Working in times of corona

Working from home will remain the norm at VU Amsterdam, unless this is absolutely impossible. For example activities that can only be carried out on campus such as certain research activities or if you cannot work from home due to their personal circumstances. On the basis of VU-wide guidelines, faculties and departments have drawn up a protocol for their employees to work on campus. Discuss these possibilities with your manager. 

Are you coming to VU Amsterdam? If so, this is for a permitted activity and it is your personal responsibility to implement the rules and act in accordance with them. At VU Amsterdam we take responsibility and we give one another space.

Please read carefully in the Corona flyer Working at VU Amsterdam and on what is expected of you when you travel to VU Amsterdam, when you visit VU Amsterdam and the available facilities on campus.

Working from home
For many, a long period of working from home is not fun, convenient or practical. Working from home, with or without housemates and children around you, requires a new routine, which brings challenges. In addition to your VU workplace, you also miss daily contact with colleagues during this period. Human contact is very important in your work. Fortunately, this can be done digitally very easily in this day and age. Below you will find tips for working from home and information about the IT facilities you can use from home. Be alert and use the IT facilities consciously!

More information
See the VUnet page Working & Corona for answers to questions about your employment contract, business trips, commuting, salary, holidays, leave and annual interviews. You will also find information about remote management and conducting online job interviews. For answers to more general questions, see our frequently asked questions.

The advantage of working from home is that you have less distractions from colleagues. You can work more effectively. The downside of having no distractions at all is that a decent break and sufficient variety are missing.

Make sure there is enough variation in your working posture and move around regularly. This applies to every workplace, but now that you may be working in a less well-equipped workplace, this applies even more. Pay attention to signs of overexertion, such as stiffness, muscle aches or other pains, a numb feeling or tingling. Try to prevent these symptoms by pausing regularly and changing your posture:

  • Get up and walk around whenever you can, e.g. during a telephone consultation
  • Grab a drink or a piece of fruit every half hour
  • For phone calls, use a headset, or the earphones of your mobile phone
  • Plan large breaks between (video) calls 
  • If you’re reading material, sit down on the couch or walk around
  • Try to spread different types of work over the day. Alternate intensive screen work such as e-mailing with an activity where you can walk around for a while such as a telephone consultation.
  • Plan your physical activity: take a walk during lunch or go for a (solo) run, walk or bike tour

If you can work at home, you have to work from home. For many of us it's fine to work from home, but you have to watch out for social impoverishment.

If it takes too long, productivity may decrease and there may also be an alienating effect. You have fewer social encounters and less spontaneous conversations at the coffee machine.

Human contact is very important in employment relationships. As face-to-face contact is not or less possible at the moment, digital tools offer an alternative. It is important to continue to meet your colleagues on a regular basis, even if not in person.

Accept that working from home is not the same as working at VU Amsterdam
Don't set the bar unrealistically high for yourself or your colleagues. Especially if you are at home with several people, you will have to be accommodating with your daily schedule and agenda. You don't have all the things you need at hand. It's a bit like camping. Focus on the things that work, and - just like camping - practice makes perfect.

Try to work together and maintain contact with your colleagues
Send a spontaneous email with compliments, make a phone call to catch up and use group apps with colleagues. Be aware that it's nice to have (informal) contact with each other sometimes.

Make sure your workplace is peaceful and orderly
Make arrangements at home. For example, arrange times when you don't want to be disturbed or when you’re on the phone.

Make sure you have a good work plan
At the office you can see what colleagues do and when they arrive and leave. You don't have that at home. Make sure you set up clear tasks, make a distinction between 'regular' and 'necessary', and demarcate your time. If necessary, make priorities for work in consultation with your supervisor. Also keep in close contact with your colleagues to fine-tune your work.

Take regular breaks and use time management
The advantage of working from home is that you have less distractions from colleagues. You can work more effectively. The downside of having no distractions at all is that a decent break and sufficient variety are missing. So, take a break between calls, take a break for tea/coffee, have lunch somewhere else in the house and walk away from your workplace every hour. Or take the GoodHabitz Time management course.

Ensure a good balance between work and private tasks
When working from home, it is tempting to do private tasks in between. You figure you can catch up with work later. That flexibility can be an advantage, but before you know it, you are also busy in the evenings, and work and private life are mixed. Homeworkers usually make more hours. If they do something during the day that is not directly work-oriented, they tend to compensate for those hours more than office workers. Employees also often work longer hours at home because they do not want to damage the employer's trust. As a result, it can be more difficult to get away from work.

Make sure you keep the usual work routine
If you start work at 8:00 hrs, do the same at home. That'll give you structure. Also end your workday clearly and make a plan for the next day. If something didn’t get finished, plan it again to ensure a healthy workload. Make sure there is a good balance between work and private tasks: When working from home, it will be tempting to, for example, do domestic tasks in between. The ability to concentrate quickly decreases as a result of distractions and interruptions. It appears to take about eight minutes each time before you return to the same level of concentration.

Make sure you keep sufficient contact with your colleagues and supervisor
(digital) Technology offers many possibilities to stay in touch with each other. For supervisors: organise moments for consultation and let employees clearly known when this will take place, for peace and clarity.

Take good care of yourself
It seems that we often take better care of ourselves at work than at home. This is a unique opportunity to make the best of the situation. Experiment with the work routine and working hours where possible and drink your own coffee as you like it.

More information about porpose and wellbeing in times of corona, visit the VUnet webpage Working & Corona.

A well-equipped monitor area may not always be possible to realise with your furniture at home. As a frame of reference, here are the rules of thumb for the most optimal settings. Carry them out in the following order:

  • Put your feet firmly on the ground
  • Place your legs at a 90-degree angle
  • Keep a fist space between the front of the seat and the hollow behind your knee
  • Provide good support in the lower back
  • Make sure the armrests support your forearms while your shoulders are relaxed. Use a seat cushion if your chair is too low
  • The table height is just below the armrests, put your desk or table on bobbins if it's too low
  • Place the monitor in front of you at arm's length. Place the top edge at eye level, e.g. on books or a stack of printing paper
  • Place the mouse and keyboard (feet folded) as close to your body as possible so that you don't have to reach out.
  • Use function keys (e.g. Alt-Tab to switch between windows and Page Up and Page Down to scroll through a document) to alternate.
  • If you need to write or read from paper, do so at a table that is 4-5 cm taller

Where can I best set up my home office?
If you can, choose a quiet place where you can work in an undisturbed way. Make sure that there is no direct light on your screen and that you do not look directly into the (sun) light. Muted light from the side is ideal.

How do I work best with a laptop at home?
If you work at home on a laptop, set up the laptop workspace as a normal workstation. The top edge of your monitor is approximately at eye level. No laptop stand? Use a crate or a pile of books. Use a separate keyboard and mouse. Don't you have one? Request a home work set from the IT department or buy a mouse and/or keyboard yourself. You can claim up to a maximum of € 75 for the costs of purchase. Please discuss this with your manager first.

If you work a lot with documents in combination with a laptop, a laptop stand is recommended, so you don't have to turn your head all the time. In consultation with your manager, you can purchase a laptop stand if you do not have one. When buying, make sure that the stand has a document holder, is large enough for the laptop you are using, is stable and can be adjusted to different heights. 

What's the best way to work at home with a smartphone?
Work as little as possible with a smartphone for e-mail, at least not for long periods of time.  If you use the smartphone, make sure your neck is not bent too much and for too long; keep your phone in front of your face. If necessary, support your forearm and change your posture often.

I don't get my workplace optimally equipped. What can I do?
A good workplace is important, especially if you use it not only occasionally, but several hours a day. In this case, it is important that you remain alert to the development of physical complaints and to alternate your activities on a regular basis. See the tips at the top of this page and consult the frequently asked questions at VUnet webpage Working & Corona, e.a. for information about the use of a VU office chair. 

If it really isn't possible to set up a suitable workplace at home, discuss with your manager whether you can work on campus.

Technical support is very important when working from home. You can make use of IT facilities at home in various ways. Think about reading your email, starting an online meeting, retrieving files from the H:Disk and G:Disk and working with VU software. You will find more information about the IT facilities you can use from home on the IT portal askIT. For teachers there is a page on Canvas with supporting material about the use of various online tools to implement online teaching.

Be alert and use the IT facilities consciously. Now’s the time cyber criminals are trying to access your files or our network in creative ways when most people are working from home. The IT department will be stricter with password policy as well as ask you to be aware of the devices and systems you use at home and be alert to suspicious e-mails. Read more.

Attention to new data processing
It is important, also in the situation where we work from home, to ensure that we continue to comply with privacy legislation. Of course, the Privacy Champions are available to help you with this. See VUnet for more information.

See the VUnet page Working & Corona for answers to questions about your employment contract, business trips, commuting, salary, holidays, leave, annual interviews and home office. You will also find information about remote management and conducting online job interviews. For answers to more general questions, see our frequently asked questions.