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A monthly round-up of all you need to know.

In this special edition of In Brief we have a message from the Vice Chancellor, how best to work from home and an update on COVID-19.

Contact Internal Communications for more information.

A message from the Vice Chancellor

Thank you for your hard work during this strange and unprecedented time. Whether you’re working from home or on campus looking after essential services, we are extremely grateful for your work, commitment and patience.

Read a message from the Vice-Chancellor, Robert Van de Noort, to all colleagues.


Make sure your workstation is set up right

You may be doing this already, but when using a computer or laptop please make sure you have a stable chair, desk, and, ideally, a separate mouse and keyboard. Pay attention to posture – use cushions and makeshift footstools to improve support and use items such as books to position your monitor or laptop so that your eyeline is level with the top of your screen. See Health and Safety’s handy guide to using everyday items for inspiration.

Your workspace should be well lit, with no trailing cables over your desk or floor. Be mindful of electrical safety – use one extension cable per mains socket and avoid cuboid socket adaptors where possible.

See the staff portal for further advice.


Technical Support is still available

Our Digital Technology Services (DTS) has created a number of resources that you may find helpful:  

Looking after yourself

With many of us working from home and those remaining on campus working in different offices it’s worth taking a bit of time to take some steps to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. Our wellbeing pages have been updated to reflect the latest Government guidance on working from home.

We’ve also published a guide containing general working from home advice on the Staff Portal. In the coming weeks there’ll be a series of stories on how to look after yourself and others and how to get the best out of working from home.


What’s working like for you?

We are adjusting to new ways of working which is a new experience for most University colleagues - whether we are working from home or on campus maintaining essential services. Each of us will experience this slightly differently so we’d like to hear from you.

Internal Communications team has developed a step by step process that can be used whether sharing your story with text, text and photos or by video.

By sharing our stories we can help all colleagues feel more connected and engaged in our day to day working lives.

If you’d like to take part, please contact the Internal Communications team.


Guidance for Managers

Many of us manage individuals or teams which are now dispersed and working remotely. Here are a few suggestions on making our colleagues feel connected and supported at this time:
  • Regular check-ins: Make time for regular one-to-one and team chats.
  • Connection options: Microsoft Teams allows both audio and video calls as well as the instant messaging options. Agree what option suits a colleague best and use that.
  • Agree who is doing what: To avoid duplication, please make sure colleagues understand the tasks they are taking on and any deadlines for it.
  • Mental health and wellbeing: This story on the staff portal provides advice on taking care of yourself and others.   
  • Team socials: Consider activities that bring together colleagues (through audio or video conferencing) to interact socially.
Some colleagues have to balance working from home with child care responsibilities, please be flexible and consider other work people could be doing. 

Stay up to date

We are sharing important updates with you by email and through the staff portal. Please keep checking the staff portal for the latest guidance and information.

On the staff portal, you will find our FAQ page covering key topics for your awareness. If you have any questions, be sure to check the FAQs in case your query has been answered.


Building access across campus 

Following government restrictions on non-essential travel, all buildings on our campuses are now fully secured and can only be accessed by those authorised by their School or Function.

Authorised colleagues will have received an email and formal letter – both of which can be used to confirm that travel is essential if questioned. Please make sure you carry your Campus Card with you to access the building you are authorised for.

Although campus is closed, if you live close by you can use the grounds for outdoor exercise in accordance with government advice.


'Support our Students' scheme
We are looking for volunteers to support our students still living in Halls. The Student Success and Engagement team has set up a 'Support Our Students' scheme in partnership with RUSU and Campus Commerce colleagues.

The scheme gives students the option to be paired with a colleague for online or practical support. This is an opportunity to volunteer and provide some much needed support to our students.

If you can help by providing either online support or more physical support by picking up essential food and medicine, please sign up using this form.


Supporting our local community

The University of Reading is supporting local organisations during these unusual times.

COVID-19 themed cyber attacks

There have been reports of COVID-19 themed cyber attacks using the coronavirus as a lure for taking money or sensitive data. These include phishing campaigns and scams designed to trick people into handing over money, installing malware or passing over sensitive data. Some of the scams reported so far include fake campaigns for charity donations and links to websites providing safety information.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is taking action to remove malicious websites linked to scams, but please remember to be vigilant and use common sense if you see something suspicious. Do not click on any links or attachments or provide any sensitive information such as your password. 

Please see our
cyber security page for advice on staying safe.

University awarded Athena SWAN Silver

The University has received a Silver level Athena SWAN award from the Equality Challenge Unit, placing us within a small group of universities achieving this fantastic accolade.

Athena SWAN recognises the work undertaken by an institution to advance greater gender equality. Since 2016 the University held a Bronze level award, and last December we applied to have the award upgraded to Silver. The application highlighted the progress we have made in many areas – including increased job-sharing at all levels, a reduction in Grade-9 gender pay gap, increased number of female professors, stronger female representation in the University Executive Board and our first female Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Parveen Yaqoob.

Read the full story on the staff portal.

REF 2021 contingency planning

As part of contingency plans for the REF 2021, the submission deadline of 27 November 2020 has been suspended. A revised submission deadline will be announced in due course.

Importantly, the census date for staff and the end of assessment period for impact continue to be 31 July 2020. With this in mind, all planned REF processes and activities should continue as originally planned. This includes the processes for assessment of research independence, voluntary declaration of personal circumstances, and impact case studies.

See the staff portal for full details.

Promoting your research

We’re all having to do things a little differently right now, including promoting our work.

If you’re looking for advice on promoting your research or any other interesting activity during this time, you may find our Promote Your Research page helpful. Here, you will find tips on everything from blogging to using social media – all drawing from the expertise of our Communications colleagues.

For further help and advice please contact our Research Communications and Engagement team.


Events update

Each month, we usually include a round-up of events taking place on campus over the coming weeks.

Following government advice, all University events for the foreseeable future have been cancelled or postponed. This will remain the University’s position until the official advice changes. Among the activities effected by this are our summer open days, which will be delivered as a virtual experience, and our summer graduation ceremonies.

If you had an event planned, and would like to explore the possibility of holding an online alternative please contact the Events team.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, our Staff Disability Network recently held a virtual coffee morning – read our staff portal story to find out how they did it.


Past issues and future copy deadlines for In Brief can be found here.

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