Guidelines and policies
IHW guidance on good practice for remote studying for PGT and PGR students
Remote study became the new normal in 2020 and is still a major part of our lives as we move forward. Whether we welcome the shift to remote study or have struggled to adjust, we can all benefit from thinking about how to make this experience as comfortable, connected and productive as possible.
This guidance is intended to help PGT and PGR students study remotely. It is partly based on helpful tips published by the University of Bristol, University of Glasgow guidance on remote working produced for IHW staff, University of Glasgow health and wellbeing guidance for working or studying remotely and IHW work/life balance guidance.
We consider key issues regarding mental wellbeing, the study environment, connecting with peers, use of email, and separating work and home. We also point to some online resources to help make remote study easier, and highlight some of the advice and resources that are available.
Many people have experienced worse mental health and wellbeing since the pandemic began. In addition to the stress of worrying about our health and our loved ones, balancing caring responsibilities, adapting to changes in life plans and coping with uncertainty, the experience of remote study with less face to face contact with supervisors, lecturers and colleagues is itself a source of strain, anxiety and loneliness for many people. Therefore, there are a few things that you can do to ensure you stay well while studying remotely.
- Connect and communicate - Stay in touch with daily catch-ups and regular chats with friends, peers and family. Tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and Zoom can all be used for this.
- Get outside – Build a regular routine that includes taking time out during the day so you can get outside during daylight hours.
- Stay nourished and hydrated – Be sure to eat regular meals and stay hydrated. It can be easy to forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Take regular breaks from the screen – Have a cup of tea or coffee, listen to a podcast, read a magazine, stretch your legs or even do a few household chores.
- Exercise and keep active – Move around when you can. Although the gym may be closed, there are live online classes available via the UofG SPORT app.
- Remember to rest – Try to ensure you take time away from your studies and that you get enough rest and sleep.
- Look after your sleep – Develop a routine around bedtime that allows you to wind down after your day, and a night-time routine and bedroom environment that promote good sleep.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself or others – remote studying under the current circumstances can be stressful. Be patient, be kind - we need to support each other through the current situation. Also some people may be happier using new technologies, so allow people time to get used to it.
- Ask for help and support – Don’t hesitate to ask for help or support. Please do get in touch with your programme lead, advisor of studies or supervisor.
Our study environment has a big effect on our physical and mental wellbeing and our ability to get things done. Lack of a dedicated workspace and equipment can be a source of stress. Here are some tips for creating a good space for studying.
- Ensure you have a dedicated space for studying. Pick a spot free from distraction and clutter. Not all of us have room to make an office, but we can all pick a spot that we feel best working from. Get comfortable and work with what you have planned for the day!
- Create a daily routine – and try to stick to it. If you’d normally shower and have a coffee before going to University, continue to do so as it helps maintain a routine to distinguish between work and rest time. You may wish to create a morning ‘commute’ as you would normally – go for a short walk before starting studying. Be careful not to substitute commute time for more work time.
- Schedule (and take!) regular breaks - Regular breaks should be a key part of your routine as they provide an opportunity to clear your head and give your eyes a break from looking at a screen, as well as time to stay active and hydrated.
- Balance work time and processing time - Studying remotely means there are likely to be a lot more virtual teaching sessions and meetings to attend. It’s important to take some time in between these to process what has been discussed and update notes and any actions you may be required to do following the meeting.
- Plan your day - Create a realistic to-do list for yourself. Writing down what you need or would like to do each day gives you a checklist of what you need to get through. You can prioritise what you need to concentrate on first and work through the list until everything is done.
- Your working hours haven’t changed - Don’t forget that while the way we are working and studying has changed, the number of hours we should be working haven’t. You should try as much as possible not to put in more hours than you normally would.
- Set an end-of-day routine - Shut down, switch off and focus on your own needs. Remember, if you were at the University, you would turn off the computer at the end of the day. You still need to do this, although your commute might be shorter!
- Changing scene - consider using the University Library as a change of working environment on occasion. Remember to check the guidance on accessing the library.
- 1-2-1s and regular meetings with supervisors/advisors/peers - These should continue, even when working and studying remotely. They provide an excellent opportunity to check in and will be even more valuable now we are no longer all working in close proximity. This is especially important for PGR students and when PGT students begin to work on their dissertation.
More information is available here in the UofG guidance for working or studying remotely.
Connecting with peers
One of the biggest changes of remote studying is the reduction in interpersonal contact with our immediate peers and wider networks. This can have a knock-on effect on our sense of connection and camaraderie.
- Consider catching up with peers for coffee, lunch or a quick chat via Zoom or Teams.
- The SRC has information about what's on.
- Continue to collaborate - If you worked on certain tasks collaboratively before, there’s no reason this should stop while working remotely. There are plenty of tools you can use to collaborate and share files with your peers (e.g. Teams, Sharepoint). You might not be used to using them yet, but you’ll soon find it’s easy enough to work together from different locations.
Use of email
Some aspects of remote studying have led to an increase in email traffic, for example calendar notifications and brief queries that would previously have been dealt with face-to-face. As well as following our email etiquette guidance, we can all do our bit to reduce email burden by thinking before sending.
- Rather than sending several brief email queries, can these be saved for a regular check-in message, teaching sessions or posted on a Teams chat.
- Consider your tone - Avoid overuse of exclamation marks and capital letters. Capital letters can be used sparingly to emphasise a word or phrase. If they are used excessively then this is the virtual equivalent of shouting.
- Consider when and how you want to receive email notifications. If you have your University email on your personal devices, consider switching off alerts to ensure you only read your emails when you are actively working.
- Stand back - Is the email/message clear and concise? Give it a final read and avoid sending emails/messages in haste. Check it for spelling and grammar. MS Outlook and Teams have tools that will help.
Separating work and home
It may be difficult to create a separate workspace at home, but there are things you can do to help.
- Manage boundaries between work and home life – Take care not to let work and home life become integrated. For some, integrating home and work life isn’t a problem, but it’s important to find ways to disconnect from work and re-charge your batteries. Make time for and prioritise non-work activities that energise you, either at the start or end of your working day. Be clear about your working hours, and don’t be tempted to check work emails outside of your working day.
- Try to place your study equipment away from your living space, or at least out of your line of sight when you are relaxing.
- Avoid working in your bedroom if possible, as this can create a stressful association that may affect your sleep.
- Have a clear transition period at the start and end of the working day, e.g. by going for a walk.
- If you prefer structure and routine, try to keep this going while working from home. If you haven’t done so, consider setting ground rules to maintain structure and boundaries.
Your broadband may be under considerable strain during this period. These are some tips to help minimise your impact on network capacity.
- Whilst you are logged into the VPN using the UofG Client, avoid using the same device for other internet services, or streaming audio or video.
- If you connect via Wifi, make sure you have a good strong signal. Can you move closer to your router?
- Turn on your radio or watch broadcast TV rather than stream music or video whenever possible.
- If you have to stream video, can you reduce the download demand (reducing from 4K to HD, or from HD to SD, is about a 75% bandwidth saving each time).
- Be aware of what everyone else at home is doing on the internet and work with them to not overload things when you need to work.
- Giving your broadband router a reboot from time to time (e.g. once a week) can help prevent issues.
- Understand that domestic broadband connections are sold as a shared service and at times of peak usage you cannot always expect to get the advertised speeds.
- Ensure you are aware of your broadband contract details, any usage limits and the contact and account details for your ISP in case you need to talk to them for technical support.
- You can try to use 4G and a personal hotspot on your mobile if performance on your wired broadband is poor, but:
Be aware of your data usage limit – if can be costly if you exceed this.
Check if all data in your contract is available for use as tethering or if there is any fair use limit
Use your phone to monitor your data use, and make sure you have correctly set the day of the month when your allowances renew
These are challenging times for all of us, and everyone has different pressures in managing their studies, work and personal lives. Sometimes you might feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. That is ok – we should all make that little bit more effort to look out for each other.
IHW's PGR Conveners, Emma McIntosh (email@example.com) and Andrew Gumley (firstname.lastname@example.org) are available for all PhD students who wish to reach out and discuss any concerns about their PhD research, timelines, extensions and suspensions required and any other impacts. DClinPsy students are welcome to contact their University Adviser for support.
IHW's PGT Convener, Julie Langan Martin (Julie.email@example.com) is available for IHW PGT students who may wish to reach out and discuss any concerns about their studies.
Here are some resources that may also be useful:
- The UofG Counselling and Psychology Service webpages provide information on how to register and arrange a consultation, as well as useful self-help information on a variety of topics. For information on other Student Services visit the student support and wellbeing pages.
- UofG subscribes to Togetherall, a safe online space to get things off your chest, explore your feelings and learn how to improve and manage your mental health and wellbeing. It’s free to use and completely anonymous. It’s accessible 24/7 and provides online peer and professional support by trained counsellors. You can register through the Join Us button on the site, and then select Universities & Colleges under Organisation.
Mental health support websites
- NHS Inform - a great general site for managing stress
- Living Well - grounding exercises for managing anxiety
- Mind - a charity with lots of useful information on anxiety, depression and trauma, and also has grounding exercises
- Brothers in Arms Scotland - specifically covers issues that men may be experiencing
- Beating the Blues - provides access to self-directed cognitive behaviour therapy.
- Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87
- Samaritans - 116 123 (free from any phone)
- Living Life - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - 0800 328 9655
Gender based violence support
- Support for people experiencing domestic abuse is available on the mygov.scot website.
|Approved by||IHW Athena SWAN self assessment team|
|First approved||January 2021|
|Next review||January 2023|
All our guidelines and policies are live. Please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there is anything you would like us to consider adding or amending.