Making It Work While Working from Home

A person in a blue shirt on a computerWorking from home is the new norm for the majority of Pitt faculty and staff as the University’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced employees’ on-campus presence to a minimum. 

Essential employees are on campus to continue vital research and ensure operations and facilities are maintained and protected, but about 75% of the Pitt workforce is working remotely.

So, like many workers across the region and the nation, Pitt faculty and staff are forging ahead in new ways from home offices, spare bedrooms and dining room tables, to keep the University operating.

As the University rapidly transitioned to remote mode, tech resources from Pitt’s information technology team and support from the University Center for Teaching and Learning have bridged the gap for faculty, staff and students who’ve departed from desks across campus. As employees continue to adjust to working together separately, University experts have a wealth of resources for staying comfortable, well and productive at a distance.

Home ergonomics

U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools ranks the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences physical therapy program No. 1 and its occupational therapy program No. 3 in the nation, so take some ergonomics tips from the best:

In addition, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety offers a range of ergonomics resources, including additional exercises for stretching and maintaining flexibility.

No gym? No problem.

Social distancing has closed the doors on gyms and fitness classes at a time when the stress-reducing benefits of physical activity couldn’t be needed more. Pitt’s Healthy Lifestyle Institute, housed within the School of Education, is upping its game with instructional videos to guide short activity breaks and longer workouts that can be done at home without specialized equipment, for people at all levels of fitness. Subscribe to the Be Fit Pitt YouTube channel for the latest content.

Sustainable resources

Sustainable living includes practices meant to maintain good health and well-being. To help, Pitt’s Office of Sustainability has compiled an eclectic roundup of resources on office setup, tech tips, group communication, self-care and entertainment for those working remotely.

Tips for success

Working from home is new for many at Pitt, but the practice has been among a variety of flexible work options in place across the University.

Procurement specialists Kristin Olexa and Corey Cyphert of Purchasing Services typically work from home two or three days per week.

Here are their tips for making the most of working from home:

Says Olexa:

  • Kristin OlexaI find it helpful to adhere to the same schedule at home as when we work on campus. Wake up at the same time that you normally do. Get dressed for the day and have something to eat. Coffee is a must. A routine will help you stay focused and be ready to start the day fresh.
  • Get up and move during your lunch hour. When I first started, I had to remind myself to get up and walk around and take time for myself at lunch. I walk the dog and I usually do dishes or some other small task that keeps me on my feet for a little while. 
  • Give your pets some exercise and attention before you start your workday. They’ll be happier and more likely to remain quiet during conference calls.
    Make sure to mute your line on conference calls to avoid having the rest of the group hear your pets, children or other background noise.

Adds Cyphert:

  • Corey CyphertTry to find a designated work space that is separate from your living space. While this is easier said than done, it helps promote a work-life balance and keeps work papers safe from accidentally being tossed (or colored on by your kids).
  • Take your lunch break every day. It’s easy to forget to do this. Even if I don’t eat lunch during this time, a midday break provides time to run a quick errand or stretch.
  • Take five minutes to stretch periodically. The ergonomics of my home setup are not are not as nice as my office setup, so I take time to practice stretches throughout the day.
  • Especially important for those working from home during COVID-19: The best advice I’ve received is to be forgiving of yourself and of others. As Kristin noted, the mute button is your friend, but don’t panic if your coworkers hear your child talking or dog barking in the background. They’re likely working from home as well, and may be caring for a child or elderly parent during the pandemic. We are all adjusting to this new, unusual circumstance together.