During these unusual times, many students are in a situation where they cannot perform lab work to progress their research. Now with the unprecedented growth of COVID-19, we are required to self-isolate, this in itself is particularly difficult for international students who cannot travel home.
We have put together a list of tips, questions and concerns which we hope can help our students during this challenging time.
For all students, it is critical that you reach out to your supervisors and draft a plan on how to continue your research while working remotely.
Plan a routine, have goals for the week, take breaks, exercise, and continue to contact friends and family. These are the usual guidelines for working remotely.
There are also resources online to guide you on what to do when working remotely (e.g. RTE Brainstorm Guide to working from home, and many more).
Use resources such as Skype, Zoom, phone to keep in touch.
Simple ways to look after our Wellbeing when working from home
Working from home can bring with it a number of challenges, whether they be in-home distractions or general technology frustrations. However, it can also be an isolating and even lonely experience, especially if we are new to it.
So, what can we do to look after our wellbeing when working from home? How can we create healthy boundaries between our work and personal lives, stay mentally and physically healthy whilst still being productive and effective?
Here are some top tips:
Create a comfortable and clutter-free workspace
Even if we don’t have a study space or spare bedroom with a door, we can still create a work ‘zone’. Keep it free from clutter and away from household paraphernalia – this will help ensure we can limit distractions from children, family members or household chores while we are working. Try to only work when we are in this space, creating a physical and mental boundary between our work and our personal life.
Maintain regular hours and routine
We humans are creatures of habit, so a regular schedule is important – set one, and stick to it. If we are new to home working, try to adhere to our normal work routine as much as possible. Get up, get dressed and ‘arrive’ at our desk 5 to 10 minutes early to go through emails and create our daily task list. Then, when the working day is done, log off and focus instead on our personal activities to avoid burnout.
Agree how we manage our caring responsibilities
For those of us that now have to juggle home-schooling, caring and work responsibilities whilst working from the home it is important to discuss how this will work with our supervisor. Agree the times that you are available and where more flexibility is required. Communication is once again the key to ensuring clarity and reducing avoidable stress.
Set weekly goals
Creating short term, achievable goals gives us clarity and focus which in turn allows us to feel that we are making progress and a regular valuable contribution. Think about our medium and long term goals and convert them into logical shorter term tasks and actions that can be mentally (and visually) ticked off our to-do list each day and week.
Be a home worker, not a lone worker
Communication really is the key to not feeling isolated or alone. Work out how we would like to communicate with colleagues, try not to have too many lines of communication open, as this can prove distracting, and keep in touch at regular intervals throughout the day. Whilst most communications may be work related, do include personal and fun aspects to these conversations – as we normally would at work.
Face-to-face is still best
Wherever possible, communicate with our colleagues via video chats. Face-to-face conversations help us feel more connected and are typically more engaging than voice only conference calls. There are a wealth of technologies available to help facilitate this. Just remember to check we are dressed appropriately and that we are comfortable with what our co-workers will see on their screens.
Take a break
Like any working environment, it is important to take regular breaks to let our brain and body relax. Take a 10-minute walk, make some lunch or catch up with a friend over the phone. Short breaks will help give us the ability to refocus on our work tasks – ultimately supporting both our productivity and mental health.
Take time to recharge
It is important to take annual leave breaks to maintain a healthy mix between work, rest and play. Don’t stay connected or ‘on-line’ for weeks without taking a break. Annual leave is there to be taken – so let’s remember to use it to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Maintain our physical health
Eat well, sleep well and exercise well – these are the three cornerstones of good physical health, and they should not be ignored just because we are working at home. There are plenty of at home exercise tutorials online which cover the full range of ability and serve as a great way to break up the day. Furthermore, don’t skip lunch and don’t compromise our sleep.
It can be difficult to adjust to working from home. However, if we set healthy boundaries and prioritise our mental and physical wellbeing, we can keep our morale high and continue to be focused and productive.
Adapted from ‘7 simple ways to look after your wellbeing when working from home’ by Thea Watson, Hays Consultancy.
UCC Library Resources - All info required for your literature review including; citing, referencing, plagiarism, google scholar and more! Essential info for everyone working on thesis writing.
ProQuest Academic Complete - UCC students and staff will now have access to an extra 177,000 eBook titles via ProQuest’s Ebook Central database, including exclusive titles from key publishers like Wiley. This is in addition to the 1,834 eBook titles that the Library has previously purchased on Ebook Central. On the Databases A-Z , this is listed as 'EBook Central - Academic Complete'.
Keep Learning - Resources and advice for online learning
The CORA database is the electronic repository for UCC theses. You can browse published theses here.
The Study Skills Centre includes many useful resources for academic writing.
The Student Counselling & Development telesupport service has been established in order to assist students in maintaining healthy emotional wellbeing while counselling appointments are not possible due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The service is available to all registered students who continue to reside in Ireland free of charge.
Please note that calls are of 20 minutes duration to ensure equitable access to this service. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further detailsbetween 9.30 am-12pm and 1-3pm Monday to Friday.
Text Crisis Line
If you are currently experiencing mental health difficulties we recommend you make use of Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line's anonymous text message support service is available to UCC students and staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How to access the crisis line:
Text 'UCC' to 086 1800 280 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer 24/7.
UCC Graduate Studies FAQ's for Postgraduate Students including completion and Viva information.
Please check your student emails regularly for further updates from UCC and CIT.
Pending Vivas - As per UCC Regulations, supervisors will have to contact the Chair of Academic Council Graduate Studies Committee (ACGSC), Dr. Patricia Leahy-Warren to seek approval to conduct the viva voce examination by video-link. Justin McCarthy, Chair of SEFS GSC should also be notified. Information regarding remote viva-voice Virtual Viva Voce Examinations during the COVID-19 closure.
F1 Forms - Students and supervisors should sign forms and then email to email@example.com. Tyndall Graduate Studies will send to Tyndall finance for signoff. Once signed the form will be returned to the student by email. The student should then send the form to firstname.lastname@example.org for processing.
Modules - If you are attending UCC modules, you must liaise with the module coordinator to continue with progress from here. Each module is different, so the module coordinator will be able to guide you in the right direction. If you need assistance, let us know.
For international students, these are particularly tricky times. As per IEO’s letter, we understand that some students may wish to return to their home countries. Should you choose to return home we want to reassure you that you will not be disadvantaged in terms of academic assessment and alternative arrangements for the current semester will be made for you. Again, please talk to your supervisors to draft an action plan and inform them of your travel updates, if this is possible. Supervisors should then communicate with ourselves, HR in Tyndall and the International Education Office (see below).
Travel updates - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for travel details. Please also check airlines, airports and your own country’s advice.
International non-EU students staying in Ireland
Please remember that you must have appropriate health insurance cover throughout your stay, as per the letter you received upon the PhD offer:
The Health Research Board (HRB), Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are fully aware that the current situation regarding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is having a significant impact on the research and innovation community, both in Ireland and internationally:
The Government have extended closures for all schools and higher education institutions until 5 May.
Further to this announcement we wanted to let you know that Tyndall will continue to implement changes in the way we work and interact with our colleagues, students and business partners. We are committed to the health and wellbeing of all of our staff and students: Tyndall Health & Safety.