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COVID-19 FAQ: Phased reopening of campus

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Topics covered: plan for phased return; building access; picking up equipment for home working; resources for remote working; campus facilities; face coverings. 

Questions

What is the current plan for resuming campus operations?

We are returning to campus in a phased way to minimise the risks to colleagues and our students, in line with our roadmap for a safe return. The safety of our University community is vital, and we will not move onto the next phase of the roadmap until we are sure there is as little risk as possible.

We are all learning and adjusting to these new ways of working, studying and socialising so please be patient, kind and considerate.

There are three main ways that we are protecting the health and wellbeing of our community.

1.       The University is putting in place safety measures to protect colleagues and our students, including things like social distancing arrangements, safety screens, signs and hand santiser stations. These measures will vary around campus depending on the space in use, for example indoor rooms, external spaces, corridors, toilets etc.

2.       Schools and Functions will be doing more detailed local risk assessments and putting in place any additional control measures that are required. Health and Safety Co-ordinators across the University are being provided with additional guidance so that they can support Heads of School and Function to do this. Return to campus of individuals and teams will be managed at School and Function level.

3.       Colleagues and students will also be asked to do certain things to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our University community and our neighbours and visitors. Our Code of Conduct (Word, 785 KB) for staff sets out these expectations. The student code of conduct is available on Essentials.

For more information, you can read:

  • this Safety Note on COVID-19 risk-reduction measures providing guidance on how to tailor arrangements in your own area to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • our Corporate-Level Risk Assessment for COVID-19, which summaries what the University is doing and responsibilities to support more detailed local risk assessment and control measures.

On the Health & Safety Policies, Safety Guides and Notes page, along with guidance on social distancing, there are additional Safety Notes on low occupancy buildings, COVID-19 First Aid and social distancing for Teaching and Learning activities. If any of these topics apply to you, please take a moment to review this additional guidance.     

It is important to understand that any return to campus will be gradual and highly dependent on external circumstances. While some colleagues are returning to campus, many of us will continue to work from home for some time - either partly or fully.

Further details are available in this staff portal story. You can also find details of health and safety measures for teaching in the autumn term in this story

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How will I know when I am expected to resume working on campus?

As outlined in this roadmap, we are working to a plan which will see teams gradually introduced back onto campus in phases. You can expect to hear from your Head of School and Function or your line manager about plans affecting you. If you are unsure of what is expected within your own specific School or Function, please speak to your line manager.

If you are on furlough leave, you will receive a letter stating when they are expected to return to work, which may include details of when to return to campus if this is necessary for your role.

While the University is putting in place lots of safety measures, we all have a responsibility to help keep our whole community safe. Before returning to campus, please complete two short induction modules in UoRLearn so that you understand what you need to do:

Colleagues involved in face-to-face teaching should also complete COVID Induction Module 3

Your Head of School/Function or your local Health & Safety Co-ordinator will also share details of local induction and guidance outlining safety measures that have been tailored to your area.

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What will change on campus?

There will likely be changes to the areas you are used to working in when you return to campus.

There are various levels to managing and reviewing our transition - you can find details of these in the Corporate-Level Risk Assessment for COVID-19.

Before returning to campus, you will be asked to complete a short induction online. This will guide you through the general safety measures as well as the expectations for those working on campus.

Your School or Function will also have specific induction materials for returning to specific buildings. These are being organised between Heads of School and Function and our Health & Safety Co-ordinators.

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Can I pick up office equipment to use for home working?

Yes, but you must first agree arrangements with your line manager and and your Head of School or Function.

Heads of Schools and Functions are keeping itineraries of equipment removed from offices, so it is vital you keep your manager informed of anything you remove from campus. University equipment taken home will be covered by the University's insurance. Building access is still restricted - please see the question ‘Is building access still restricted?' for full details.  

Many of us will remain working at home for some time, and so it may be worth arranging to pick up items from your office if it will benefit you while you work from home (such as monitors or office chairs).

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Where can I find support for remote working?

The Guidance and resources for working remotely page includes information on setting up equipment, keeping in touch with colleagues, staying active, learning new skills, wellbeing support and tax relief.

You can also find a wide range of resources on supporting your mental wellbeing on the University's Wellbeing pages.

For colleagues involved in teaching, a new section on delivering teaching and learning remotely has been created on the Blackboard ‘Help for Staff' website. This includes advice on making recordings (Screencasting) and using Blackboard Collaborate. There are also additional information and resources for teaching and learning in the autumn term on this FAQ page

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What services are available on campus during this transition?

Key services continue to be available remotely as we gradually transition back to campus. We are also making arrangements to safely adapt our facilities for those physically on campus. Appropriate social distancing measures will be applied to all facilities and services, and all of the following information is subject to the latest government advice.

  • The IT Service Desk is operating as normal, though you are encouraged to log any non-urgent issues at IT Self Service portal.
  • Online services are available for the Library. You can contact the Library team at library@reading.ac.uk. A Click and Collect service is also available. For the latest news, please visit the Library blog.
  • Our Catering Outlets are reopening in September and will offer a great range of meals, snacks and drinks. Social distancing measures are in place and you may need to book a table in advance at some venues. Full details are available in this story and at hospitalityuor.co.uk.
  • The Co-Op is open from 07:00-18:00 with restrictions on queueing and numbers allowed in at one time.
  • The SportsPark is currently closed but will reopen from Monday 14 September. Please visit their website for the latest information.
  • Reading University Students' Union (RUSU) are also working to offer as full a range of events and activities as possible from September.

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Is building access still restricted?

Although preparations are underway to return in phases, building access is subject to approval from your Head of School/Function.

As of 1 September 2020, Schools and Functions now manage access to buildings instead of the Major Recovery Team (MRT). This is so that individual Schools and Functions can tailor their phased return plans in a way that best suits their needs, and building access is an important aspect of this.  

Before returning to campus, you must complete either the MRT02 or MRT03 form before entering the site. You can obtain these from your School or Functions’ Health & Safety Co-ordinator – a list is available on this page if you are unsure of who this would be. Once completed, please return your form to your Head of School or Function (or to your line manager, if they have requested you to). 

For one-off requests, you may also be asked to complete a separate form that is specific to your School or Function. You will be provided with details of this, if required.

We have developed different authorisation arrangements for different types of access required to campus. This allows us to respond to simple requests quickly, while ensuring that all requests have the appropriate Health and Safety considerations applied.

Access type

Authorisation method

1.    a. One-off access for staff and PhD students to collect materials or equipment (offices)

1.    b. One-off access for staff and PhD students in specialist spaces (labs/workshops/studios etc.)

Staff/PhD Supervisor to complete MRT02 or MRT03 form, which you can request from your Health & Safety Coordinator (HSC). Completed form is submitted to Head of School/Function. 

You may also be required to complete a form specific to your area of work – details of this will be provided, if required.  

For specialist spaces, the requests will be passed to Technical Services to escort staff/students

2.    One off access for students to collect items from lockers in academic buildings (collection from Halls is being dealt with separately by UPP, during the same time period)

Students in relevant Schools (and through RUSU for their lockers) have been contacted by Student Support Centres (and RUSU) and asked to complete a form requesting access between 12 June and 28 June 2020 - process now COMPLETE

3.    Urgent access for COVID related or other research; contractor access; OH related staff working needs; short term working which cannot be done from home and similar

Head of School/Function to request by email from Director of Estates (acting on behalf of Estates & Infrastructure (E&I) MRT Sub Group). If access is authorised, risk assessments are required to be undertaken locally according to procedures involving Health and Safety Coordinators (HSC) which they can advise on.

Form MRT02/03 as appropriate should be completed by each member of staff in addition to the RA. This can be obtained from your HSC.

4.    Resumption of On Campus Activities

Flowchart MRT01 refers.

Heads of School/Function have made a prioritised Resumption of On Campus Activities submission. They have now received a response identifying the earliest date from which the relevant buildings could be available.

Prior to resumption on campus of any work:

  • Risk assessmentsare required to be undertaken locally according to procedures involving Health and Safety Coordinators.
  • FormsMRT02/03as appropriate (these can be obtained from HSCs) will need to be completed by each member of staff concerned andsubmitted via HSCs to HoS/F.
  • Estates & Infrastructure MRT sub group will review requests from HoS/F weekly and advise the earliest date by which all building/infrastructure/access arrangements can be put in place

No activities should resume on site until that date.

Please allow at least 10 working days notice

4a. Return to campus for individuals


Arrangements relating to individuals' resumption of activities on site will need to be made through their line managers and managed through planning at departmental, School or Function level, with input from local HSCs. The University authorisation for this will follow the process at 4 above.

5.    Visitor access to campus

a.    Public access to campus - access has been maintained throughout the pandemic for members of the public to use the campus for exercise purposes. Visitors are required to maintain social distancing and avoid the halls area of the campus where students are in residence

b.    ‘Visitor' access for business purposes e.g. research/commercial partnerships, IELTS testing  - Schools/Functions are required to take responsibility for their own visitors and to supervise their visit, this should be discussed and risk assessments agreed with your HSC. Approval for individual visitors will not be provided centrally, but those supervising such visits should go through the process in 4 above prior to commencement of the activity and identify within the MRT02/03 formsthat they will give appropriate supervision for the visitors

6.    Tenant access to campus

Resumption of On Campus activities - tenants who have not been working on site and whose building is not currently occupied should contact Chris Reeve, Director of Property Services, who can take them through an appropriately modified version of the process at 4 above.

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Do I have to wear a face covering? 

The University supports the government's advice that face coverings can be used as a precautionary measure to protect others and advises that we "Protect our Community: Wear a Face Covering". 

There are three main points for both students and colleagues to remember:

1.  All legal requirements about face coverings apply on campus. For example, you must wear a face covering in shops, takeaway food outlets, on public transport, places of worship and in our museums.

2.  In line with government guidance, you are expected to wear a face covering where social distancing is difficult to maintain, including:

  • in enclosed spaces, including classrooms, lecture theatres and the library, or where social distancing of 2 metres is not possible (this includes corridors and outdoor spaces)
  • where you come into contact with others that you do not normally meet.


3. You do not need to wear a face covering if you can work 2 metres from others, so you may choose to  remove it when sitting at a desk or workstation outside a classroom setting (if you are more than 2 metres away from other people) although you should put it back on to move around inside buildings.

It is important to note that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings. This can be for a wide range of reasons, including hidden disabilities. If you see someone wearing a sunflower lanyard, this indicates that they have a hidden disability. However, wearing one is a personal choice and not everyone affected by a hidden disability will choose to do so.

Students living in our Halls of Residence do not need to wear a face covering inside their house/flat. Students may wish to wear a face covering in communal areas inside halls where it is not possible to maintain social distancing of 2 metres.  

In general, you will need to have your own face covering and you will be able to purchase them at various outlets on campus. Face coverings can take a variety of forms but should cover the nose and mouth areas. There is helpful advice on using and disposing of face coverings on the UK government website.

Members of staff working in reception areas, catering outlets and support areas, where a high degree of interaction is likely, will be supplied with appropriate face covering if a risk assessment indicates that this is necessary. Staff delivering face-to-face teaching will be able to request a face visor, which can provide reassurance for both staff and students as well as allowing easier communication.

We are a diverse community and we wish to take a position that is consistent with government advice and that feels as safe and reassuring as possible for everyone. Please be courteous, respectful and patient towards all members of our community.

You can read more about face coverings, including how to make your own, on the government's website.

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How will research be delivered?

Research remains an essential part of University activity and our 2020-2026 Strategic Plan. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our students' learning experiences, we need to create additional capacity for teaching, and so we are asking some colleagues through discussion with Heads of School to temporarily adjust workloads to focus on teaching priorities.

Given the impact of research leave that is not externally or RETF funded on the workload of other colleagues, we are expecting that Schools suspend internally funded research leave for 2020/21 unless there are strong strategic reasons for this leave (e.g. research and impact work feeding into REF2021 or the development of significant research grant applications). Heads of Schools and Departments are being asked to ensure that research time associated with externally funded research projects is protected, and then prioritise internally funded pump priming projects (e.g. RETF open calls).

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