Working remotely

Current status

Work for most employees must continue remotely until at least December 31, 2020 to minimize the number of people on our campuses and prevent the spread of COVID-19. See COVID-19 Information for the U of A Community for updates.

Tips for working remotely

Set a routine

  • Prepare as if you are going into the office. Set an alarm, get up, get showered, and get ready for the day ahead. Don’t forget the coffee!
  • Prioritize your day. Decide what you need to get done in the day and organize a work plan.
  • Where possible, minimize distraction. Not all of us will have the “perfect” home work environment, but are there ways we can minimize distractions and give ourselves a better opportunity to focus.
  • Ensure you are taking regular breaks. Get some fresh air, take one of your breaks outdoors, or go for a quick walk to change things up. If you find it helpful you can schedule breaks or lunch in your calendar so that a reminder goes off for you to take that time.
  • Evaluate your day. Did you get the things done you were hoping to do? Are there changes you need to make to be more productive? Do you have the technology required? If not, ask for what you need whether it be from family (limited interruptions during the work day) or from work (a piece of software you need on your home computer).

Re-create your workplace as much as possible

  • Ensure you have necessary software and hardware. In order to be successful, it is essential you have the necessary software and hardware. If you do not have the technology to perform your responsibilities, speak to your supervisor about who you can ask and how they can support you or help troubleshoot your request. For more information, visit Information Services and Technology's Guidelines for Working Remotely.
  • Check the ergonomics of your setup. Whether working off a kitchen table or in a home office, there are a variety of tips and best practices you can consult in order to maintain health and prevent future problems. Take an ergonomic self-assessment and learn more about the ergonmics of working from home.
  • Set boundaries. Just because you are working from home does not mean your responses to emails, calls, and text messages must be instantaneous. Log off at the end of the day and, as much as your job allows, try to avoid email and other work tasks on the weekend.
  • Practice change management. Give yourself time and space to adjust to a different work environment. Your workspace is different; we don’t have access to the same things we used to; we might not have multiple screens; things may take more time. Acknowledge the amount of change management you have already had to do in a very short time.
  • Take time for professional development. Lunch and Learns are available online, and there are many e-courses that are free to access through the Employee and Family Assistance Program provider. Please remember to watch the LearnCentre catalogues for upcoming course offerings from providers.
  • Be present. When you are meeting with colleagues and co-workers online, give them your full attention. Try to focus your attention specifically to the meeting rather than trying to do other things on your computer or phone at the same time. It is important that your colleagues and friends feel they have your attention.

Practice self care

  • Get exercise during meetings. If you have a telephone meeting, walk around your space during the meeting to stretch your legs.
  • Stay connected. We are bound to have multiple online meetings throughout the day. Take time to connect with a colleague you used to see in the hallway. Reach out and see how they are doing. FaceTime them or give them a call to chat. Talk about things other than work for a few minutes!
  • Give yourself and others grace. It’s okay to feel tired! Working from home is still working. Studies have shown that online meetings are actually more tiring than face-to-face meetings from: they involve staring at screens for long periods, trying to monitor where voices are coming from, read facial expressions from a tiny (often blurry) image, and tech issues around sound or video.
  • Realize that this has been an emotionally overwhelming time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The new “normal” is hard to get used to. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths, try not to get frustrated, go at your own pace, try to focus on one task at a time. We may feel worried, anxious, tired and uncertain about the future. We can be worried about becoming ill, about jobs, our family members, our finances, and how long this will last. We are dealing with all of these feelings and challenges, without the physical support of people we would usually rely on. We miss our routines, our coffee shops, our family, our friends, even our coworkers! And that’s ok.
  • Remember that support is available whenever you need it. Staff, faculty, and their eligible dependents have access to psychological counseling support through our Employee and Family Assistance Program provider by calling 780-428-7587.

Show empathy towards yourself and others

  • Be mindful of proximity bias, the incorrect assumption that when people are not physically present at work, their productivity and work quality decreases.
  • When possible, use two-way video conferencing for meetings so that non-verbal cues are not lost.
  • Remember that it can be difficult to participate in virtual conversations. Verify that everyone can hear, follow the dialogue, and contribute to the conversation.
  • Adopt strategies to proactively enhance inclusion, such as suspending judgement, active listening, and seeking to understand.
  • Be intentional in providing feedback and praise during the transition to working remotely.

Managing work time 

Pay attention to the hours you are working and make sure that you build in both regular breaks during the work day and clearly defined “off” hours. Note that Settings in Google Calendar allows you to select “speed meetings” as the default setting: 60-minute meeting slots become 50 minutes and 30-minute slots become 25. For those university employees who are interested in tracking their time, you can use a free service such as Clockify.