Our staff on the ground

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While the majority of us are now working from home, essential workers across our community are continuing to go to work each day. We’ve asked them to share what’s it’s like to continue working in this unusual time. Here Natasha Breen, Head of Marketing and Communications in Accommodation, Catering and Events (ACE), shares what the ACE and Estates teams have been working on.

In these unprecedented times, our essential staff members are crucial to keeping the University’s core operations running, attending to the needs of the University community still on the estate, and protecting the University’s assets. Since lockdown began, the ACE and Estates teams have continued to work on campus each day to make sure the University continues to function and our community is safe.

In normal circumstances, people expect lights to work, water to run, waste to be managed, food to be provided. Sometimes we forget that there’s a person behind these activities and it’s exactly these workers who are needed on-site week in, week out to ensure the University is running as efficiently as possible.

With almost 4,500 students still living on the University estate, we must continue to care and support those students, who will be relying on the University during this time. While operations have been adjusted, certain core services and facilities are still ongoing and can only be carried out on-site. Resident Assistants and Wardens are looking after the wellbeing of our residents during what is a very unsettling time for everyone but especially students who are separated from their homes and loved ones.

The ACE Community Support Team, along with colleagues from lots of different business areas within the team, continue to support students still in our buildings by delivering their meals and making a special effort to talk to those in isolation, as well as ensuring our buildings, most of which are still occupied, remain safe and operational.

Arcadia Nursery at the King’s Buildings remains open to provide childcare for key workers. There are a total of 19 staff working alternative shifts to ensure they are able to take care of the children as well as adhering to the social distancing measures. The children are a great distraction during this uncertain time and even those who are at home have sent in some lovely pictures to display on the windows for passers-by.

For those who are working from home, we have a group of staff who have volunteered to be on the essential works list and are willing to come on campus to help these critical activities if needed.

Estates are also working on vital activities across the various campuses. The Security team continue to operate 24-hours a day across three hubs based at Easter Bush, Queens Medical Research Institute and Infirmary Street. While maintaining social distancing measures, they are working to deter criminals, checking for any floods or faults, responding to alarms and allowing building access for their fellow essential workers.

Estates staff, along with representatives from the Students’ Association, ACE and the Schools, have formed a group who are carrying out ongoing checks in all our buildings. This group of staff are familiar with the premises, therefore they are key to ensure buildings are secure and minimise the number of staff going into them.

The Parking Team has provided 230 parking spaces at the BioQuarter for frontline NHS staff and made ECA car parks available for physical distancing and emergencies for the Dental Institute.

Within the Estates Maintenance team, plumbers sourced and installed 24 tap sets and mixers valves for the Richard Verney Health Centre to ensure that staff are following Government guidelines and have the right temperature to keep washing their hands during their critical worktime.

With the majority of our buildings now closed, teams of cleaners have been reassigned to support NHS buildings in Edinburgh, including McKenzie Medical Centre and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. They are being provided with appropriate PEE while cleaning communal areas, offices and doctor’s rooms. Feedback has been very positive, especially as one Cleaning Supervisor has also been baking muffins for the NHS staff!

And notably, alongside their day-to-day jobs, Estates has demonstrated acts of kindness by picking up food three times a week from a designated supermarket and delivering to the Cairn Hotel, which is currently housing homeless people. For food that is out of date, they head to Edinburgh Zoo afterwards to share the rest with the animals.

Gary Jebb, Director of Estates, said: “Thank you to all those staff across ACE and Estates who are contributing to the success of the University and its response to the Coronavirus. Our staff always go the extra mile so it is no surprise to me that their commitment and support has been highlighted even more during these uncertain times. We take pride in looking after the welfare, safety and security of our students, staff and visitors and I appreciate the staff who are coming into work to ensure this happens every day.”

Are you part of a team still going into work each day? We’d like to hear from you. Drop us an email at bulletin@ed.ac.uk

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