Update to staff - 17 March at 5pm
This email is lengthy and detailed but it is important that you take time to read it with care.
The last 24 hours has seen significant change to the advice issued by the Government with regard to Coronavirus and as a consequence I am emailing all staff with revised advice on the University’s position.
Self-isolation when unwell
The Government’s advice is that you should stay at home if you have either:
- a high temperature - you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new continuous cough - this means you've started coughing repeatedly
For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild infection.
- if you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days
- if you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you are staying at home. You should however contact 111 if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, if your condition gets worse or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.
The University’s position on self-isolation is set out here
The mental health of our staff and students is a particular concern at this time. Remote working brings its own challenges. More information will be available shortly but for now it is important to note the following:
The efforts of colleagues on campus to respond to the situation so far has been heartening. I know we will continue to work together and support each other. Some of us may be more worried than others. Some of us will be more impacted by the virus than others. Some of us will have a wider support network to draw upon than others. As members of the University community, we need to continue to ensure that we look out for each other, be respectful and kind, and be mindful of our different experiences.
Colleagues should check the Staff FAQs regularly to keep up to date with the situation. HR Partners are also available to support staff and managers with any queries related to employment and the virus.
The University’s Employee Assistance Programme is important if colleagues need support at this time. They can be contacted on 0800 111 6387. The mental health charity Mind has created useful resources that colleagues can also access.
Learning and teaching
I am grateful for the support colleagues have provided to students at this challenging time, and the way they have sought to transition their teaching at short notice. As all face-to-face delivery ceases, it is even more important that we support our students with their studies through online seminars, tutorials and other guidance. All I can ask is that colleagues do their very best to support students in the best ways they are able to.
Professor Thomson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, has been consulting with Associate Deans for Teaching throughout the day and detailed guidance is being developed for students.
Please remember that the University’s Delivering Teaching Remotely helpline for support is open from 0900-1700 this week. You can contact colleagues on 222848, and online support is available here. We recognise that changing delivery on this timescale is challenging and imperfect. Our request remains that colleagues simply do the very best they are able to, to maintain teaching and learning for our students.
Colleagues with underlying health issues, the over seventies and pregnant women
These colleagues should work remotely with immediate effect. For the sake of clarity, the advice in the next paragraph on ‘remote working’ does not apply to them. Further guidance on underlying health conditions can be found here.
If colleagues are uncertain, they should work remotely and seek advice from either their GP or the University Occupational Health Service.
The University should now move, no later than Thursday and with significant changes tomorrow (Wednesday) to a position where remote working becomes the norm an default for most people for most of their time. There are however essential functions that we must maintain on campus – not least because we have a significant number of students who are unable to travel home over Easter. Our focus is on reducing the risk to those who need to be here, by allowing those who can work remotely to do so.
Managers have been asked to agree with their teams a pattern to put this into place, whilst maintaining those functions deemed essential. If your manager has not spoken to you, please proactively ask them.
We want the majority of people to begin to remote work for most of their time. The overall aim is to maintain important functions and business continuity, whilst significantly reducing, in a managed way, the numbers on campus.
Our colleagues in Campus Services (and ENGIE colleagues at our London campus) are doing fantastic work to keep us as safe as possible through reprioritised, regular cleaning. There is no expectation that colleagues clean areas themselves but, at this challenging time, I know some colleagues are wiping things like door handles themselves. Whilst Campus Services stocks of cleaning products and wipes remain adequate, they do not have the capacity to distribute these widely. If you wish to clean areas:
- Warm water and washing up liquid will be sufficient and will deactivate the coronavirus (COVID-19) - this is more effective than using alcohol wipes due to the structure of the virus
- Either leave items to dry on their own or, if necessary, dry them with paper towels or tissues (not tea towels which are not hygienic in this context).
Doctoral researchers & research
Academic colleagues should ensure that they have discussed with their PGRs suitable arrangements for working remotely. PGRs can consult both the staff and student FAQs on the University’s Coronavirus website and should interpret references to “managers” as meaning “supervisors” in their case.
Some research in facilities may be able to continue where possible. However due to there being fewer colleagues on campus, some areas may have access limited and this may vary depending on locations. PhD students should communicate directly with their supervisors for further advice. Principal Investigator supervisors should take guidance from their Dean or Operations Manager about appropriate access where necessary.
Principal Investigators alongside their PhD student should evaluate their ongoing laboratory/workshop activity in light of the developing situation and not commence new laboratory activities that will need to be tended to in the short term.
Important contacts and sources of information
I know colleagues have had to contend with a lot of information in recent days. Please do ask a manager or consult the sources below, if you need guidance. The one thing I am certain of is we have not thought of everything.
- Preparedness for remote working
- Delivering teaching remotely helpline: 01509 222848
- Delivering teaching remotely online support
- IT Services help: 01509 222333 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- IT support for remote working is also available at the drop-in sessions being held on campus
- Coronavirus information from the University
- Contact for any questions that your manager cannot answer or are not on the FAQ site: email@example.com
- Contact for Health and Safety: 01509 222181 or firstname.lastname@example.org
None of us know what further advice might be issued by the Government but I maintain my previous commitment: if this changes significantly I shall email you again with the University’s response.
I am impressed with how the University community has come together to deal with the challenges we currently face. Most importantly, I want to thank you for your dedication and commitment, in particular your support to members of our community. Despite the upheaval, I have seen the very best side of the University in recent days.