Remote Working Guidelines in the School of Molecular Biosciences

In SMB, we support remote and flexible working where practical and appropriate. With help from the University of Bristol and the School of Health and Wellbeing, we’ve developed guidelines to help you work comfortably and effectively from home.

 Online learning

Working from home can feel isolating, particularly if you’re used to a busy office and lots of human contact throughout your day. Use virtual tools and Office 365 to keep connected to your colleagues – whether that’s scheduled meetings and updates or social connections such as ‘virtual coffee breaks’ with your team. Discuss and agree with your manager and colleagues from the beginning how you can best engage with your team while working remotely.

Maintain some routine and structure

When in your home environment, it can be easy for the lines between work and home life to blur. If possible, stick to your usual hours, and create a routine that gets you ready for work mode. Build in some structure throughout your day and do something that clearly signals the end of your working day; for example, putting your laptop away.

 Create a defined workstation

It helps to set up a specific space where you will work, ideally somewhere that is not associated with rest and relaxation. It’s not always possible to have an adjustable seat, monitor, and the full range of equipment you might have at the office. However it’s useful to review this homeworking guidance and consider how you can set up your Display Screen Equipment to look after your health and safety while working from home. Separating work and home

It may be difficult to create a separate workspace at home, but there are things you can do to help.

  • Try to place your work 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.
  • Returning from annual leave is a good opportunity to make a change and tell your line manager and colleagues your preferences and intentions.

 Replicate opportunities for ad-hoc conversations

We can sometimes underestimate the power of the chance conversations we have in the office, while making a cup of tea or bumping into colleagues between meetings. These conversations can often lead to new ideas or further collaboration. You might also have regular ad-hoc catch ups with your manager. Consider how you can create opportunities for these conversations to take place, for example using virtual chat and having regular catch-ups via Skype for Business or Zoom. 

Clarify expectations with your manager

Having a discussion with your manager early on can ensure that you are both clear on what you each expect from the other. For example, this might include how and when you keep in contact, how work objectives and outcomes will be reviewed, and how you can raise concerns or queries. If your remote set-up and structure isn’t working for you, speak to your manager in the first instance, and check these resources for staff working remotely for further support and guidance.

Take regular breaks

This is crucial for your mental health and wellbeing, as well as your productivity. Make sure you get up from your desk regularly to walk around, and schedule in breaks that you can stick to. This includes a lunch break, which should ideally be taken away from your desk or your laptop.

Keep learning and developing

As always, it’s important to keep a focus on your ongoing personal and professional development. For some of you, the current circumstances will mean an interruption to usual workflow, and this could be a great opportunity to focus on learning something new, developing a new skill, or completing some essential training. For example, you might like to make use of the many online development resources on KnowHow or LinkedIn Learning, or perhaps undertake new course on FutureLearn. You might even want to set yourself individual, team or group development challenges to keep yourself motivated.

Keep up-to-date with virtual tools

There are plenty of virtual tools that will help you to do your job remotely, and keep you connected to others. It is worth exploring these and trialling them before use. For example, if you have a videoconferencing call coming up, check you have all the necessary tools available in advance and that no updates are required. Also check your camera and microphone, and that you won’t have any interruptions during the call. 

Leave the house

Working from home doesn’t have to mean staying indoors exclusively, unless you are self-isolating. Some fresh air will be helpful in keeping you working effectively, as well as being beneficial to your wellbeing and mental health. Either before or after your working day, or during your breaks, think about how you could go outside (respecting the guidelines of social distancing) for a change of scenery, some fresh air and some exercise if possible. 

Allow flexibility for trial and error

The transition to working remotely will be new and unfamiliar for many, and it will require some flexibility to figure out what works best for you, your teams and the organisation. Try not to be too hard on yourself if it takes some time to optimise your productivity and to feel comfortable with your new environment. Keep in touch with your manager regularly, visit the helpful resources on working remotely, and make sure you ask for help if you need it