Since the COVID-19 pandemic striked Europe, most of the researchers of our members institutes are working from home. We understand that this can be challenging at times. That’s why we bundled the tips and tricks given at our member institutes (AICIA, AIT, RISE, SINTEF, TNO, Tyndall, VITO, VTT) in this article.
It is important to stay in contact with your team and to seek each other out virtually so that the work and collaboration are guaranteed.
- Aim for a few fixed contact moments with your manager and team members via online communication tools. Research shows that the most common bottleneck of working from home is loneliness and communication. By scheduling fixed times, you stay informed about the projects and you hear from your teammates.
- If you still work from the office and a number of people work remotely, it is sometimes challenging to involve and inform everyone. Don’t limit yourself to the ‘physically present’ or the people you had a call with. Again, be attentive to involve / inform everyone in (online) communication.
- Are you the organizer of a conference call? Then it is even more important to guarantee efficiency than with an ordinary meeting. Involve everyone, inquire about people you don’t hear much during the meeting, summarise every now and then, go over action points. A good preparation will certainly help you with this.
- Think with your team about ways to do virtual team building. For example, you can organize a virtual lunch or, when time is short, a virtual coffee break. Stay connected for sure. Create a WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams group to stay connected with your team, if everyone is able/willing to do so, of course. Respect each other’s opinions and see what works best.
- Also do virtual check-ins with colleagues who are alone to ensure everything is OK.
- Make a day plan and structure your working day for yourself. Register it in your calendar so that it is clear to your colleagues and they can see when you are available and when you are working.
- Try and stick to your working hours. If your day deviates from a normal working day schedule (e.g. grocery shopping during the day), inform your colleagues by indicating this in your agenda.
- Exchange experience: inspire and motivate each other with tips and tricks. What works for you? What doesn’t? How do you tackle home office?
- Are you having a less productive day? Communicate about it openly with your manager and explore together what can work or work better.
- Separate your working time from your personal time. Working from home is like working a regular day, just from another location. Stop working from home when the office hours are over. In this way, ensure a good balance between work and private life.
- Prioritise video calls over voice-only calls, as you can gauge tone and emotion, and build and maintain relationships more effectively. This of course implies getting dressed before your video call!
- Make use of the online collaboration tools to be in touch with your close friends as well.
In addition, check the five tips for online video meetings, written by SINTEF Researcher Nils Brede Moe https://www.sintef.no/en/latest-news/working-from-home-does-not-make-us-less-productive/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter or Digital Science’s news blog https://www.digital-science.com/blog/news/working-remotely-at-digital-science-tips-from-across-the-globe/
Working at home with children
Sometimes it can be a challenge to work efficiently with children at home. We selected for you some useful tips from expert – educational scientist Sylvia Mommaerts of the expertise centre Education & Development UCLL (source: https://radio1.be/thuiswerken-met-de-kinderen-de-buurt-enkele-tips):
- Give structure to your children. As a parent, you suddenly have to take on different roles. Besides mum and dad, you are also a teacher and you have to get your own work done. This can be very confusing for children. Structure is not the golden wand, but it helps.
- Make a day or week schedule. Bringing structure can provide predictability and peace of mind. You bring structure on two levels: when you do something and where you do something. It is best to make that visual by means of a concrete day or week plan. It is important that children understand the order of the day. But also where certain things happen. For example: we do homework at a desk, but we eat at the table.
- ‘Time together’ and ‘time alone’. Another way of structuring is to clearly distinguish between ‘time together’ and ‘time alone’. At a certain point, parents also have to be able to work and it is important that they can isolate themselves for a while. It’s best to think for a moment about what your child can do if he or she needs to occupy himself alone for a while. With young children it is important to give them some choices. Don’t just say ‘play with your toys’, because that is very spacious. Rather, ask them if they want to draw or play with clay, for example. Just like they have to choose between certain angles in kindergarten.
How do you ensure that you can work ergonomically at home?
- Choose the correct position of your monitor in relation to the window. Ideally, the position should be at 90° to the window and not too close to it. If you are sitting directly in front of the window, the difference between the amount of light on your screen and the light from outside may get your eyes tired. If you sit with your back to the window, the text on the screen may be difficult to read due to reflection.
- Make sure you have sufficient lighting above your workplace. This gives you good light for reading documents.
- Always slide your chair properly at your work table. Avoid typing with your arms outstretched, this will cause increased tension in the arm, shoulder and neck muscles.
- Preferably work with a separate keyboard and mouse. Place the keyboard and mouse as close to you as possible so that your upper/lower arm forms an angle of 90%. Then place your laptop on a pile of books so that the top of the screen is at eye level.
- If you have a separate screen, set the screen approximately an arm’s length away and make sure you’re looking straight at your screen. The top of the screen should ideally be at eye level.
- Try to work standing up from time to time: at the kitchen counter, for example, as long as the worktop is at approximately elbow height. You don’t find a surface at elbow height? Try using your ironing board for a while or even, if safe, place a smaller table on top of another one.
- Provide variation in your working posture. Every half hour it is wise to move or stand for a while. For example, make a phone call while walking in your garden.
- If you are two people or more working from home in the same room, it’s a good idea to use another room for online meetings (for example a bedroom), so that you don’t disturb each other. This will also make you feel that you are actually “going to a meeting” and will help you focus on the meeting discussion.
- Try to create your workspace away from the place you go to relax. Hanging out on the couch for a while or adopting a lowered posture is not so bad, but don’t do it for too long.
- Regularly go for a short walk (while respecting social distancing with other people) and start that online yoga class that was part of your New Year’s resolutions.
We would also like to recommend to you the 5 tips for a good indoor air quality in your home office, written by SINTEF-NTNU Researcher Maria Justo Alonso: https://blog.sintef.com/sintefbuilding/home-office-5-tips-for-good-indoor-air-quality/
- Eat well and maybe focus a bit more on cooking. This could be your chance of buying a vegetarian cookbook exploring all the variety of food you could make.
- Make good use of the commute time you are saving everyday and spend this time wisely.