Working from Home
It is not uncommon for faculty members to work remotely in any given week. Some may find working from home old hat, but for others, the transition can be initially challenging. To support your efforts to work successfully from home, below are a few tips for faculty members to consider.
- Recognize that working from home is hard. Working from home can present challenges, whether you live by yourself, have a partner, children, pets, or others are in your house while you are working. Your expectations about work and home life boundaries may not always match the reality of your situation (e.g., the number of hours you might work without being interrupted; your home internet may not be able to handle multiple users at once; or meeting the needs of other household members). While setting boundaries with family and friends during your work hours can be helpful, flexibility is the key!
It is important to remember that setting boundaries can also extend to your students and colleagues. Except in extreme emergencies, try to avoid the pressure to respond immediately to everything, 24/7. The emotional toll is real as faculty members attempt to work on tasks on their “to-do” lists while also ardently supporting students, staff, and faculty members who are struggling with issues related to home, work, and current events (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic). Create a routine where people know they can get a response (e.g., during working hours), and that you will not let emails left unanswered too long.
- Keep your morning routine. Get yourself ready as you would for a typical workday. This may include preparing breakfast for yourself and/or members of your household, changing clothes, making the bed, catching up on the day’s news, etc. The ultimate goal of a routine is to get you into a healthy habit that leads to a productive mindset each day. Remember, too, that getting a good and restful sleep the night before will boost your morning routine.
- Create a daily or weekly “to-do” list. There are several high- and low-tech tools available to help you schedule your day and to stay on top of your list. Find the method that matches your work style (e.g., paper lists, electronic notepads, calendars, etc.).
Set aside times for tasks other than meetings and emails to allow you to make progress on your projects. Also, realize that virtual meetings require an intense amount of concentration to remain engaged. Make sure you do not overschedule yourself. Be intentional in building in some break times between scheduled meetings; however, even best laid plans can go awry, so be prepared for interruptions. When you are diverted from your work with emergencies and other unplanned tasks, your “to-do” list can help you reset and get back on track.
- Make sure you are connected. Start by working with your unit’s technology services office to ensure you have what you need to work remotely. Establish that your connectivity at home is strong enough and identify areas in your house that are “bad” spots. Download all necessary software and apps on all your devices (e.g., Illinois Zoom, Skype for Business, Box, etc.) and test them to make sure they work. Specific networks such as remote desktops and servers may require you to establish VPN (Virtual Private Networking) when working remotely; however, most programs do not require the use of VPN (e.g., Email, Skype for Business, Box, Moodle). See VPN Essentials to learn more about which programs and networks require or do not require VPN.
Use instant messaging and/or collaboration technology! Given that working from home is largely devoid of face-to-face contact, using instant messaging and/or collaboration technology, and ensuring that your status is aligned to your communication app (e.g., Skype for Business) or calendar, can signal to others whether you are busy or available for a quick chat or IM exchange.
- Check in with students and colleagues. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” can become an issue when working from home. Nonetheless, advancements in online technology have mitigated issues related to perceived lack of communication and access when colleagues are not physically working under the same space. Faculty members can make an effort to initiate communication and to connect regularly with students and colleagues in their unit using online and collaboration tools at their disposal. Adding virtual coffee breaks with students and colleagues in your day can help fill the need for those casual, spontaneous interactions you might have with others when you are on campus.
- Take a lunch break and get up from your workstation. If you take a lunch break or a series of short breaks during the day when you work at your office, you should do the same when you are at home. Taking breaks from long stretches of working on projects or meetings can provide you a chance to regenerate, refresh, and replenish. Pay attention to your body, especially when you have been sitting too long. A chance to breathe some fresh air, walk around your block, or exercise can do wonders to your physical well-being, mental health, and overall productivity!
- Don’t forget to completely log off. When working from home, we do not have the same end of the day cues like colleagues leaving the office at 5 o’clock, the staff turning off the main office lights, or getting a reminder to catch the bus to get home. Part of your daily work routine can also include “going home.” While we are used to bringing work from the office, it is important to create a clear prompt to yourself that your work hours are done. A few examples to signal that you are “logged off” include completely shutting down your computer, closing the lid of your laptop, and moving away from your workstation for the rest of the day.
For more information, please visit the websites listed below:
- Illinois Technology Services
- UI System Policies and Procedures: Loan Equipment to Faculty, Staff, or Student Employees
- Tips for EOs: Conducting Online Meetings
- VPN Essentials