How to to make the most of working from home - Scott Cameron

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How to to make the most of working from home

Head of HR Operations & Support, Scott Cameron, speaks about how to keep going while you're working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of us have experience of home working already and will have our own ways of ensuring the time is productive and enjoyable, however I suspect there are others, like me, who have tried it a few times and struggled to get going. I don’t enjoy working alone and prefer to have interaction to keep me going.

There will be even more of us who haven’t tried working from home at all or not even contemplated it. Up until now we have perhaps had the choice. Circumstances mean that what was once an option for some is now a requirement for us all. At short notice, this will be hard for some of us to get our heads around.

My intention is therefore to provide some guidance on how to stay efficient and keep your spirits up. This document is not a policy and therefore something you must follow. Much of it has, admittedly, been borrowed from the many media outlets that have recently become experts on home working. By collating the best of it here I hope that it will be of some benefit. I will also refer to my own situation and what I intend to do but everyone’s circumstances will be different.

Some of this will be obvious but sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else so bear with me. If you require IT support for working from home, guidance can be found:

Setting up your work area

For starters you need a clear and functional work space. Sitting with the computer on your lap on the couch is probably only going to work for you for so long and you should be thinking about your posture as much as you can. If you have a disability or a posture concern our Occupational Health and Safety Team - Clinton Grant and Douglas Downie – can advise on your set up. This will be a challenge as such things are usually done in person at the work station but they will do the best that they can. If your disability or health issue means it is too difficult for you to work at home then be sure to let your line manager know. An occupational health appointment over the telephone may be an option. If we are unable to make adjustments to help then it will not be regarded as sick leave and your pay will not run out as a result.

A quiet work space (if you require) may be a stretch if you have kids running about so you may have to explore the option of working at different times of the day. I expect I will do some work in the evening or weekend (spreading my hours over a longer period) but I appreciate that will not work for everyone.

Establishing a new routine

Once you are clear on where you are going to work you can move to the basics. It’s easier to fall into a weekend mentality if you don’t need to be anywhere so why not try and do what you would normally do if you were heading into work. If you get up at the normal time, get washed, get dressed etc then you are already clicking into your normal routine. I might (depending on the kids) get up a bit later as the commute time is gone but I intend to follow the same routine as much as possible. I don’t intend putting on a shirt and tie but I read that wearing ‘respectable clothes’ (different things to different people granted) increases motivation.

Create a to-do list

Once up and about, you will then want to plan your day. Some of that will be dictated by the demands of the job and ongoing commitments but you could perhaps begin by writing a list of the things you wish to accomplish. You will also want to think about who you need to speak to and when, for example I intend to speak to Lydia (my manager) and those that report to me on a daily basis. That may drift, but even if I don’t have anything to say, I normally see them so I want to continue with that routine. It doesn’t need to be that way for everyone but for me once it’s a habit or part of a routine it becomes easier.

Agree on "Rules of Engagement"

It is important that we continue to communicate with each other as much as possible even if it’s a five-minute call to talk about non-work-related activity.  If contact with a colleague has only been through email then pick up the phone. A conversation will likely be more stimulating than a chain of emails. 

Be mindful of not over communicating in order to demonstrate that you are working. Some of us naturally want to feel managed but perhaps you can share your weekly objectives with your line manager and repeat that the following week; using any conversations in-between to deal with the reactive stuff or as an opportunity to keep in touch. If you haven’t discussed this already with your line manager then agreeing it now will alleviate any anxiety felt as a result.

Stretch your legs and take breaks

Another thing you will want do is get out and get some fresh air. We are lucky with the campus we have at RGU. We are used to moving between buildings for meetings etc in a nice environment but there are plenty of options at home. You can walk your dog, work on your garden, go for a run, speak to your family etc. Exercise and moving around has many health benefits as we all know and it can give you a fresh perspective on something you are working on when you return to it.

As part of your daily plan you can think about when you are going to take your breaks and what you are going to do during them. It doesn’t have to be one long break, it can be several throughout the day. With kids at home I may look at taking 15 minutes an hour to sit with them. It may make my day longer and I can make up the time in the evening but taking those breaks will give me structure and keep me focused when I am working.

Switching off

At the end of your working day you need to log off and stay off until the following day. Work should not take over your life nor should you be thinking about it in the evening because the laptop is in front of you. Put it away and focus on something else. Some staff will want to continue to work and that is their choice but you don’t need to log in just because you can or others are doing so.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

The university has excellent resources to support staff wellbeing:


Lifeworks, which takes minutes to sign up to, includes the employee assistance programme. You will have received an email last year providing you with an invitation code however if you are unable to locate this then please contact staffbenefits@rgu.ac.uk and Linsay or Julie from HR will send you a reminder.

I trust I have covered the main things to consider with working from home. If you wish to discuss any of this then feel free to drop one of the HR team an email and one of us will get back to you. We can add in different tips and information as we go along. It’s early days and as we all live our own experience of remote working there will perhaps be more to add.

On behalf of the HR team, I want to wish you all the best for the coming weeks and encourage you to get in touch if you require support.

Best wishes
Scott  

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