Advice for teams
This guidance is aimed at individuals in teams working remotely. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but will highlight some good practice and things to think about to make remote working successful.
Remote working is not practical or possible for all individuals in all roles. You should discuss the pros and cons of remote working and agree an arrangement with your line manager before starting.
We understand that the recommendations and technology we are asking people to adopt will be unfamiliar to many. We encourage everyone to try new approaches, don't worry about getting things wrong, be understanding when things don’t go as well as we hoped and support everyone to learn and improve. You can do this by sending feedback to IT Services:
If you need help you can contact IT Support at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)1904 323838.
Teams work best when they are communicating effectively and can collaborate easily. The following mechanisms should provide support in achieving this remotely.
Agree communications channels
Teams have many different communication channels available to use. Remote working as a team can result in the volume of written communication increasing significantly, or it can feel like there is an expectation to respond immediately.
In order to promote uninterrupted periods of work, agree with your teams the method of communication so it’s clear which channels are used for urgent requests. This allows teams to prioritise the increased communication effectively.
Please be patient with colleagues who are new to or not practised with different technologies and help colleagues connect with you so that work can be carried out effectively.
Also consider the different types of discussions you may have and which tools may be more suitable. For example, long and complex conversations will be easier to conduct via an online meeting, using Hangouts Meet, rather than via online messaging.
For example, you may want to agree with your team how you will use:
- Guidance on how to use your University phone number from off campus is available on our Working from home page.
- Slack is a web chat service for communication between individuals and groups - you could use it to communicate with your team and colleagues.
- Slack is currently only available to professional support staff but we expect it to roll it out to all staff by Friday 20 March.
- Guidance is available to help you get started with Slack:
- At this time Hangouts Meet is our recommended option for online video conferencing. It is included as part of your University Google account and offers voice and video calls between individuals and groups.
- It can be used for online meetings, but it is also useful for keeping in general contact with your colleagues.
- See our guidance on Holding virtual meetings below.
- Further help is available:
- When working remotely you’re likely to be more reliant on email to keep in touch with colleagues - read our tips on email etiquette and effective email usage
We all need to be considerate of each other’s working patterns, but it can be harder to keep track of these patterns when working remotely. Some things you can do to help keep your colleagues aware of your working patterns are:
- Update your current status in Slack - including when away for a break.
- Set your working hours & availability in Google Calendar, and clearly indicate any non-working days.
- Switch on out of office in your email if you’re on leave.
Structure the day
Within your team, think about how you will structure your day. This could include:
- Virtual meetings at the start or end of the day using Hangouts Meet - further tips on Holding virtual meetings can be found below.
- Letting others know what you are working on for the day, either in a morning virtual meeting or another agreed channel such as email or Slack.
- Adding time-bound activities to your Google Calendar, with a Hangouts Meet link, so there is a clear channel for any face-to-face communication that may be required.
- Remember to take breaks - just as you would during a normal working day. Update your calendar or Slack status to show when you are on your lunch break.
- Letting your colleagues know when you are signing out for the day via your agreed communications channel.
Holding virtual meetings
Use a headset or headphones to limit echo and mute yourself when not speaking as your microphone can pick up background noise and disrupt the conversation.
Camera on - using video in virtual meetings can make a big difference to communication and allow participants to feel a greater sense of presence. It will be more important in some meetings (eg one to ones) than others. Think about turning on your webcam by default but be prepared to switch to voice only if you are having connectivity issues.
Screen sharing - the ability to share your screen and interact as a team can create a feeling of shared goals and increase collaboration. Seeing as well as hearing can prevent misinterpretation of actions or direction. Slack and Hangouts Meet both support screen sharing.
Daily catch-up - Regular contact will help keep the team focused and keep the team communication flowing. You may also find it useful to have a Friday morning ‘wrap-up’ style meeting. This would be a good chance to share successes from the week and talk about plans for the next week.
You can still do ‘whiteboard’ exercises using virtual solutions like Google Jamboard, which enables a group to generate ideas or contributions in real-time.
When working remotely it is important that we think about good practice when collaborating with colleagues. It’s possible to do almost everything in the Google Suite now. The University still has shared filestores but consider:
- Google Drive offers live collaboration on documents.
- You’ll need to connect to the Virtual Private Network (or be logged in to the Virtual Desktop Service) to access a University filestore, which will put additional load on University infrastructure. Google Drive is accessible anywhere, anytime without using the VPN or VDS.
For these reasons we would advise that you opt for Google Drive over the University filestore.
Keep in mind that in order to access confidential or restricted data you must use:
- a University owned device, OR
- the Virtual Desktop Service (VDS)
Confidential or restricted data must not be accessed directly from a personal device.
We've also condensed our IT security guidance into a handy one page guide:
Create opportunities to socialise
Successful teams rely on strong, positive relationships and it can be more difficult to build or maintain these when working remotely.
Below are some ideas to create opportunities for conversations that you would typically have in the staff room or when passing in the corridor, such as:
- Identifying a buddy that you’re going to work or take breaks with for the day (eg having a “virtual coffee” and chatting over the phone).
- Agree a virtual place where you can talk socially, such as a dedicated Slack channel or a Hangouts Meet call.