Working remotely and COVID-19

Working remotely is often a necessity to ensure business continuity when unexpected events occur, such as COVID-19. The Queensland Government’s already established flexible work framework, including working remotely, allows our workforce to quickly comply with the Australian Government’s direction around social distancing and minimising the workforce’s exposure to COVID-19, while still providing essential public services to Queensland.

During the COVID-19 health pandemic response, managers and employees may be directed to work remotely if roles allow for it. For some this may be a new experience. Find out how you can get the best out of working remotely.

1. Role and responsibilities

If you are working remotely you need to keep channels of communication open with colleagues and management, while staying engaged on a social level. Other responsibilities for managers and employees are:

Managers:

  • Be open and listen to the concerns or reservations of employees and work with them for the best outcome.
  • Acknowledge that circumstances will vary for individual employees (start and finish times may vary for individual employees, including working outside of standard hours).
  • Communicate your expectations for employees working flexibly.
  • Be proactive in your communication and model regular open and transparent interactions.
  • Working flexibly has its benefits, but it may be lonely. Be mindful to include all employees in meetings using the available technology.
  • Set reasonable and achievable tasks (remain output-focused).
  • Encourage agreement within the team how and when to connect with each other.
  • Encourage the team to share stories and enjoy the experience (as you would in the workplace).
  • Do not forget to acknowledge the work done and to celebrate success.

Check out the:

Employees:

  • Be open to what is possible for working flexibly in your circumstances (including your start and finish times).
  • Talk to your manager about any concerns or reservations about a new way of working.
  • Be productive and aim to get work done.
  • Have a good work environment setup (e.g. desk, chair, access to technology and equipment, lighting etc.).
  • Plan your day (e.g. tasks, check-in with team members, meetings etc.).
  • Take breaks (just as you would in the workplace, get up and move around, have a coffee etc.).
  • Stay connected with your team (informal and staying in touch).

2. Business etiquette

If you have to self-isolate or have been asked to work remotely to limit your risk of exposure to COVID-19, please consider the following tips when working remotely:

  • Be mindful of your environment when on work calls: consider muting your microphone or working from a quiet room to reduce background noise.
  • Avoid multi-tasking while on calls (e.g. video conferences): ensure you remain focused regardless of your work location. Try to keep meetings short and to the point and use a loud clear voice when speaking.
  • Be prepared: ensure you know how to use the technology available to you and it works correctly before joining a video conference or audio call.
  • Consider your physical appearance: ensure a presentable casual office look, especially during video calls.
  • Check your schedule: regardless of where you work from ensure you respect the time of your colleagues and clients and ensure you attend meetings on time.

3. Health, safety and wellbeing of employees

News of a widespread public health concern like COVID-19 can stir up feelings of uncertainty, and with information changing daily it can be difficult to maintain feeling your best. The Queensland Government is committed to creating healthy and safe workplaces where employees can thrive and achieve their best.

Find out what health and wellbeing support options and resources you can access to support your personal wellbeing and aid in your self-care routine amid COVID-19.

Health and safety when working from home

Managers and agencies have a duty of care and must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of employees, including when working from home. Employees working from home also have an obligation to take care of their own health and safety and follow the health and safety policies, procedures put in place by their agency.

Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure an employee’s home work area meets work, health and safety requirements. Together, managers and employees should consider:

  • equipment required
  • work environment
  • workstation setup and ergonomics
  • job design and workload
  • communication and staying connected

Learn more about working from home.

4. Work environment

Consider these factors when working from home:

  • Hazards: ensure stairs, pathways, floors, entrances are free from obstructions and trip hazards and are non-slip, well-lit and easily visible. This includes ensuring computer and electrical cords are located where they will not be damaged or present a tripping hazard to you or anybody else in your home.
  • Lighting: ensure you have enough lighting without glare, reflections, awkward postures or squinting/straining of the eyes. The best light is natural light which can help improve your mood and concentration.
  • Noise: ensure noise in the immediate work area is low. Use headphones to reduce distractions.
  • Climate: ensure sufficient airflow levels, temperature and humidity are maintained.
  • Breaks: improve your overall health and posture by taking regular breaks that includes stretching

Workstation setup

Consider these factors when working from home:

  • Workstation: ensure your work area and equipment are accessible without bending, reaching or twisting to reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. For example, if you choose your dining room table you may need to consider where you place your equipment for long periods of time.
  • Screens: improve your posture and reduce strain by having at least 450mm between your eyes and screen.
  • Seating: ensure your chair is comfortable, with lower back support, easily adjustable features and rounded front seat pan.

Workstation ergonomics

Most agencies have provided employees with mobile devices. When using your device remotely:

  • make sure its elevated so the screen is at eye level
  • plug in your external keyboard and mouse so you can type without strain
  • adjust your chair height so your arms and thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are flat on the floor.
 

Learn more about how to setup your workstation.

5. Communication and staying connected

Connecting with your manager and colleagues is important when working remotely. As physical connections are removed, social connection needs to be increased. With some new routines and practical adjustments connecting online can be made easily and enjoyable.

  • Communicate often:have regular catch ups with your team programmed into your calendar, update people via email on your work, upcoming schedules or key milestones achieved, reach out when in doubt and give others a phone call.
  • Structure more regular team time/meetings: collaborate on projects, set up fun competitions and get to know your colleagues, arrange online coffees and lunches.
  • Use technology to your advantage: Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom can allow you to hold meetings and conferences with other people inside and outside your team.

6. Acknowledgement of Country

An Acknowledgement of Country is a way for people to pay their respects to the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which they are working. With employees working more flexibly and participating in online forums and events, it is important to continue to recognise this cultural protocol.

We encourage employees to use these examples of Acknowledgement of Country when communicating online at the beginning of a meeting, speech or formal event. A short pause should be taken after the acknowledgement as a sign of respect, before proceedings continue.

If you know who the Traditional Custodians are for the land on which you are hosting the meeting or recording the webinar:

I acknowledge that I am hosting/recording this meeting/webinar from the lands of the [insert Traditional Custodians name].
 
I also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the various lands on which you all work today and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating in this meeting/webinar.
 
I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of Queensland.
 

If you do not know who the Traditional Custodians are for the land on which you are hosting the meeting or recording the webinar:

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the various lands on which we work today and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating in this meeting/webinar.
 
I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of Queensland.

Welcome to Country

A Welcome to Country is a protocol where Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians welcome others to the land of their ancestors. The Welcome to Country ceremony is carried out at significant events and formal functions involving people from other parts of the country or from overseas. This practice shows respect for the Traditional Custodians and Elders of a particular area or region.

If you are planning to host a significant event or function, we recommend you include a formal Welcome to Country rather than an Acknowledgement of Country. Most Traditional Custodian groups or representative groups will require a nominal fee to cover the cost of conducting the Welcome to Country ceremony.

If you need more information about a local Elder to perform Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians and Elders, contact 13 QGOV (13 74 68) to find a representative in your region.

7. More information