Staff Update - 26 March 2020
While many of us are supporting the fight against Coronavirus by staying at home and working remotely, a number of our Aberdeen campus staff remain on site to support students who need to remain in halls, ensure the security of our buildings and assets, and to ensure we keep vital services and plant running.
As a community, I think it is important that we acknowledge their efforts – together with those supporting the NHS – at this difficult time. Without their dedication it would be impossible for us to continue to run as a virtual university and they deserve the thanks of us all for their commitment.
So far, more than 110 students have indicated they intend to remain in residence in University accommodation in Aberdeen, with more still to confirm - therefore security, maintenance and cleaning on site at Hillhead has to continue.
The nature of our large estate spread across two campuses in Aberdeen also means that we require some physical presence on site both at King’s and at Foresterhill, and our security and portering staff have been working around the clock to provide this, supported by a skeleton cleaning staff. Staff from the Operations team - mechanical, electrical and grounds colleagues - also continue to provide key support.
As a result of the restriction of movement of people put in place by the government, University workers who are still required to be on campus for business-critical activities will be sent official letters explaining this. Staff should carry this letter on their person when travelling to and from work in case they are stopped by police.
Elsewhere, the effort involved to enable thousands of members of staff to work remotely has been tremendous. Digital and Information Services colleagues have rolled out Microsoft Teams across the entire staff population; increased capacity and licensing for key systems; and repurposed huge quantities of on-campus kit to facilitate home working.
Adapting to a remote workplace has been a steep learning curve for many of us and would not have been possible for many without our dedicated Servicedesk and other IT teams who in the last week have successfully resolved more than 1,000 helpdesk calls and will continue to remotely support the needs of the community.
Our IT teams are constantly reviewing ways to improve and support access to the University systems. Work is now complete to divert a number of high traffic websites such as BBC News, Youtube, Netflix and Facebook through the web to reduce pressure on our own systems.
But it is not just our own community our staff are supporting. Our Digital and Information Services colleagues are currently in discussion with NHS Grampian to provide support for their own roll out of Microsoft Teams through the provision of training manuals and informal remote support.
As we outlined in an earlier communication, there is also an extensive effort underway to support the NHS in other important ways. Our clinical staff are doing a superb job, and this is backed up by dedicated staff members from many other areas from administration to Estates and Facilities, as we explore the repurposing of our buildings and facilities.
While we are grateful to all those essential staff members who remain on campus, we have taken steps to ensure that the numbers in attendance are as low as they possibly can be to continue as a virtual university.
There are a number of important changes we have made to reduce our mailroom service, delivery service, portering at Kings and our waste and emergency maintenance services. You can find full details of this here.
We have also stopped direct debits for all staff members who pay for car parking or their Aberdeen Sports Village membership through this method.
For staff who take advantage of the Government Tax Free Childcare or Childcare Vouchers scheme, options exist to build up future credit or to reduce the cost. More information regarding this can be found here andhere.
Of course, every single team is making its own contribution to support the wider function of the University and while I may not have outlined your specific role here, please be assured that your efforts are recognised and appreciated.
The whole of the University has pulled together in a remarkable way during this unprecedented challenge and I know we will continue working as a team to meet any new challenges that may present themselves.
Acting Director of Operations