How to make a success of WFH (Working From Home)

Written by: Sean Harris | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

We have a new acronym in education – WFH. Taking inspiration from colleagues in the EdNorth schools network, Sean Harris offers advice for working from home

It is possible that you are feeling the impact of WFH – the new acronym that has hit teachers across the land.

Yes, the majority of us are now Working From Home. Yes, I know, teachers have always worked from home. However, late evenings marking books or planning lessons are not what faces us now.

WFH in the context of the coronavirus outbreak and the partial school closures presents another challenge entirely to teachers, who will understandably be feeling a disconnect from their many colleagues and the pupils that they serve.

Many teachers will, of course, still be working on-site, helping to keep schools open for the children of key workers and those vulnerable or with SEN. However, many teachers will be asked to work from home. Indeed, the National Education Union (NEU) has advocated a rota system to ensure all colleagues get time away from school as we seek to manage this crisis.

Working alongside staff and teachers at EdNorth – a network of schools and teachers in the North East of England – I have compiled the following basic advice to help support teachers who will be adjusting to WFH in the coming weeks and months.

Apply your oxygen mask first

As we are told on aircraft, in the event of an emergency “apply your oxygen mask before helping others”. As teachers, we are used to prioritising the wellbeing of all others, but your wellbeing is key as well.

We are surrounded by 24/7 rolling news media reporting nothing but virus cases and deaths and often with a fair bit of sensationalism – it can be easy to be affected. A few things to consider:

  • Build in time for fresh air. Fresh-air can boost creativity and bring other health benefits. A brief walk around the garden or a walk down the street is essential. Of course, remember to adhere to the safety guidelines and new lockdown rules.
  • You no longer have to salvage snacks from the staffroom. But be mindful of what you do eat. Maintaining a healthy diet is good for your mental health and physical wellbeing. It may help to create a plan and make time for proper, healthy meals. We cannot live on crisps and chocolate as much as we may like to.
  • Limit the amount of 24/7 rolling news you are tempted to watch from your home office – it can become overwhelming and affect your mood before you know it.
  • Celebrate the wins. Make a note of the positive aspects of your job, or successes from recent weeks, or positive comments from parents/children. Put these up somewhere prominent in your new home-working environment.

A WFH buddy

Have a WFH buddy to check-in with regularly during the week. This might be a colleague from school, another teacher or a friend or family member. When catching up with them, consider discussions around these aspects:

  • Applaud: What can I celebrate and/or champion from my WFH this week?
  • Action: What do I still need to action?
  • Ask: What do I need help or support with from colleagues or other teacher friends?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it...

Teachers are good with managing expectations, routines and processes. Maintaining routines is essential if you are to make a success of home-working. Consider the following to maintain a healthy routine:

  • Get dressed and organised: Do not be tempted to work in your PJs! Get dressed, washed and into a good routine in a morning. Out of the onesie and into the fresh coffee ready for a productive day.
  • Schedule: Have set working hours and stick to them. Protect time for your own wellbeing, for your family and don’t be tempted to return to work once you have switched off for the day.
  • Build in your breaks: Linked to the above, build into your day regular breaks, pit-stops and time to recharge. This might link into making time for exercise as advised above.
  • Decorate your classroom: Create one or more dedicated work areas if your environment allows. But keep your sleeping and social spaces clear and sacred – when you switch off you must not have your work surrounding you.

No islands in the North

When it comes to navigating the next few months of WFH, it is essential we do not work in isolation. This is where the EdNorth network is coming into its own. Here are some tips and resources:

  • Access a wealth of teacher-crafted resources and tools by signing up to ConnectEd, a dedicated platform where North East teachers and schools can collaborate and share.
  • Use social media to promote and access resources. If you have a good resource to share with other teachers then tag @EdNorthUK (and @HeadteacherNews) and let us share it. Headteacher Update has already published a compendium of free and useful resources and will be updating this in due course as more materials become available.
  • Sign up to one of the EdNorth Teachmeet events. These will likely be virtual until further notice. Keep an eye on @EdNorthUK and the website for updates.
  • Join other education networks, such as #WomenEd North East, which continues to inspire, champion and advocate the work of teachers across the region. Sign up to the free Headteacher Update ebulletin.

Remember. You’re in the business of learning

Your learning and professional development is an important part of your WFH diet. This is a good opportunity to create some thinking space to look at evidence, research and insights from the education world.

  • Sean Harris is the North East area director for Ambition Institute. Sean regularly writes for SecEd, Headteacher Update and is a published author in the fields of education, theology and youth work. He is a governor for a school in Northumberland, a trustee, and co-director of Bike4Health. He is also a champion of all things EdNorth. You can follow him @SeanHarris_NE

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