Working from home

This guide provides practical tips and guides to support you when you are working from home.

The Working from Home Moodle course also covers key issues and will connect you with others adapting to this way of working.

Getting started

Setting up your IT

See the detailed information on IT set up for working from home where you can find information including:

  • equipment set up
  • email
  • files and folders
  • using Zoom
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Should you have a computer problem, please contact the IT Helpdesk.


If your phone has the facility, update your voicemail message to inform callers that you are working remotely. Include your email address to give callers the option to send an email rather than leaving a voice message. You can access your voicemail remotely by:

  1. Dialling 01206 873467
  2. During your greeting message dial 9 followed by your extension number
  3. Follow the instructions

You may need to transfer your phone to another number if another member of your team will be answering in your absence.

Your work environment

  • It is best, if possible, to try and identify a space for you to work. Carry out a home working risk assessment (.docx) of your space to make sure it is set up for your comfort and safety and discuss the outcome with your manager. If you need further advice, contact Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
  • If possible, use a room to work in that will enable you to distance yourself from home distractions. Ideally it should be a room with daylight that will enable you to replicate your office set-up at home.
  • If you are using IT equipment at home, please make good use of a table and chair as opposed to sitting on the sofa or in bed. Ensure that you take regular breaks every hour. Contact Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing if you experience any discomfort or pain.
  • Be mindful of working on any confidential data and the challenges faced from working at home. Make sure you lock your computer when leaving it, exactly as you would in the office.

Working at home

Staying in contact

  • Agree with your manager what your priorities will be when working from home and have an open conversation about any aspects of your role that you would not be able to undertake when working from home. Have a plan with your manager about how these parts of your role will be completed.
  • Agree how best to communicate with your manager and team eg. will you use Zoom video conferencing? It is the supported tool for online meetings. Have you considered how you will stay in touch or hold meetings?
  • When working from home, agree what contact with your manager will look like in terms of frequency or format.
  • If appropriate, share your contact details with your line manager and colleagues, ensuring that you set some ground rules on when you can be contacted and who else can have access to them.

Email etiquette and online communication

  • Update your availability on your Outlook calendar so that colleagues know when you are available for calls and online meetings.
  • Update your email signature detailing your hours of work and that an immediate response may not be possible.
  • Ensure when you are not available that you put your Outlook auto response on detailing when a response should be expected and/or when you will be available again.
  • Be mindful that other colleagues may not be keeping the same hours as you. Try to limit the sending of emails to within normal business hours. Should you be working early mornings or late nights for ease, delay the sending of the emails until the hours between 8.30am and 6pm. In your email options, there is the functionality to delay the delivery of emails, think about how this can be used to help colleagues. Some people are now mainly communicating by text, please remember basic etiquette.
  • Where possible avoid using CAPITALS AS THIS INDICATES SHOUTING. Red text indicates anger and only underline when you need to emphasise a particular word.
  • Other helpful tips are to proof read every message you send (even a chat) and double check who you are responding to (with all the different communication platforms we may have open at any one time, it is easy to send the wrong message to the wrong person).
  • When you are not working, we strongly recommend that you switch off PCs/laptops/tablets and put them out of sight. If you receive notifications on your phone, make sure you mute these when you are not working. It is vital that there is a clear line between working from home and being at home.

You may also find videos on email etiquette useful, as well as Outlook 2016 Essential Training for a general overview.

Looking after yourself

  • Make sure you schedule regular short breaks every hour to move and rehydrate and get some fresh air, and if lucky, a little sun.
  • Take some of the time you are saving by not commuting to do something good for your health: walk, light exercise or read. One of the most significant contributors to physical and emotional well-being is sleep.
  • Take a lunch break away from your home working set-up.
  • Sitting in the same position for hours is bound to lead to aches and pain. Taking short (5–10 minute) breaks from DSE work will help you to work more efficiently and reduce the risk of harm. Essex Sport has created a 5 minute video showing a range of chair stretch and mobility exercises that you can do at your desk to keep you active whilst taking a break.
  • Don’t become isolated. Keep in touch with others via Zoom (the University’s supported tool for video conferencing and online meetings). Commit to virtual coffee breaks at least once a day.
  • Try to structure your day. Have set times for set tasks, be realistic about what can be achieved.
  • Try to pack away your work things at the end of the working day, ideally keeping some definition between working hours/space and your own time.
  • Where possible try to keep to normal working hours, make sure your team know the hours you will be keeping, give thought to the times your customers may normally contact you and how you can build this service into home working.
  • During the pandemic you may experience stress, depression and anxiety due to the pressures experienced by yourself or members of your family and friends. With the difficulty of accessing the University's Occupational Health service whilst offsite, you are still able to access the following wellbeing resources:
    • SilverCloud is an online cognitive behaviour therapy service which uses clinically proven tools and techniques to help you if struggling with these issues, offering activities to help you overcome these. SilverCloud can be accessed from your computer, tablet or mobile phone, 24/7.
    • Validium is a professional and independent employee assistance and offers access to information services such as counselling support (i.e. signposting and online resources), legal guidance, financial advice and wellbeing information.
  • Coaching for success is able to offer coaching either on the telephone or via Zoom.
  • If you feel you need a referral to Occupational Health, we still are able to offer appointments either onsite, on telephone or via Zoom. To do this you will need to have your line manager or Employee Relations Advisor complete a referral form. You can also make direct contact with us by emailing or telephone on 01206 872399 if you have any wellbeing questions

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Telephone: 01206 873433