a suggestion of things to explore:
  • There has been much concern about the potential increase in domestic violence during this period of isolation.  The government has responded with sources of support for victims of domestic abuse.
  • Respect is an anonymous and confidential helpline for male victims of domestic violence, families where young people are abusive to close family members, and also advice and support for perpetrators of domestic abuse who wish to stop being abusive.
  • The NSPCC has advice for parents on online safety.
  • 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 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is generic guidance and not specifically for University employees but may offer useful practical advice.  Mercer will be adding to the content in the coming weeks.
  • A COVID-19 Staff hardship fund has been set up.  Read more about the fund.

HOMEWORKING - MANAGERS

This guidance is for those managing staff during the current COVID-19 pandemic to help them to set up effective remote working relationships with those that they manage.  For some staff working at home is already a well-established way of working.  However, for many staff it is unfamiliar and has had to be set up in haste and without much time to prepare.

Working from home presents practical challenges for individuals, and separate guidance is available to help staff to adapt to this new way of working.  The 'Homeworking and wellbeing' for staff tab, above, links to practical guidance  on working from home, from pay arrangements to IT, as well as offering suggestions to help with issues of work-life balance, and working at a distance from their colleagues.

Key actions for departments

  • Ensure that all staff have an identifiable line manager and know how to contact them
  • Ensure line managers understand that their responsibilities, as set out below, for managing their staff through this period

Key practical actions for line managers and supervisors

Look after yourself

The guidance below is intended to help you to support your teams but do also make sure that you are looking after yourself as well.  The 'Homeworking - Staff' and 'Staff Welbeing' tabs above also provide suggestions that all staff may find helpful during this challenging time.

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  • Identify a deputy/deputies who can take over key activities in the event of your own illness, or who can help you with some of the actions below
  • Check in with your direct reports on a regular basis - deputies may be needed if you have responsibility for a large team.  Make sure everyone has a nominated point of contact.
  • Make contact with staff who are currently on sickness, family leave or other leave to make sure they are up to date with what is happening within the University and know who to contact with questions.
  • Agree core hours of work with your staff.  These are the hours when you can expect them to be ‘at work’ and at the end of a phone or email.
  • Core hours for each individual might be different to their usual hours to take account of the fact that they are not commuting,  or have family issues to deal with. 
  • It is important to set boundaries so that everyone knows when it’s acceptable to contact colleagues.  If your team are working to different timetables, for example, if a colleague has adjusted their hours to work in the evening when children have gone to bed,  but others are working standard office hours, clarify expectations that responses aren’t expected outside their new ‘normal’ working hours.
  • Establish what your team member’s home working arrangement is: is it a quiet, separate room or a shared space? Be sensitive to their circumstances.
  • Remember you will be contacting your colleagues in their own homes in most cases, so be careful to establish if sensitive conversations can be held by phone.
  • Ensure that staff are familiar with data protection and information security arrangements.  What arrangements do they have in place for disposing of sensitive paperwork?  Do they understand about keeping electronic information secure – for example not leaving sensitive information on a screen where others might see?
  • Encourage your staff to carry out a DSE assessment and allow them to take home any adaptive equipment they use at work
  • Keep a record of any equipment, files and other work-related materials that staff are taking home and encourage them, where possible, to ensure they are storing it all in a clearly identifiable place so it will be easy to return to the workplace in due course.
  • If possible, agree a shared location for work to be stored (Onedrive? Via VPN to shared drives?)  so that, in the event of illness, it can be reallocated without bothering individuals who are sick, or their families.
  • Request that your team contact you promptly if they are unable to work due to sickness or other issue arising (for example caring for a sick relative). 
  • Sickness, special paid leave, holiday and family leave need to be recorded as normal and should be communicated to local HR colleagues so that appropriate record-keeping and payroll actions can be implemented.  Staff needing to take sickness absence of more than 7 days are normally required to produce a Fit Note from their GP (for up to 7 days staff can self-certificate).  Under the current circumstances staff may find it difficult to get a Fit Note,  so speak to your local HR officer for further advice. 
  • Should a member of your team let you know that they are too unwell to work (with COVID-19 or other illness), agree with them how you will keep in touch.  For example, asking them to check in with you through a daily phone call, email or MS Teams chat may be appropriate.  If their symptoms worsen, it may be that they need to agree that a family member/next of kin will keep you up to date and a weekly update in such circumstances may be more appropriate.   In the event that your team member lives alone, check in with them whether they have access to support services.  There are a number of local volunteer networks which can provide home deliveries of food and medicines (Oxford Together, Oxfordshire All In and Oxfordshire Community Foundation are good places to start). Don’t forget that, whilst working remotely,  other members of your team will need to be advised that a team member is away from work.  They may be anxious about their colleague so do keep them up to date, but be careful not to  disclose sensitive personal information.  

This is an unsettling time and you may need to spend more time than normal on supporting your team.

Keep in touch

  • Look at setting up something like Microsoft Teams to help your team to stay in touch with one another. 
  • A daily ‘check-in’ may be reassuring to everyone – colleagues who are used to working closely together will be worried about one another and may miss that interaction
  • Use the phone as well as email to maintain positive lines of communication with colleagues
  • Agree a time to regularly check in on any staff who have been put on special paid leave to ensure they are up to date with any developments

Be supportive

  • Some staff will find it easy to work in isolation/from home and others may lack the discipline or self-motivation to work outside of a team environment.  You may need to check in more regularly with staff who are struggling with working from home.
  • Be sensitive to the difficulties that staff will be experiencing, in particular whilst we all get used to the current exceptional circumstances. 
  • Be patient with those who are less comfortable or skilled with technology or who may be working with less than optimal equipment or conditions.
  • Make allowance for those who are stressed or under pressure or worried about family members or caring responsibilities.
  • Take particular care of staff who may have little local support network – for example international staff or other staff who are newly arrived in Oxfordshire.  A buddying-scheme for such staff, pairing them with a colleague to check in with them regularly may be helpful.

 

1:1 meetings and virtual team meetings

  • Most managers will usually have regular 1:1 meetings with their staff to check in with their work and with how they are more generally.  Much of our communication during this period may be by email, but where possible consider setting up a regular 1:1 phone/Microsoft Teams or other in person contact with your direct reports.  This is an opportunity to check in with what the individual is working on, help them to prioritise, and also give feedback.  Working from home can be very isolating and regular feedback on work is important. 
  • 1:1 conversations are also an opportunity to find out how your staff are dealing with the issues of remote working, isolation, etc.
  • If you can, it is a good idea to keep a brief note of the issues discussed during these 1:1 meetings, particularly if you feel that the member of staff is stressed, or otherwise performing in a way that is uncharacteristic.
  • Setting up a regular virtual team meeting will also help. Staff will be concerned for colleagues and maintaining a non-transactional line of communication will be valuable to ensuring that positive working relationships continue.
  • Escalate any concerns or difficulties arising through your normal departmental channels so that they can help and advise.
  • Staff who are temporarily working from home should still take their holiday as normal. Whilst many normal holiday activities, such as travel, won't be possible, it is still important for people to take a break from work so you should authorise and record holiday in the normal way.
  • Staff who are on special paid leave may also wish to take holiday – for example to spend some focussed time with children or other family members.  Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive to take holiday from special paid leave, remember that some staff will be on special paid leave because they cannot do their job from home.  Should either the national, University or their personal circumstances change so that work was available that they could do, they must be available to do it.  Being on holiday ensures that their time ‘off’ is protected.
  • The normal rules on holiday carry-over will continue to apply for most staff, ie a maximum of 5 days leave may be carried over from one holiday year to the next, and only in exceptional circumstances.  However, if you are managing staff who are 'key workers' and who are prevented from taking their holiday due to pressures of work related to Covid-19, some additional leave may be carried over.  Please see the full guidance on this
  • Staff with very intensive caring responsibilities may need to be furloughed (see below) but many staff will be able to continue to work whilst also managing caring responsibilities for their family or other dependantsThe University’s aim is to carry out as much of its normal activity as possible during this period and you should encourage staff that they should try to carry out as much of their normal workload as possible. 
  • Many staff will have significant caring responsibilities and you will need to apply consistent and fair treatment across your team, as well as building resilience within the team to cope if some team members become ill.
  • Be aware that staff juggling care and work may need to schedule/plan work for periods when children/dependants are napping, watching educational resources/TV, asleep at the end of the day so different members of your team may have different ‘normal office hours’.  Try to ensure that everyone respects one another’s working hours as far as possible. 
  • Those sharing care responsibilities with another parent or family member who is at home may want to timetable the care so that each has some protected time to work.
  • Many members of the University are continuing to carry out most or all of their jobs under very difficult circumstances.   In the early days of the ‘lockdown’ special paid leave was available for those who were completely unable to work from home, due to the nature of their work or intensive caring responsibilities.  On 28 April 2020 a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/furlough scheme has been introduced and staff who are unable to carry out any work will be furloughed. See below for information
  • If a member of your team refuses to do any work, but their post does not qualify for furlough, explore with them what the reasons for this are Be sensitive that:
    • some people will be struggling with ‘invisible and undeclared’ disabilities such as anxiety which will be exacerbated by the current situation
    • they may need a short period of focussing on family in order to settle their children into a new routine, but be able to pick up work after that.

If you consider that they are refusing unreasonably to carry out any work, speak to your local HR contact for advice on how to take this forward.

 

  • Some staff will be unable to carry out their normal job either from their normal location or from home, due to the nature of the work that they usually do and/or reduced need for the work that they normally do.  Other staff will have caring responsibilities that are so intensive that they are unable to carry out any work from home.  If the University was unable to redeploy such staff into alternative work they will have been put onto special paid leave in the early days of the lockdown. With effect from 28 April 2020 the University is introducing a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) also known as furlough and staff who are unable to work will be put onto furlough, where possible.  Your department will be planning which staff will be put onto furlough, and in the meantime staff should remain on special paid leave unless their circumstances have changed.
  • Read the  full guidance on managing staff on furlough.

If staff are key workers, but working in areas with reduced support services, or providing support services, health and safety is a primary consideration.  Check the latest Safety Office guidance on this issue before agreeing that staff may work alone in University premises.

HR STAFF - FAQs

FAQs for HR staff can be found on the Coronavirus contingency planning Sharepoint site

Please also be aware of the Homeworking guidance for managers.

Further resources are in development.

FURTHER INFORMATION

A range of detailed operational information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic is available for staff through the University’s professional services’ websites.

This includes:

Managers overseeing business continuity plans can also access detailed planning information through the Coronavirus Continuity Planning SharePoint site.

COVID-19 Staff hardship fund has been set up.

We will be updating this website regularly.