Working virtually

Staying healthy and connected

No matter where you are working, whether an academic delivering on-line teaching or a professional staff member collaborating with your team, we are all connected via virtual technology platforms. Working in the virtual world can be physically and mentally demanding and challenging. Working virtually requires more attention as some of the group dynamics, situational cues and context are diminished. Heightened attention is typically associated with a heightened state of muscle tension and fatigue.

Ensure your computer workstation is well set up so you can adopt a comfortable, neutral body posture by:

  1. following the recommended chair and desk set up in the workstation self- assessment checklist
  2. positioning your monitor at an appropriate height and distance so you are looking straight ahead with your ears vertically aligned with your shoulders and your back supported by the backrest of the chair
  3. adjusting any lighting, blinds or monitor angle so your screen is free of reflection or glare
  4. adjusting your audio to a comfortable level and camera and screen font/display so you can see and hear clearly without leaning forwards. Leaning forwards to listen or concentrate more intently imposes strain on the neck and back muscles

Minimise and control outside sources of noise or distraction and using well-fitting headphones if required.

For virtual meetings, consider using an external web camera on top of the primary computer monitor. In this way, the camera is located centrally and at an optimal height to ensure neutral neck postures. These can be sourced through the IT department, via COS on E-market or through external retail suppliers.

Use video function where possible. Being able to see your team or class, creates a much stronger connection and provides meaningful visual cues.

Mute your audio whilst you are not conversing. Use the space bar to contribute comments.

Be mindful of people with low hearing or vision who may be relying on assistive technology such as captioning.

Set and stick to parameters around maximum meeting times/length etc. and schedule a 5-minute rest break after each meeting to stretch and move.

Tune in to your body stop, drop and roll your shoulders regularly to release muscle tension.

Consider pre-recording chunks of teaching sessions if appropriate.

Consider time zones. It is important to make sure hours overlap with the rest of the team.

Respect and recognition

Whether in person or a virtual environment, all members of the University community are expected to behave in ways that promote a supportive, inclusive and effective learning and working environment in accordance with the University's Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Policy.

When your colleagues are working remotely, recognise and respect that their environments may be challenging and less than ideal.

Ensure information is shared equally with all team members, unless it needs to be confidential, so everyone feels connected.

Create virtual space for social activities, celebrations and recognition. Highlight successes and significant personal events e.g. work anniversaries, birthdays, new learning.

Use the opportunity of working remotely to practice your best version of adaptability.

Find balance and stay healthy

Focus on what you can control. Worrying about things outside your control can create anxiety and exhaustion.

Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via social media, video conferencing or telephone. Connecting with people is a critical element of psychological wellbeing.

Incorporate some exercise into your everyday whether it is jogging, yoga or table tennis it will tick many boxes from controlling weight, improving your cardiometabolic health, boosting mood and improving immunity. If you need some inspiration MU Sport has compiled a number of different resources and fitness opportunities.

Eat nutritious foods. Nutrient rich foods help your brain and your body stay healthy.

Listen to music. Music can have far reaching benefits from calming us when we are agitated or stressed, to energising us when we are tired. Sing and dance along for some extra therapeutic benefit. Check out this workday Spotify playlist for inspiration.

Practise some relaxation strategies and mindfulness exercises. There are a range of available apps available, such as headspace and smiling mind.

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