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Working from home

As we move into national lockdown once more, most of us will be at home for a while longer to ensure the safety of colleagues and students.

The way you have all responded to this unique situation has been nothing short of amazing, but we understand that you may have found this period difficult and perhaps you’ve felt that you’ve not been as productive as usual, balancing work with many other commitments or coping with isolation.

We also know that some staff have found this 'new normal' brings flexibility to their working lives, and this is certainly something we don't want to lose when we return to normality, whatever that looks like.

These pages are intended to update you on information and guidance for working at home during these strange times.

Homeworking policy

We are committed to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of all colleagues. In response to the pandemic, we followed the Government’s advice that people who could work from home, should do so, and in line with the latest guidance, many of us will remain off-campus until 8 March.

Our homeworking policy draws on the lessons we have learnt over recent months to enable homeworking to continue where it is appropriate for both the University and individuals. We recognise that, while some may welcome a return to working on campus, others will have anxieties and concerns about doing so. Not all roles can be carried out from home, but where appropriate, it may be required and/or possible for you to work from home until informed otherwise. This will allow us to maximise health and safety measures on site, including social distancing.

Our homeworking policy and associated guidance covers: 

  • The requirements to work from home
  • Prioritising working from home 
  • Equipment needs
  • Data security and confidentiality
  • Health, safety and wellbeing

Detailed guidance is also available for line managers to help guide discussions about working arrangements for individuals. 

As the pandemic continues we  will monitor and follow relevant Government guidance on working from home, and our policy will adapt to any changing guidance.

Caring responsibilities

With schools and nurseries closed until at least 8 March, this winter may seem like a tough slog and we know that it isn't easy to manage working from home with children or other caring responsibilities.

Although, the guidance has changed since it was first issued, you may be able to secure key worker places for children in your care, more information here. If you need support from Brunel in applying for school and nursery places, please discuss this with your line manager and your HR Business Partner. If your role is considered to be critical, you can request a letter from HR supporting your application.

Those who have children in education or childcare settings, may also be subject to short notice closures due to local cases, the introduction of twice weekly testing for teachers or other restrictions. 

We only ask that staff continue to do the best they can. That might mean managing your time differently, being offline at some points of the day, or simply asking for help if you need it. Please let your line manager and HR know if you are struggling and come to a flexible working arrangement if you are able, to manage your time as effectively as possible. If you feel like you need support, take advantage of our Care First, employee assistance programme. 

Managers should try to consider where teams can be flexible and understand when members of staff might not be online or able to work effectively.

Using online tools

There are a number of different tools and platforms that can help members of staff access their files and work as part of a team from home. These include our Office365 applications, most of which you may now be familiar with, as well as tools you may use every day and can also access from off-campus. 

We've put together a guide here for staff on how to use the services available to us, as well as some guidance around keeping in touch with your team. If you get stuck, there is more specific information about these packages on the Connect portal here.

Improving your home work environment

Many of us started working from home pretty much overnight to reflect national guidelines, and that means we've been working with what we have. As we continue to be based at home our long-term needs should be taken into account.

Guidance has been prepared to help you ensure your home set up is suitable, including a shortened self-assessment version of the Display Screen Equipment checklist. If you haven't done so already, please complete the form and upload it to your CHIME record. 

Should you require further assistance or guidance please contact your line manager in the first instance. They should be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information relevant to your area. If you find that you need further specific advice then please contact the Health and Safety team at healthandsafey@brunel.ac.uk.

Equipment needs

Details of how to order IT kit are available here. The same ordering process can be used to order furniture such as office chairs, desks and laptop stands if needed. 

Staff can also visit campus to collect belongings or equipment that is needed at home but please be aware of social distancing guidance and any rotas that may be in place for access to your building. If your building has not yet reopened you will need to follow the risk assessment process and gain approval from your Head of Department: 


Check the status of your building here

For further information, visit the Health and Safety website.

Staying motivated

Working from home has its challenges - here are some tips for the Brunel community on how to look after yourself and your colleagues:

  1. Routine and getting dressed

It sounds like a really simple one, but getting up at the same time and getting dressed is great for motivation, separating the workday from evenings and weekends. 

  1. Make a work space

Have a think about what kind of space might be most productive – do you work well in the quiet or with ambient noise around? We don’t know how long we may be working from home for so try and sit at a desk (or table) with a supportive chair. If you can, have a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor to avoid fatigue. That way, when you sit on the sofa – it’s a break from work rather than always being in the same spot.

  1. Set mini goals

Whether it’s finally typing up those pesky minutes, reviewing a policy or updating that web page – set yourself mini goals for the day and the week and tick them off! Also – plan ahead with your manager so you know what your work stream looks like, this may help manage your time.

  1. Talk to each other

This one is key. We don’t just mean in the work sense either. Check in regularly with your friends and family, play online games together or have a group chat.

Work wise, agree with your team and/or line manager that you will check in regularly (and use video calling) to bring a sense of normality to your work life. Microsoft Teams is great for video calling, group chat and meetings – so get scheduling.

  1. Keep moving (exercise)

Obviously this one depends on your health, and government advice, but staying as active as possible is good for the mind and the body. There are loads of free workouts to follow online, video classes on YouTube or if the restrictions allow, go for a walk/run (maintaining at least 2 metres distance from others).

  1. Look at websites other than BBC news

Don’t always subject yourself to the rolling news coverage. There are loads of interesting sites out there and watching constant negative coverage can impact your mood. You could set up alerts to breaking news or watch the 6pm news to stay up to date. This one is a personal choice – but you will feel better if you diversify the websites and tv channels you watch.

  1. Apps, reading and being creative

There are loads of apps out there that can help us manage our mood and emotional wellbeing. Have a look in your app store for apps like Headspace! Reading is a fantastic way to pass the time too and can really help you drift off to sleep – so try and find a good book. If reading isn’t for you – get creative and paint, draw and create. 

  1. Playing games (with your colleagues too)

Yes, games are a great way to lighten your mood, reduce stress and promote social interaction. There are loads of free online games to play – maybe once a week have a tournament with your team to see who is the Pictionary champion over Skype or something similar. Ask your manager what may work – but we are encouraging some social time in the work week too.

All in all, try and keep things varied, find what works for you and let your Line Manager know if you need help.

Supporting your team

You may have found working from home has been really effective and for others, not so much. It looks like we are in this for some time still so it is key to address any concerns you have with those working from home. Our reward and wellbeing team has put together ten top tips to managing teams remotely.

It's good practice for line managers to ensure they keep in touch regularly with their staff. Most of you will be familiar with our Office 365 tools and platforms, such as Teams which is a really good way of sharing work, ideas or simply conversation. Find out more about how to use it here.

Keep an eye on IntraBrunel for activities and webinars you can attend as a team - for example, our regular quizzes and recent Staff House Party (all sessions were recorded and are available to watch back). The Brunel community has also put in practice some creative ways of using Teams and Yammer to keep colleagues communicating – from book clubs to bingo, and yoga to Friday catch-ups. Get together with your team and see what might work.

Furloughed staff

Some staff are still on furlough under the government's job retention scheme. See our guidelines here. Line managers who are uncertain about the conditions of furlough should contact their HR Business Partner.

The Government has announced an extension to the furlough provision until the end of April, but there are likely to be different terms attached while the Government appears very keen to start getting people back to work. Our Task & Finish groups will be looking at how we transition back to business as usual on campus, how we shape our offering going forward and how we can make the best use of our resources. All of this will inform the timing for getting people back to work.

It’s important to remember that any decision to furlough a member of staff is entirely temporary in order to address short-term issues; it has absolutely no effect on their long-term employment at Brunel.

Looking after your wellbeing

A third lockdown in winter was always going to be tough; try and make times for regular breaks from the computer and go outside for some exercise, restrictions permitting - it really can make all the difference.

Now more than ever, we need to focus on our self-care and overall wellbeing, so we have brought together bite-size sessions you can drop-in to during your lunch hour. These include mindfulness and meditation sessions from the Meeting House, fiitness sessions you can do inside and wellbeing webinars from Care First, your employee assistance programme. Take a look at IntraBrunel.

You can always check in one of our Wellbeing champions who are here to provide a listening ear and can tell you more about where you can get advice from or access some of the many resources on our Wellbeing pages:

  • Care First are our employee assistance provider which means they offer a wide range of free services to everyone working at Brunel, including helplines for wellbeing advice, counselling, stress management and dedicated support for line managers which supports you as a manager not just how to manage others.
  • Able Futures offer a wide range of first-class mental health support services delivered by qualified health care professionals. They will listen to you to understand any difficulties you are experiencing and create an individual plan of support.
  • Neyber's experts can help you manage your finances.

Our very own ‘Your Rewards’ portal can help you save money on your everyday shopping both on line and in-person, as well as highlights many tips about wellbeing both within Brunel and generally​.

 If you would like some space to reflect, pray or talk you can email our Anglican Chaplain Revd Dr Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski at The Meeting House