Remote working

Adapting to new ways of living and working


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As part of the ongoing response to COVID-19 we want to extend our support to the Imperial College London community by maintaining and updating our resources, and where necessary developing new ones. We know that for many social distancing measures have led to a huge change to your way of life, increased uncertainty, and new challenges. This page draws together new and existing resources to support staff especially during the Coronavirus outbreak.

More general information about looking after your mental health at work is available here.

remote working

Wellbeing whilst remote working

The pace and complexity of work are only increasing, and given the changes in play now that some of us are remote working and socially distancing, this adds another layer to the puzzle of work in our modern world.  While none of us can necessarily say we have chosen this way of working, it may be helpful to try and see this as a different time in our lives and not necessarily a bad one. As we’re all settling into this different rhythm of work, we wanted to share three fundamental principles that will set you up for success while remote working.

Principle 1: Routine

Waking up - maintaining a routine is essential. While we may feel that we can steal a bit more sleep time in the morning because we haven’t got the commute to contend with, setting the same time to get up each day is an excellent idea because it helps us maintain a proper rhythm for the day ahead. When getting ready in the morning, try to maintain a routine, so think about getting dressed as close as you usually would for the office, and that will help set that work mindset ready for the day.

Principle 2: Environment

Workstation - we recommend you set up a space at home, and if possible, not your bedroom. This will help you switch off later. The following resources will help you set yourself up for success: 

Get moving during breaks - look online. Some gyms are live-streaming classes. Joe Wicks is doing a great online PE class. YouTube has some great yoga videos – start by searching Yoga With Adrienne.

Principle 3: Connection 

Once you’re set up, we recommend taking a few minutes to focus on your communication priorities: Which people are most important? What channels are most important? Which resources will you find most helpful right now? Who needs your contact the most? (e.g. an isolated colleague, an elderly family member). It’s tempting to join every online meeting and group chat, but we also have to preserve our energy for the long haul. This is likely to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

While we are adapting to the new work styles, whether you’re using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Whatsapp groups, short check-in calls with colleagues at the start and end of the workday are a great way to maintain a social connection. If you usually meet with others regularly, set Q&A sessions at specific times for colleagues to dial in and chat through any concerns or queries, they have about working from home.

Virtual social sessions - turning your morning or afternoon coffee break into a video or phone coffee break with a friend or colleague is a great idea. Get on video calls or phone with friends. Say “Hi”, and share your workspace.

The central message: social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Hence, whether it's Microsoft teams or Whatsapp groups, connect, stay in touch, and maintain your wellbeing.

You can join the Yammer group Remote Working Wellbeing to find tips and resources and share what’s working for you and your team. 

Physical wellbeing

While working from home, it can be all too easy to fall into a pattern that involves minimal movement, let alone actual exercise. To help you stay fit and focused while working remotely, consider scheduling workouts, virtual yoga and stretch breaks.

Move Imperial have launched their Move From Home campaign – a one-stop guide for you and your family to keep active at home, featuring a range of activities, including live workouts and a Wellbeing Wednesday Q&A tomorrow. Some of these activities will be led by Move Imperial, while industry experts will deliver others. Contact the Move Imperial team on TwitterFacebookInstagram or email if you have any questions or tips to promote good health and wellbeing.

Other resources include:

Physiotherapy - online physiotherapy is available if you are in pain or injured.  Sally Waters, a physiotherapist at Ethos, offers online physiotherapy consultations to assess, diagnose, treat, advise & give tailored exercises. 

Mental wellbeing

Working from home adds to maintaining and managing good mental health. It's more important than ever to prioritise self-care for your mental wellbeing, so set aside time to look after yourself and stay connected with others. We know that this is a difficult time for our community and that anxiety around coronavirus may be affecting your wellbeing. Below is some information, tools and resources that you might find helpful.

Other resources include:

  • 10 Days of Happiness is a free online coaching programme for challenging times
  • Managing our wellbeing in the context of the pandemic, including self-assessment tools
  • Good Thinking offers tools and wellbeing apps to help your mental health
  • 31-day meditation challenge run by Inner Space
  • Headspace is offering some meditation for you to listen to for free, anytime
  • Every Mind Matters can help you with a free plan, expert advice and practical tips
  • Mind has some helpful guidance on how to cope with worries about coronavirus
  • Shout is a national 24/7 crisis text line service run by Mental Health Innovations (of which Imperial's Institute of Global Health Innovation is a partner)
  • MacMillan provides support for people with cancer
  • Mental Health Foundation shares a range of resources on looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Robertson Cooper resources help navigate mental health and wellbeing challenges thrown up by this crisis.
  • Five podcasts to help your mental health while in self-isolation
  • BITC/Public Health England provides practical toolkits by taking a whole system approach to health and wellbeing

Leading and managing remotely

We live and work in extraordinary times, and the challenges now facing leaders and managers are equally extraordinary. The known ways of operating have been disrupted, and the new normal has yet to emerge. The challenges facing leaders and managers in the College are diverse. Some of our people are directly involved in the fight against the virus; others are working remotely, finding innovative ways to provide services and support to students and staff; others are furloughed or at home in isolation, unable to work or continue their research.

As leaders and managers, we respond to the challenges of delivering tasks and products, supporting individuals with their specific concerns and circumstances and operating within the broader context of anxiety, current risk and uncertainty. We are doing this while also managing our unique circumstances and fears.

Recommended resources are available on the People and Organisational Development web pages.

Support for parents and carers

The College Employee Engagement team in HR is in contact with My Family Care and Working Families to support those of you balancing children or caring responsibilities during this difficult time.

The following resources are available to you during this time:

My Family Care - take some time to register with My Family Care if you haven’t already. If you are already registered, check that your profile is up-to-date so that you are fully registered and can reserve care easily and quickly when you need it via the Work+Family Space.

My Family Care also has the following online resources with tips and support to help you manage this unique work-life challenge, including:

My Family Care has confirmed that all their webinars are recorded. They can be accessed in the On-Demand section via your Work+Family Space following the live session. You can visit their website to register for other upcoming webinars.

For Post-Doc Staff- the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre (PFDC) has also set up a PFDC Parents Network.

The Employee Engagement team will continue to update you about any new initiatives on the Parents Network and Carers Network Yammer pages. If you would like to be added to these groups or added to their mailing lists, please email Emily Michael.

Other homeschooling resources include:

Professional Development

The College has remote support available to all staff, whether you require tips to assist you in working from home or if you would like to focus on your development, along with material and resources in support of your wellbeing.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is a great resource. You can access lots of material by simply searching a specific topic area. Our colleagues have created ‘playlists’ around particular topic areas, such as:

Get to know your Remote Work Productivity Tools:

The LDC has created a few learning playlists to support you around professional development, productivity, and working from home. We have also created a playlist to assist in learning and supporting creativity – enjoy!

Other resources include:

Grief and loss

Recent circumstances have led many of us to experience feelings of grief and loss of freedom, access to friends and family, and easy access to the familiar community of our workplace. Some of us have also experienced illness, grief and loss of financial security given the challenging health, social and economic circumstances. It is understandable if we find this difficult and tiring; there is a combination of what may be natural in our lives and has been incredibly unusual on a rapid and worldwide scale.

No loss is ever easy – the circumstances require us to adapt, change and apply resilient behaviours to address personal challenges. For others, such as the loss of loved ones, there is no way to resolve or ‘fix’ what has been changed practically; we need lots of self-compassion, support and patience. We can recognise the resulting emotional upheaval of all losses in the Kubler-Ross change curve. Mental and physical signs can exhibit and be addressed, much like the signs of stress, anxiety or depression. We may also experience survivor guilt if we perceive others to have had a more challenging time than us.

Managers and individuals need to understand that we all have different responses to loss, depending on our backgrounds, personalities and current situations. Research on post-traumatic growth has shown that humans can adapt and learn to find meaning and things we value, even in the most challenging circumstances. Often, the most helpful thing we can do is be willing to ask and express, what will help us, but you may wish to access further resources and support:

External resources include:

  • Life. Death. Whatever. (@lifedeathwhat) - in this community, grievers of all kinds share stories of what they've learned from love and loss.
  • The Grief Gang (@thegriefgang) - download podcasts for many heart-hitting interviews, advice for grief supporters and host Amber Jeffrey's hard-relate experiences.
  • The Dinner Party (@the dinner party) - sign up to be matched with a table near you and join a like-minded group expressing how they feel about death over dinner. 
  • Let's Talk About Loss (@talkaboutloss) - with 20 active groups across the country. They host monthly get together for the bereaved 18 to 30 years old - from pub trips to ten-pin bowling.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care - Cruse's free national helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who are available to offer emotional support five days a week.
  • The book: Grief Works by Julia Samuel - features a range of real-life stories. Grief Works provides comfort and clear advice for those facing loss and those helping them through it.
  • What's your grief - A website and resources run by mental health professionals to provide hope, support and education to those affected by a loss.

Returning to work

As more members of the Imperial Community may now be returning to campuses, it can help us all prepare ourselves and become more familiar with the guidance for safety on campus. Understandably, people may have questions or concerns about how to travel, work and move about College sites safely. There has been a continuous need to adapt and change guidelines over the last few months, and it can be hard to understand how to best look after ourselves and our colleagues. The UK Government website has up-to-date advice on staying safe outside of the home

It can help to start planning a little and think about what might worry you or raise questions. For example, can you look up the most efficient and comfortable route to work, or can you discuss hours of work that will allow for the avoidance of moving around near rush hour? Line managers should be having regular one-to-one and team meetings and communicating as often as they can about any changes that are likely to impact their teams. The Health and Safety Executive have also updated their risk assessment guidance in response to Covid-19.

As a manager, it is essential to familiarise yourself with College policies and develop an understanding of the needs of your teams: who is likely to feel most vulnerable? Are any of your reports or members of their household still shielding? Who is expected to be keener to return to the site? Developing honest and open dialogue with your direct reports can be enhanced by coaching skills. If you feel particularly anxious about returning to work, it might also help to talk to one of the College’s Mental Health First Aiders or Confidential Care