During the pandemic period, many staff will be working from home as schools need less staff to maintain provision for attending pupils and some staff are in self-isolation. This guidance sets out the key considerations for managers and staff to help support working from home.
Following School Policies and Procedures
All staff must continue to have full regard to all school policies and procedures, particularly:
- Computer, phone, email and internet policies and/or acceptable use of IT policy
- Code of Conduct
IT Equipment, Technical Support and Advice
Wherever possible, those working at home should have equipment (laptops/mobile phones) provided by the school and use secure school networks. Schools may need to arrange reasonable additional equipment and technical support and advice e.g. on use of remote communication systems.
Where such equipment is not available, staff should exercise sensible judgement, but schools will need to set clear parameters for use of personal equipment, which is normally prohibited i.e.:
- Withholding a mobile phone number when ringing out on school business
- Not giving out personal number, especially to pupils and parents/careers
- Minimizing storage of sensitive personal data
- Ensuring files are encrypted
- Ensuring virus/malware protection is up to date
Schools will need to be very clear about any arrangements and specific rules around remote learning for, and with, students. Schools should set this out in a separate policy or agreement as part of home-working arrangements – signed by staff as best practice.
Finding Your “Home office” Space
Finding an ideal workspace at home is not an easy task although the following is recommended to help discover the best space possible:
- Keep work and home areas separate so that work does not overtake the normal home environment
- Clear work items including paperwork and equipment away at the end of the day helps show a distinction between work finishing and normal home life resuming
- Minimise distractions from others in the household wherever possible, shutting the door during periods of work, retreating to a quiet area and asking others to respect working time could help.
Hours of work
These are unprecedented times. Recognising that individuals are facing personal and work challenges is important and a certain degree of flexibility is required. A regular ‘routine’ is recommended to provide effective separation from personal and work life to maintain wellbeing. It is accepted that a ‘day’s work’ may be done at home in an irregular pattern, sometimes around other responsibilities such as childcare, but it is important that “off duty” times are clearly defined.
Staff working from home should be available for contact with colleagues, managers and students as required, but otherwise be trusted to do what needs to get done without overly rigid structures.
It is essential that those working at home take regular breaks, as they would at the workplace. It is important to have breaks from VDU use and for overall wellbeing.
The Importance of Communication
Communication is crucial to help overcome feelings of isolation which can lead to poor mental health.
Regular contact times should be arranged between colleagues and between staff and their managers. Line managers should take responsibility for ensuring frequent contact with their staff both individually and via team meetings, to inform, update and check on wellbeing. All staff should be proactive in engaging with each other to support work collaboration and morale.
Preferred and consistent communication methods should be agreed so that individuals are not excluded. It is recommended that at least some contact is undertaken via video link, as this can be more beneficial to wellbeing than just email or telephone contact.
NB social media should not be used for school business but can be useful for informal contact between colleagues.
Changes in circumstances
It is essential that staff keep line mangers informed, in line with normal reporting procedures, of any changes to their personal circumstances, for example if they fall ill for any reason or need to go into self-isolation so that appropriate arrangements can be put in place and support provided as necessary.
Personal Wellbeing and Support
With so much uncertainty and the change to normal work patterns, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behavior. There are simple things that everyone can do to stay mentally and physically healthy during this time such as:
- Take some form of physical activity (either at home or in the fresh air if able)
- Spend time doing things for pleasure
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, and try to avoid smoking and alcohol
- Keep in regular contact with friends and family
It is the responsibility of individuals to contact managers if there are emerging concerns about their health and wellbeing, so that managers can provide/signpost appropriate support.