Working from home
Guidelines for working from home, and some questions and answers
Set up a healthy work environment
- Find a work area at home that suits you and the tasks you do. Think about how you work best. Consider whether you get your energy from being in a quiet focussed space, or from working around people/background noise.
- Use physical boundaries to help create a mental boundary between work and home life. A dedicated workspace will help your brain shift into ‘home mode’ so you can enjoy personal time without feeling like you are still at work. Some examples are using a plant to screen off your work space, using separate work equipment to form mental separation; covering your work area with a sheet, packing up your equipment, or closing the door of the room you have been using.
- If you don’t have the technology, tools, connectivity, and access you need to work from home, please contact your manager who will help sort this out for you.
- Let your manager and your colleagues know the best way of contacting you while working from home.
- Stay in touch with your manager and team, you might arrange more regular team check-ins, or have a Teams meeting to do the quiz!
We understand there are challenges to being at home. Please talk with your manager about your situation.
Structure your day like you would in the office
- When working from home, you are your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out.
- To stay on schedule, segment what you'll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks.
Communicate and stay in contact
- Make sure you have been given clear expectations about what will be achieved and what some of the limitations are. Also provide information on when you will be available and when you can’t be disturbed, as not being contactable may cause concerns.
- Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to stay connected. Check in with your colleagues and manager and remind yourself how your work is contributing to the big picture.
- Celebrate special achievements or milestones like a team member’s work anniversary, or birthday during one of your remote meetings (remember to get the individual’s permission first!).
Take some time out from your working day
- Working from home does not mean you are unable to take some time out to relax and recover.
- Stand up and stretch. Make a drink. Get some fresh air outside if possible.
Pick a definitive finishing time each day
- Set an alarm to indicate your normal work day is coming to an end.
- You do not have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the work day is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening.
- Ensure that you also discuss and agree your hours of work with your manager.
You'll find information here on ICT recommendations about working from home, any known issues and how to report them, and when and why ICT updates are happening.
Visit the ICT updates page.
Please shut down your computer outside of work hours
Please make sure you shut down your device once you’ve finished work. This helps reduce the load on our network and minimises some of the connection issues some people have experienced. This small step helps maintain good network connectivity while we work.
Comprehensive user guides for Microsoft Office 365 and Teams now available
The ICT team have developed user guides for Microsoft O365 and Teams. With easy to follow instructions and advice, these guides will help you to get the most out of these products in your home office.
Use the information below to help support your team as they work from home. Working from home requests may be more prevalent during the orange and red traffic light settings under the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF).
Setting your team up with tools and support
- Make sure your team members have suitable ergonomic equipment, space and necessary privacy to undertake their roles. If not, you may need to consider holding off on certain tasks, or doing them differently. Consideration should be given to approving ICT equipment or furniture on a case by case basis
- Ask your team to improve the ergonomics of their home workstation setup by reviewing the workstation setup guidelines
- Essential equipment requests to support working from home during the orange and red traffic light settings can be sent to Gary James.
- Use the working from home process for business-as-usual requests to work from home.
- Consider how you and your team members will stay in touch, and how often, e.g. Teams, phone calls, emails. Discuss and agree your expectations with each team member, and occasionally check-in to make sure the frequency is still working for you both.
- Ensure your team knows what support services are available to help them work remotely - for example, there's information on this page about setting up a home office environment and ICT support.
- Your team members may have connectivity issues, with their home internet being slow or having limited data. This page has some IT tips and tricks to help users optimise their wifi/computer setup, but some tasks may have to be done differently.
Recognise the impact of isolation and loneliness
- Working remotely can cause people to feel isolated, making it even more important to routinely check in with your team, not only about their work, but also to see how they are doing, and what support you can provide them.
- Be aware of significant changes you may see in your team member's personality or work, it may be a sign that a person is struggling and may need support.
- Regularly remind your team about the support services available to them and their families.
- Celebrate special achievements or milestones like a team member’s work anniversary or birthday during one of your remote meetings. (Remember to get the individual’s permission first!).
- Depending on workload, this may be a good time to encourage online learning
- Fire and Emergency’s online training platform Learning Station provides a library of operational and non-operational e-learning and learning support resources - click the books icon to browse or search using keywords.
- MindTools(external link) is another great tool we have available to us, which also includes more detailed information and tips about working from home.
ELT has adopted an interim policy for reimbursement of costs when working from home.
Fire and Emergency does not generally support the reimbursement of costs incurred while working from home.
However, Fire and Emergency accepts that there may be some limited circumstances where an employee is experiencing genuine financial difficulty that is directly related to their working from home.
In cases of such genuine financial difficulty, an employee may make an application for financial reimbursement of costs. The application:
- must state: (i) what are their additional expenses related to working from home; (ii) what are their current savings by not travelling to, and working at, the office; and (iii) in what way has this change resulted in experiencing genuine financial difficulty
- must provide supporting documentation
- must be made to their manager, who will then pass this to the relevant DCE for initial approval.
- To ensure consistency across the organisation, the final approval of all applications will be made by the DCE FABO.
- Approvals will be made on a case-by-case basis, taking the individual's specific circumstances into account. Relevant factors include (but are not limited to):
- The amount of the difference between the costs and savings is not minor or insignificant.
- The difference is directly related to the applicant working from home.
- The difference results in genuine financial difficulty on the applicant's overall financial position.
Note that the interim policy is consistent with the current Public Services Commission guideline on reimbursement of costs when working from home during COVID-19.
The IRD has published information relating to any expenses paid and their tax status for working from home expenses. For applications that are approved, FABO will work through any IRD determinations with the applicants. More information is available at https://www.ird.govt.nz/covid-19/business-and-organisations/employing-staff/allowances-and-reimbursements(external link)
Questions and answers
I’m working from home but am getting distracted by others.
One significant difference between working from home and the office is the presence of the people you live with. While they may not be there all the time, you are bound to come into contact with them while you are working. Do your best to try and set some boundaries around when you genuinely cannot be disturbed.
What times do I start and finish and when do I take my breaks?
- First discuss and agree with your manager as to what is going to work best.
- It can be easy to get so distracted with work that you avoid breaks altogether, so don't let working from home prevent you from taking regular breaks to rest and recover. Use your breaks to get away from your desk or work station.
- Set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate your work day is coming to an end. You don't have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the work day is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening.
I’m feeling stressed about having to self-isolate at home and about COVID-19
It is understandable that things will be different for a while. It is normal to have a range of feelings: you may feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or even angry. There are some things you can do to feel better.
- Talking to people you trust can help. Set up regular check-ins with friends and family, remotely if they are not in your bubble, or if you are self-isolating.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a good diet, sleep and exercise.
- Support is available for all Fire and Emergency personnel and their immediate families which includes self-referral to our Employment Assistance Programme (EAP) providers.
- You can also get information or access support through your OIC/Manager, Region Safety, Health and Wellbeing Advisor, Welfare Officer, Injury Management Unit or Peer Support team or HR Manager.