Tips for higher education professionals working from home

 Erin Burns   March 19, 2020  Flex Work

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Most higher education faculty, staff, and administrators aren’t fully accustomed to remote work. But the spread of coronavirus has prompted thousands of higher education employees to adapt to this new way of working, which is unfamiliar to many of us and brings a new set of challenges, especially for those of us working when family members are unexpectedly at home, too.

Here are some tips on how to work productively and comfortably at home.

Embrace the change

The coronavirus pandemic has brought tremendous change for everyone. Working from home, whether in isolation or with family at home with you, may not be an easy transition. Now is the time for forward thinking.

You may need to develop new ways to make sure you are working effectively, especially since remote work doesn’t always lend itself well to student-facing roles. If you are a lecturer, you will not be able to run face-to-face lectures, so what can you do instead? Consider creative ways to communicate with students, like holding virtual “office hours.” If you are a researcher, what can you do from your desk instead of in the field? Perhaps there’s a project you’d normally focus on during a different time of the year, which lends itself to making a start on now.

You may need to shift your focus entirely and look at new areas of work, for example, writing new courses, marketing future events, or making professional connections.

Make use of technology

Meetings can continue online or via phone. Group calls are possible on a variety of software platforms, including Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts. There are a number of platforms to facilitate virtual meetings; many software companies are extending free trials of their conferencing software. Your institution likely has subscriptions to conference calling software, so make sure you check those options before embarking on your own.

Educators throughout the world are shifting to online teaching. Instructors can conduct seminars via videoconferencing software, or pre-record and distribute lectures via either video or voice recording. Tools such as Blackboard can host more interactive sessions, and professors can also add lectures, workshops, and resources to shared university drives. Professors should be sure to keep the accessibility needs of their students top-of-mind.

Networking sites such as LinkedIn provide a great way of building connections and making relationships with other professionals that may prove useful once normal work resumes.

Social elements

One of the hardest things about working from home is social isolation. Unfortunately, coronavirus has made physical social isolation necessary. However, this does not mean we have to feel alone, not connecting with anyone. As above, there are a number of ways that we can stay in contact with colleagues and students without meeting them in person. This is vital to keeping us productive and also for our own well-being. Don’t lose contact with people during this difficult time.

Structure your day

Similar to your workplace routine, give yourself a structure to your day. This will make you more productive, more focused, and will give some much-needed certainty to your life. When it feels like everything is up in the air, you have the power to keep some structure. A schedule can promote calm, reduces stress, and help us to have something concrete to work around. While you may need some flexibility in your approach if you have others at home, make sure you set work times, as well as family time and downtime.

Define your workspace

Set up a workspace area so that you and everyone else in your house knows that when you enter that space, you are in work mode. This will help you to get into the right mindset to work and also set boundaries with the rest of your family, who may be at home with you.

Take care of yourself

Working from home can be isolating or, if you are doing so when the rest of your family is home with you, very stressful. Take regular breaks and factor in downtime so that you do not suffer burn out. During stressful times, you have to look after your own well-being, so make sure you’re taking time out to do things that ground you, no matter how simple. Consider going for a walk, reading a book, listening to a podcast, or a short exercise regime. Whatever your “breaks” are, factor them in for the sake of your mental health.

Author: Nikki Vivian is a Career Coach and owner of From Kids to Career, which was set up to support women who are returning to a career, or looking to move in a new direction after taking time out to raise a family. Nikki works with Mums to find their true passions and to re-build confidence that can be lost after a break from the workplace. She believes passionately that being a parent does not put you at the bottom of the pile when it comes to your career. Nikki owns CV writing company Confident CV and has 8 years’ experience working in Careers for Cardiff University and works as a writer. Most recently, Nikki is writing content for businesses, organizations, and individuals on how to transition to remote working. She also coaches and delivers online training on this subject.

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