Tag Archives: Working from Home

Homeworking and improving poor home WiFi

Like many of you, when COVID hit I was expected to work from home for much of my working week. I quickly put dibs on the dining room table. I borrowed a work laptop that had recently been upgraded to Windows 10, which meant that I could easily connect to my computer files and Trust’s intranet. I purchased a computer chair after a week or so of enduring what I once thought were comfortable dining chairs and an ergonomic mouse that stopped me from getting RSI. All sorted.

But there was one huge elephant in the room.

Poor wifi connection – lots of coverage blackspots and our devices regularly fell off the wifi connection. We live in a weirdly shaped bungalow – it’s very long, with rooms going off at strange angles and lots of thick walls in the way. The router was located at the very back of the house in an extension the previous owners had built, and it was on a separate electrical network. This is an important point for trying to sort out connectivity issues.

Ever since moving in, we’ve been trying to sort out this problem. I’ve spoken to our wifi providers – we’re on the fastest coverage possible for our area. I’ve spent a couple of evenings on the phone to them trying to tweak our set-up to get maximum oomph out of our connection, which included switching between different frequency channels depending on which ones were less well used at that particular point, and making sure there was nothing near it that could be stopping the signal etc. That didn’t make any difference.

We investigated and purchased a wi-fi extender. The first one we tried was a powerline adaptor – these devices use existing electrical wiring to transmit data between them and extend the reach of the wifi. This is when we discovered that our router is on a different electrical circuit to the rest of the house, so that didn’t work. We next tried a general wireless extender, which acts as a relay to re-broadcast the signal onwards to other parts of the house. This made a small improvement, but we still had blackspots and devices dropping off wifi and needed a separate password.

I investigated getting Virgin cable connected to our house. Note to self – never, ever purchase a house on a private road which can only be accessed via another private road. The Virgin technician very cheerfully told me I was a hiding to nothing there as I needed written permission from every home owner to say that they could tunnel under the roads, and did I have any inkling of the costs involved.

A colleague mentioned to me that they had purchased a more expensive router which had sorted out their issues. Upon further investigation (I really recommend the free articles on the Which website), I came across the idea of mesh routers. These are a network of hubs or satellites – one of them plugs into your existing modem (these days your router is often a combined router/modem) and the others are placed strategically around your house (we have our second hub in the loft). They are a more expensive solution but they have worked brilliantly for us. No more blackspots, no more dropping off wifi. I can get connectivity from any corner of the house. Most importantly, we can now watch television over the internet with zero buffering!

Before purchasing anything as expensive as mesh routers, do your research. Check that the one you are planning on purchasing will be powerful enough for your size of house. Check that it really will eliminate all blackspots if this is your issue and how many devices it supports. I recommend Techradar as a good place to start; they also cover Black Friday deals if you fancy a bargain.

Catherine Micklethwaite
South Devon Healthcare Library Service

Running Virtual NHS Library and Knowledge Services

Through our regional networks we are aware that, in line with government guidance, some NHS library and knowledge services staff are working from home, providing virtual services to support access to evidence which is particularly critical at this time.

Local NHS library and knowledge services staff have shared their tips and work-arounds, including working with Information Technology. They share how the services operate and how the staff teams are supported.

We have also compiled resources on working from home. This includes support for staff well-being that may be valuable to share with NHS colleagues.

Do join the conversation in the comments box below, sharing your experience of what works well and resources we can add.

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust (BDCFT)

How we are providing a virtual service: The BDCFT team can offer the vast majority of our resources and library services remotely and most of the team have a work laptop and should be able to carry on with their duties as normal. BDCFT staff can still access the library with a swipe card and issue/return books on a self-service basis. I will suspend all overdue notifications. We have tubs of antiseptic wipes in the library for folk to wipe down the desks and keyboards etc before use. A member of the library team is hoping to pop-in periodically to check that all is ok/top-up the printer paper/update Heritage with returns etc. We will continue to promote all aspects of the service as widely as possible to let BDCFT staff know that we still here to support them and their information needs.

How we support the library and knowledge services staff working remotely: Most of the team do have a work laptop and I am liaising with IT to try and get laptops for the remaining staff, who are currently using their own devices. We are speaking regularly by phone and in touch by e-mail. I am working with IT to get a MS Teams page set up for us and we currently using the Chat function. When this has been set-up, I am planning a morning huddle each day to catch up with everyone. All members of the team have sent me through a list of what tasks they can work on from home so I can ensure that all possible services are being covered.

Contact for more details: Becky Williams
Mobile: 07747769999
Email: rebecca.williams@bdct.nhs.uk

Royal Papworth Hospital

[Note: Papworth has been a virtual service since a site relocation in April 2019]

How we are providing a virtual service: The methods of providing a virtual service are very straightforward. Our laptops have the Library Management Software installed and we access Trust shared drives via VPN.  All user requests are submitted digitally via our website: literature search, training, articles, registrations.

The forms are available on our website. (So please have a look if you think these will be helpful to you.) When the user completes the form, it is delivered to a shared mailbox. Different staff members pick up different tasks. We colour code them so we each know what’s unassigned, in progress or completed. When trouble shooting user problems, we usually talk people through step-by-step over the phone and provide screenshots by email or by screen-sharing through Cisco Jabber.

In our contingency planning for the move, our Clinical Outreach Librarian, Rebecca Rowe recorded 3 of her training sessions: academic writing, reflective writing and writing for publication. These of course will be helpful now training is suspended.  Again, please utilise these if they are of help to you or your users.

How we support library and knowledge services staff working remotely: Firstly, I will say that I have always tried to see each team member once a week and monthly 1-1s are always face-to-face; having said that, it is easy to develop ways to support the team when you are working remotely. I usually begin the day by emailing everyone a ‘hi, how was your evening?’. It opens a dialogue and the responses give you a feel for if there’s anything non-work related that they need to share. I always say call me if you need anything (my work phone number is connected through my laptop with a headset and mic). I might phone them during the day if we’re trouble-shooting something. Feedback is also important so emailing your thanks or recognition for their work is vital. Team meetings can work well virtually too especially if you have webcams because then you can ‘see’ each other and it feels good.

Contact for more details: Becky Scott
Tel: 01223 639733
Email: becky.scott2@nhs.net

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

How we provide a virtual service: Currently working from home using “virtual laptop” provided by our Trust. Access to generic email for enquiries, also CLIO for document supply and updating website and Twitter. Can access library catalogue but need for this may be inconsequential. Main service is provision of literature searches and enquiries with patient care and business decision making queries are prioritised. Piloting use of Skype to provide support to those who want help with finding evidence, especially if they are self isolating or working from home. If library becomes unstaffed but still open signage will be placed to say to contact generic email, this will also publicised on Twitter and website.

How we support library and knowledge services staff working remotely: Daily morning call to discuss work for the day. Regular contact throughout the day via phone and email – this may decrease when I am redeployed.

Contact for more details: Lisa Riddington
Email: lisa.riddington@nhs.net

Hampshire Healthcare Library Service

How we provide a virtual service: This is all about communication – we use our Trust private Facebook pages, twitter, posters with various contact details and have put messages in the Trust weekly bulletins and ensuring that out-of-office messages are utilised. We are keeping all avenues of communication open – we have a work mobile phone that is being monitored (and in order to reduce pressure on that phone we have also offered a text only mobile phone number). I am keeping my team updated with a daily message and ensuring that all appropriate URLS are sent home via email.

How we support library and knowledge service staff working remotely: We have collated all contact details and asked who has the capability for working from home – as we provide services for two Trust it gets complicated, but Hampshire Hospitals staff have all had remote access enabled. Southern Health Foundation Trust staff – three of us have laptops already, but remote access is not enabled for other staff other than using NHS.net emails or personal emails (with permission). We have ensured that all email inboxes are delegated to at least two other people. We have also signed up to Slack to provide some real-time conversations and social connections without using teleconferences as their library service manager (me!) is deaf which makes life complicated.

Contact for more details: Sam Burgess
Email: sam.burgess@southernhealth.nhs.uk
Twitter: @samanthaclare

Bodleian Health Care Libraries

How you provide a virtual service: We’ve had to un-staff our libraries and switch to a virtual service in 2/3 days.

  • We’re signposting the available online resources at our libguide (OpenAthens etc.).
  • We’re working with our Director of Medical Education to collate an online list of resources and looking at getting electronic copies of books we’re missing.
  • All books currently on loan have been auto-renewed until 19 June 2020 andny fines will be waived.
  • We’re offering our Searching, Training, Help and Advice services online.
  • We have a rota for enquiry cover including dialling in to check answerphones and enquiry email monitoring. We offer training and consultations via telephone, Skype and other online platforms so will continue to do this.

How you support the LKS team working remotely: We’ve become experts in MS Teams in 2 or 3 days! We’re using it to communicate with each other and store documents. We have a number of channels set up within it including a “staffroom” where work chat is banned – it’s purely for the kind of stuff you discuss over a cup of tea or coffee. So far it’s got pictures of bird feeders, goldfish and biscuits! We’re going to use it to set CPD tasks for staff who may not have work they can complete from home but will still make them feel involved. We also have a member of staff phoning people for a chat and we’re formalising how we’ll keep this going. – a lot of what we’re doing is working out how to keep up communication and pastoral care. Many of our staff live alone so we want to make sure they’re OK personally as well as professionally.

Contact for more details: Owen Coxall
Email: owen.coxall@bodleian.ox.ac.uk