Working from home during exceptional circumstances - guidance for staff
Tue, 24 Mar 2020

As we move into extraordinary and uncertain times due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the council is rapidly having to adapt its service delivery with many people now working from home. This will mean we will be working in a totally different way and in an environment which is very different to our usual surroundings within the council.

You are therefore going to have to work differently throughout the day. You will find that you will need to adapt so that you can keep on top of questions, queries and, most importantly of all, to keep in touch with people you work with.

It is vitally important to check in on each other regularly and look after your wellbeing and that of others around you in a similar situation.


Working at Home

  • Find somewhere suitable to work, preferably away from the TV. Bedrooms are not really suitable for working.
  • You should ideally work from a suitable table, such as a dining room table, and be seated in a chair which affords you an appropriate level of comfort.
  • You should use a separate keyboard and mouse when using a laptop for prolonged periods of time and a laptop stand to raise the screen to eye level (see below).
  • The workstation should be in an area which is warm and quiet with good lighting and ventilation.
  • Be aware of potential trip hazards caused by trailing computer leads, especially if you have young children, and be mindful that you manage any risks.
  • Avoid sitting still in the same position for long periods of time. It is not good for your posture or concentration.
  • Every 25 minutes or so get up and have a stretch, breathe or go outside and get some fresh air, which is vital for physical and emotional wellbeing.
  • Remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
  • Do not forget to take a proper lunch break, ideally away from your workstation. You will work better if you are well nourished and hydrated.


Minimise Distraction 

  • You will work better when you are focused on one thing.
  • Move your phone out of the way and avoid excessive time spent on social media.
  • Use the morning to get the big jobs completed first.


Keeping in Touch

The council will keep all staff working home updated through the intranet at https://insight.eastriding.gov.uk/ - which is accessible outside the office - and through the news articles on the employee self-service (ESS) app as well as via global email.

Below are some tips which will help to make sure you feel in control during this period of disruption:


Routine and organisation

Think about how you can carry on your normal routines, and try to do things that are useful or meaningful.

For example, if you are working from home, try to get up and get ready in the same way as normal. Establish a 'new normal' routine and try and maintain this routine. This will help you retain a healthy work/life balance, especially if you are home schooling children while continuing working from home and stick to the same sleep schedule.

If you cannot do this, think about how you can create new routines and set yourself goals. You could set a new alarm for the morning, do a daily home workout and pick a regular time to clean, read, watch a TV programme or film or cook.

You should also:

  • Discuss your established routine with your family members and children and agree any necessary parameters.
  • Establish a work plan, including a set of tasks you need to complete. This will help you attain a feeling of achievement at the end of your day and keep you organised.
  • Be sensible and avoid the temptation to work late into the night. When it is time to stop working, stop. Your wellbeing at this time is really important.


Look after Your Body and Mind

Our physical health really affects how we feel. Try to make sure you and your family eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly.

Keep your mind active. Read, write, play games, do crosswords, complete Sudoku puzzles, finish jigsaws or try drawing and painting. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.

Get outside for a walk, a run or bike ride if you can - in line with Government guidelines - or try online home-workout videos.

Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, so it's important to get enough. Try to maintain your regular sleeping pattern and stick to good sleep practices.


Mental Health and Wellbeing

 It's important to take care of your mind as well as your body.

You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you.

It is OK to feel like this - everyone reacts in their own way to challenging events and uncertainty. It's important to remember that staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it.

Concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life.

Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.

It's fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control. The tips and advice here are things you can do now to help you keep on top of your mental wellbeing and cope with how you may feel while staying at home.

If we are feeling worried, anxious, lonely or low, we may stop doing things we usually enjoy. Make an effort to focus on your favourite hobby if it is something you can still do at home. If not, picking something new to learn at home might help - there are lots of ideas online.

Make sure you get further support if you feel you need it. It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember, it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust - doing so could help them too. Or you could try a charity helpline or webchat.

The Government also has wider guidance on staying at home as a result of coronavirus.


Staying Informed of the Situation

Do not stay glued to the news! Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone.

You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to checking a couple of times a day.

Use trustworthy sources - such as GOV.UK or the NHS website and fact-check information from the news, social media or other people.


Communication, Connecting with Others and Social Isolation

  • Home working can be socially isolating. Do not forget to stay in touch with colleagues and managers and, more importantly, stay in touch with your friends.
  • Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with work colleagues, friends and family while you are at home whether it's people you usually see often, or reconnecting with old friends or neighbours.
  • Use a variety of methods to stay in touch. This may be by video call, text messaging, WhatsApp, telephone calls, email and group chat platforms, such as Microsoft Teams.
  • If you live with other people, think about or discuss with them what challenges you might all face if you all need to stay at home or one of you gets coronavirus.


Be Practical and Plan in Advance.

Work out how you can get any household supplies you need. You could try asking neighbours, family and friends or find a delivery service.

Continue accessing treatment and support for any existing physical or mental health problems, where possible. Let services know you are staying at home and discuss how to continue receiving support.

If you need regular medicine, you might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone or online via a website or app. You can also ask your pharmacy about getting your medicine delivered or ask someone else to collect it for you.


Useful Information and Links

The council has an employee assistance programme, delivered through BHSF.

They provide wellbeing support and they can be telephoned on 0800 1076747. You are free to contact this service and do not need permission from your line manager.

They can be contacted 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year for all aspects of advice on wellbeing, financial advice and telephone counselling.

The NHS have also provided some really useful guidance on mental health and wellbeing.

You can access this at www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/


Ensuring Essential Service Delivery is Maintained

As part of the council's preparations to deal with the challenges of COVID-19, a skills audit is being carried out.

This will help with plans to maintain essential services while the workforce is reduced, and will identify employees who are working in non-time-critical roles who can do different jobs to support colleagues who are facing an increase in their workload.

The skills matrix will be used to identify staff who could be used in ways other than their normal roles, based on their skills and experiences, if the situation arises.

The link below will take you to the survey


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