Adaptation & Renewal: Estates and Digital Infrastructure

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Kathryn Darcus, Head of Corporate Communications and Communications Lead for the Estates and Digital Infrastructure work stream talks to bulletin about all the hard work, often behind the scenes, to get our estate up and running again and provide support for those staying at home.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our work and home lives, each in different ways. That is why, as part of the Adaptation and Renewal Team set up in April, a group was established specifically to support home and hybrid working and to manage the safe, phased reopening of our campus.

This Estates and Digital Infrastructure work stream brings together a breadth of expertise from departments and all three Colleges. Already, a huge amount of work has taken place to carefully plan and begin reopening a number of our buildings. In accordance with government guidelines, more than 50% of the University’s building space is on track to be open by the end of July. The Centre for Research Collections reopened on 8 July and a click-and-collect service will begin for staff and research students at the Main Library from 13 July.

Of course, when we return to campus – and as those who have been working on campus throughout will attest – things will look and feel very different. A number of measures will be in place to ensure your safety and we all will have a responsibility to safeguard ourselves and others.

Those returning to the workplace will hear from their line manager, and will be expected to complete a short training course before returning to campus.

So, what can you expect? Hand sanitisation facilities, screens in customer-facing areas, rearranged workspaces, and signage reminding you to physically distance are some of the changes you will see. Staff, students and visitors are also strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in University buildings.

To help with the preparation of teaching materials, pop-up studios will be available for academics to record lectures and seminars. Details of how to book these will be published soon.

Space is at a premium when planning for physical distancing across campus. Estates and IS are leading sub-groups, exploring how we can maximise study and social spaces for students across campus. They have lots of creative ideas in development which will be shared as soon as possible.

The University’s Cycle to Work Scheme has increased its limit from £1,000 to £3,000. This boost will enable some staff who could not previously cycle to consider using the scheme to purchase an E-bike. Furthermore, an estimated 700 more bike racks will be installed across campus.

Nevertheless, working from home will continue to be a reality for many of us for some time – whether that be full time, or as part of a hybrid approach which might see us spend part of our time on campus.

Earlier this month, more than 5,000 staff completed a survey that asked how the experience of working from home has been so far. This invaluable information is being analysed and will help to inform decisions and highlight support needs at a local and University-wide level.

As lockdown has continued, guidelines for staff and managers have been prepared to advise on key issues, such as health & safety, digital skills, online security, expenses, and mental health. Staff who will be working from home will also be asked to complete a risk assessment and training to support their continued homeworking. These courses are being finalised and will be available on the Covid-19 training website.

Before Covid-19 hit, the University was awash with a huge array of important events, from small internal gatherings to world-leading conferences and lectures. A new Online and Digital Events Service has now been launched to help staff successfully organise events at a distance.

For most of us, the idea that we would have moved teaching and assessment online, closed the majority of our buildings, or transitioned to working from home would have been unthinkable in January. However, while it has been challenging, we should all be incredibly proud of what has been achieved in this time. As we move forward, the Estates and Digital Infrastructure work stream will continue to work hand-in-hand with colleagues across the University to help us transition out of lockdown, ensuring that we emerge as a strong, renewed organisation.

Photography: Douglas Robertson; GettyImages