Enabling remotely working teams

Updated: 25 August 2021

The outbreak of COVID-19 means that we need to be prepared to implement remote working arrangements for many roles which have historically been campus-based, and at times with short transition periods.

In the current situation, remote working presents unique challenges around connectivity, engagement, productivity and care of others for staff members and their managers.

Use the navigation bar on the left to find tips for staff members who are balancing remote working with caring for dependents and additional tips for line managers.

REMEMBER: staff can access additional specific information which will assist with remote working via the following links:

Teaching and Learning support

Technology (or call the service desk on 07 838 4008 or log a request through Kuhukuhu)

HR matters (or email [email protected])

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider, Benestar, is here to help. It is recommended that you contact them by email in the first instance, in case their staff are working remotely. Email [email protected].

Well-being resources

University of Waikato: COVID-19 information

Prior to working remotely

A fundamental question for anyone in planning to work remotely is ‘am I well equipped to work remotely?’ This includes whether you are able to psychologically separate home and work life and are physically set up to do this. Firstly, identify a dedicated work space. This will ensure that you minimise disturbing others (and vice versa), and also enhance your privacy and that of your work.

    What equipment is essential for you to work remotely?
  • Laptop or desktop computer
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Monitor(s)
  • Headphones / headset
  • Connection cables and power cord
  • A suitable chair
  • Resources: notepad, books, pens, etc.
  • Stationery: paper, paper clips, stapler, hole punch, pens, etc.
  • Anything else?
  • Considerations:
  • What do you already have at home and what will you need from the office?
  • How will you transport equipment? Will you need assistance?
  • Do you have all the software installed that you need for your role? Does it work remotely?
  • Ensure you have a reliable internet connection.
  • Get familiar with all of the technology you will need to work remotely e.g. Zoom for online meetings
  • Do you know how to connect to the network remotely?
  • Ensure you know any login details and passwords you may require.

  • Ensure that the appropriate technology is in place to support your workflow. If you have any specific queries about technology please call the service desk on 07 838 4008 or log a request through Kuhukuhu.
  • Identify and address any skills gaps relating to specific technology as soon as possible. E.g. if you are expected to use online portals, new technology or video calling check that you know how to use it before you need to.
  • Consider any additional resources, training and support that needs to take place to enable remote working.

Guidance for employees who are remote working:

Set a routine
  • Working in a different environment requires us to establish routines to plan our day effectively. Consider setting the same type of routine as you would at your usual place of work, with scheduled breaks. This can assist with keeping you on task and focused on your work.
  • Set boundaries. When working from home it's easy to blur the lines between working life and home life. Try to stick to something that resembles your usual working hours (while being flexible where necessary). Be mindful of distractions, such as family members, pets, household chores. This is where a schedule can help.
  • Incorporate new habits into your routine which energise you. Remember to take time out and stretch.
  • Take regular and scheduled breaks, this is important to assist productivity and creativity and prevent work related fatigue.
  • One suggestion could be to start your day with a 'purpose check-in' by asking simple questions like: “What impact will I have today? Whose lives do I contribute to through my work?” Regardless of your new environment, you can find a sense of stability through reconnecting with your purpose.
Communication is key
  • Be as actively social and communicative as you can, for your mental well-being and your work.
  • Ensure that you have regular check-ins with your manager.
  • Make use of existing technologies to proactively reach out to other members of the team to maintain an overview of the work of others, and to maintain working relationships. This could simply mean jumping onto a call over a coffee for a quick check-in.
  • Keep connected with your colleagues, friends and family (remotely if necessary) and take time out to enjoy social time with other members in your household during down time (if applicable).
  • Start a Slack group for the whole team to come together, set aside a thread for fun content to keep spirits up. It can be helpful to reroute such conversations onto an online forum accessible by all, instead of via email.
Ensure that your remote working setup is suitable for the work you do

Workstation setup is extremely important because a poor workstation can increase the chances of headaches, backache, neck pain and eyestrain. It can also affect your productivity and cause you to suffer from poor posture in the long term.

This seven-minute video from the OD team highlights some tips and tricks to setup your workstation effectively at home.

You can also email [email protected] with any concerns you have, or to arrange an online workstation assessment with a Health, Safety and Wellness Advisor.

If you experience pain and discomfort, you are encouraged to report this immediately so we can prevent escalation of the problem.

The following tips may help you get more comfortable while remote working.

Setting yourself up

  • Forearms should be approximately horizontal and the user’s eyes should be the same height as the top of the screen.
  • Arrange the desk and screen to avoid glare, or bright reflections. This is often easiest if the screen is not directly facing windows or bright lights. Adjust curtains or blinds to prevent intrusive light.
  • When sitting, make sure there is space under the desk to move your legs.
  • If you do not have a chair with back support, you can use a rolled up towel or small cushion to provide support.
  • Avoid excess pressure from the edge of seats on the backs of legs and knees. A footrest may be helpful, if you do not have a footrest you may wish to improvise by using another solid surface.

Using your keyboard

  • Good keyboard technique is important – you can do this by keeping a soft touch on the keys and not overstretching the fingers. Try to keep your wrists straight when typing.
  • Position the mouse within easy reach, so it can be used with a straight wrist.
  • Sit upright and close to the desk to reduce working with the mouse arm stretched.
  • Move the keyboard out of the way if it is not being used.
  • Support your forearms on the desk, and don’t grip the mouse too tightly.

Reading the screen

  • Your screen should be at arm’s length away from your face and you should be able to read information without lowering or elevating your head.
  • Make sure individual characters on the screen are sharp, in focus and don’t flicker or move. If they do, your screen may need adjustment. Log a request with ITS if you need assistance
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room.
  • Choose text that is large enough to read easily on screen when sitting in a normal comfortable working position.

Here are some additional tips and tricks to help setup your workstation from Alan Hedge, a professor who's research and teaching activities focus on issues of design and workplace ergonomics. In addition to this, here is a 3-minute video from ergonomics expert Jon Cinkay.

Change your activities regularly

Breaking up long spells of activity at the workstation helps prevent fatigue, eyestrain, upper limb problems and backache. Organised or scheduled rest breaks are helpful in preventing strains. The following may help:

  • Stretch and change position at least twice every hour – more often if you are working on a laptop or have a small computer screen.
  • Look into the distance from time to time, and blink often.
  • Change activity before you get tired, rather than waiting for fatigue to set in and needing to recover.
  • Short, frequent breaks are more beneficial than longer, infrequent ones.

Use of Laptops/ portable devices

  • Whenever possible, use a firm surface such as a desk and a full-sized keyboard and mouse.
  • The height and position of the screen should be angled so that the user is sitting comfortably and reflection is minimised. Raiser blocks are commonly used to help with screen height but books or other solid objects can also be used.
  • More changes in activity and breaks may be needed if the operator cannot minimise prolonged use and awkward postures while using the laptop.

Remember: Health and Safety at Work is important; the University has the primary responsibility for people’s health and safety at work. When staff are working remotely and we have little visibility of work spaces we are reliant on you to ensure that your work-space is suitable for the work you are doing and is safe. To this end, you must run through the ‘Remote Working Health, Safety and Wellness Self-Review’ below and confirm with your manager that you have completed this.

Maintain Confidentiality and privacy

Put suitable practices in place to ensure that you maintain confidentiality and privacy in your work, where applicable.

Know when to unplug

Determine a time to finish working remotely each day and stick to it as best you can. Close your laptop, turn off your computer or other devices, and put them out of sight, or close the door on your work-space. Work-life balance is important to staying productive, maintaining well-being and returning to work refreshed.

Schedule time for healthy habits

Everyone responds to remote working differently. Some people will naturally overwork themselves, while others will struggle to stay on task throughout the day. Scheduling breaks is so important for your physical and mental health. Set a regular reminder on your phone to practice healthy habits. Find some suggestions on our Well-being page.

Dress the part

Part of maintaining your routine means being taking time to get ready, as you usually would, and dressing for work. Selecting appropriate clothing for the work that you do keeps you connected to your work and helps create boundaries between time spent working and time spent relaxing at home.

Balancing remote working with care-giving

Some staff members may be working remotely with other family members also at home, including dependents. In this instance it is beneficial for staff and their managers to have an open conversation to manage expectations, gain clarity on objectives and deadlines, and agree a plan.

Individuals may also need to have conversations within the household to determine if and how you can divide family responsibilities with your support systems (if applicable). You can find additional guidance for balancing remote working with care-giving here.

Show empathy and patience

It's important to remember that we are all in this together and we are all impacted. We all have a responsibility to safeguard public health. This requires us to look out for and look after one-another as best we can.

If you are a line manager, there is additional guidance here.

Remote Working Health, Safety and Wellness Self-Review

  • Once your workstation is setup, check this against the guidance for workstations above
  • Ensure that you have sufficient lighting and ventilation
  • Ensure that the floor area is free from trip hazards
  • Ensure that electrical plugs, sockets and power leads are not damaged
  • Know how to contact your manager

NOTE: If you have  issues with your safety or if you sustain a work related injury you must tell your manager immediately and report it in our incident reporting system

If you, or your team members, require additional support, we encourage you to:
  • Speak with your manager to address any challenges you have or issues you may face.
  • Find additional information on the FAQ pages or contact HR
  • Contact our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider, Benestar, by email on [email protected]
  • Call or text 1737; New Zealand’s national mental health & addictions helpline number or call 0800 lifeline (543 354) for immediate external support
  • Access Just a Thought, a free online learning tool to assist with mental well-being

Please take care of your health and well-being, check in with your team members and those around you, and reach out if you need additional support.