Home Office due to the Corona Virus Outbreak 2020

On March 16, 2020, the rectorate asked all institutes to implement home office solutions where possible. Following this request, here are our guidelines for implementing this at our lab during the Corona outbreak. It's a first version, I'll update these as we go.

  • All staff are asked to work in home office unless physical presence at the lab is necessary, e.g., for access to test setups or special machines.
  • During your work hours, be available online via Slack (green dot) and monitor Slack for new messages. This is the equivalent of answering someone knocking on your door. If you go for a break, have focus work or meetings, set your status accordingly, with an expiration time. Going offline indicates you've gone home.
  • Forward your desk phone so you can be reached at your home office. The magical key combination for that is * 1 1 to establish a forward, * 1 0 to remove it. Unfortunately, the forwarding is transparent, so you cannot silence just that forwarding number on your smartphone in the evening to ignore work-related after-hour calls — this'll likely be fixed with the new phones.
  • Our central lab hours remain the same. Your work hours should include the core lab hours and beyond that cover your weekly contractual RWTH time.
  • Install the Zoom client on your MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. You don't need an account, but if you create one you can have your own infinite 1:1 meetings, and 40-minute group meetings, without taking up our central lab account.

Beyond that, here are a few tips to make your home office more effective:

  • Claim a separate room for your work away from your living room where possible, or at least a desk in a remote corner away from the family. Clean it up, remove home-related distractions, and set up a desk, chair, and your computer so that you can focus, be productive, and enjoy working there.
  • Avoid home-related distractions. Keep a to-do list nearby to note down all the home-related tasks that pop in your head while you're working at home (there'll be more than at the office), and get to them after you sign off from work.
  • Let private calls go to voicemail, and leave private text messages to deal with later, during your break or after you sign off from work. (Use that to-do list to remind you.)
  • If you're prone to getting distracted while working, check out some blocking software to help you stay focused. This danger is higher at home than at the office. Use timers or the pomodoro technique to help you pace your work and include short breaks.
  • Remember that email and Slack are very thin communication channels prone to misunderstandings. Instead, use videoconferencing for any sensitive, controversial or emotional topics with colleagues and students. In home office you have no chance to use face-to-face meetings as the best, richest communication channel with the least room for misunderstandings, so be aware of these issues.

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