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Coronavirus (COVID-19): update on working from home

Coronavirus

Update on coronavirus COVID-19 from Dominik Zaum, Deputy Chair, COVID-19 Major Incident Team

Dear colleagues,

Late yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister announced updated advice regarding coronavirus COVID-19. This included a recommendation for more home working where possible, avoiding non-essential travel and non-essential social contact, and self-isolation for whole households for 14 days if one person has symptoms. 

The shift to increased home working will need to be done in a managed and considered way. UEB and members of the Major Incident Team are meeting this morning  (Tuesday) to fully consider the implementation of this guidance, ensure that critical services for students and colleagues that require a physical presence on our campuses can continue, and that the colleagues providing them are fully supported by the University throughout that time. 

We will then finalise a framework and guidance to support Heads of Schools and Functions to implement these changes while minimising disruption to essential services. We anticipate that these arrangements will gradually come into place by Monday 23 March. We will provide an update later today on the initial steps.    

If you fall into one of the vulnerable groups identified today by the Prime Minister - those who are pregnant, over 70, or with particular health conditions - please make decisions that are right for your situation. You should consider working from home if you can, and ensure you maintain regular communication with your line manager. 

If the new self-isolation requirements apply to you, then please communicate this to your line manager as soon as possible. If you are unwell, our normal absence reporting and sick leave arrangements apply. Please continue to keep your line manager informed of the situation. If you are sufficiently well and it is possible to work from home, then you should do so and keep in regular contact with your line manager. If, due to your situation or the nature of your role, it is not possible to work from home then you must talk to your line manager. In these circumstances, you will be paid as normal, but please keep in regular contact with your line manager.  

If you do not fall into one of these groups, please do not move to home working arrangements until you have discussed and agreed this with your line manager. Further to our message on Friday, please take the next few days to familiarise yourself with the tools available for remote working and ensure that you are as prepared as possible. More detailed information on this is set out below. 

For the health and wellbeing of our whole community, please remember that, if you develop a high temperature or a new persistent cough, you should immediately follow the government guidelines on self-isolation and communicate with your line manager. 

These are incredibly challenging circumstances and I fully understand that you may be feeling anxious for yourself, your family and your friends. I am sure that colleagues will work together so we can manage this transition as smoothly as possible in the best interest of our whole University community. 

Kind regards, 

Dominik 

Dominik Zaum 

Deputy Chair, COVID-19 Major Incident Team 

 

Preparation for home working  

To ensure you are personally prepared, please read the online guidance on what you will need to work remotely.   

In particular, there are certain steps you can take now:  

  • Consider what IT equipment you have access to at home, or would need to take home, that would allow you to work.
  • Multi-factor authentication has been introduced to improve the security of our systems. If you have not done so already, please download the Microsoft Authenticator App on your smartphone. Instructions on how to set up the app are available on the Remote Services Access Guide.
  • With Microsoft OneDrive, you have access to significant secure online storage that you can access from anywhere. You are encouraged to transfer files currently on your personal (N:) drive to OneDrive, which you can access without using the VPN. Guidance on doing this is available in the online guidance.
  • With Microsoft Teams, you have the ability to join meetings, collaborate, access files, chat and call remotely so take time to ensure you are familiar with this system if you are not already.
  • Test essential systems that you need when working remotely, including the VPN.
  • Some of your day-to-day work may not be easily done away from the office. Think ahead, individually and as teams and consider if there is work that you could still undertake at home, such as reading or other learning and development.
  • Ensure your contact information is up-to-date and colleagues know the best way to contact you when you are working away from the University.
  • Care needs to be taken to keep material safe when working remotely, especially if you handle personal, confidential or valuable data. This is particularly important if you are using devices shared with others in your household. Please take time to refresh your knowledge of our data protection and information security requirements.
  • For colleagues involved in teaching, a new section has been created on the Blackboard ‘Help for Staff' site that explains how you can deliver teaching remotely.

We are aware that there have been issues in the past with access to the VPN required to use some services remotely. Work is being finalised to significantly extend the capacity of this system and instructions on how to use the extended VPN solution will soon be published. There are many systems that do not require the VPN, so please read the information in the online guidance.  

We recognise that not all roles can be undertaken from home, or that personal circumstances may not allow it. Even if a large proportion of on-campus activities were to scale down, there would still be critical activity that would need to be carried out on-site. As such, we understand that working in these circumstances may not reflect typical day-to-day activity, and where colleagues have agreed a position with their line manager, they will continue to be paid as normal.

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