Monthly Archives: March 2020

Laptop, cup of tea, open book and a fruite pastry all on a made bed, with a nightstand next to it.

How to self-isolate

Self-isolating and social distancing means non-essential contact with other people. To achieve this, you need to work at home wherever possible, avoid all unnecessary travel and avoid public gatherings.

Self-isolating and social distancing can feel lonely and lead to anxiety, depression and make you feel demotivated. So we have put together some tips for you on how to make the most of the situation.

Write a to-do list

You will find a to-do list keeps you on-track and motivated. Also it’s an amazing feeling when you tick off things on the list. The best thing to do is to write the list the day before or first thing in the morning.

Take regular breaks

Regardless of your workload, please remember to take regular breaks especially to have lunch or dinner. This is vital to keep you refreshed and your energy levels up.

Stay in touch

You might not be able to physically meet people but you can stay in touch thanks to the wonders of technology. Skype, Zoom and Facetime friends and family and chat via Whatsapp with fellow staff. Remember that plenty of support is also available to you – you can talk to your line manager, get support from our Occupational Health team, or access expert help with both workplace and personal issues via our Employee Assistance Programme.

Eat healthily

This might be a bit of an ask considering what is going on in the shops but you can still eat healthily by using staple ingredients such a fruit, veg, milk, rice and potatoes. You can look up recipes online.

Exercise

While you are at home, it is essential to keep fit and you can do this by following exercises on YouTube or use fitness DVDs.

Binge on Netflix and box sets

What better way to end the day than by binging on a box set or watching a TV series or film on Netflix? The platform has launched a new facility called Netflix Party where you can chat with your friends while watching the same film or TV show at the same time.

Overall, stay safe and make the most of this time. And remember that you are not alone.

Microsoft Teams for Students Has Launched

The Library and Information Services have introduced Microsoft Teams for students as part of the Office 365 package. Microsoft Teams is an online space where you can chat to fellow students, share files, attend seminars, take part in meetings and work collaboratively.

Even better, it gives you online access from anywhere, on any device, so no need to use the VPN. Perfect during this COIVD 19 lockdown as it will allow you to carry on working on your group projects and share ideas with classmates.

The benefits of Microsoft Teams are below:

Desktop and mobile apps available

To get all the benefits of Teams, we recommend downloading the app onto your devices. If you have the app you can even share your screen with support staff, who can use it to offer remote help with IT issues.

Text and video chat

This is perfect for virtual group work, quick discussions with lecturers or a chat with a fellow student to check in and say hi. These tools can be used with anyone inside or outside of the University and not just within your module-based team.

Channels

Teams uses channels to separate content. Channels are set up by the Team owner (your convenor) and within each channel you can store files, hold virtual meetings and have ‘threaded’ conversations. This is similar to other services like Slack or Discord.

File sharing and collaboration

Microsoft Office files can be shared in channels or in chat and can be live-edited by multiple people at once. You can do this within Teams, without having to open other web apps or desktop apps. You can also download files but once you do this it won’t update if further changes are made within Teams.

A Team space has been set up for every module and if your module convenor plans to use it for online teaching, they’ll be in touch with you.

Access Teams by clicking on this link.

Enter your login details:

Username: username@kent.ac.uk (example: abc1@kent.ac.uk)
Password: your Kent IT account password

Choose the Teams app and you’re ready to go!

To download the Desktop app, use the download icon on the bottom left within the web app. On your mobile device, search ‘Microsoft Teams’ on your App / Play store.

Guide to online teaching and learning  

As we all adjust to working off-campus, a new guide has been published to help academic colleagues deliver teaching and assessments online. 

The Online teaching and learning: guidance for staff includes: 

  • A checklist for module convenors to complete 
  • Tips on using Moodle to deliver your teaching 
  • Using Office 365 Microsoft Teams to interact online with your students 
  • Accessing our Library’s digital resources 
  • Ensuring your online teaching and assessments are accessible to all 
  • What technology you will need  

The guide also links to University guidance on working and studying from home/off-campus,and support available for online learning, teaching and assessment. 

The guide has been compiled by colleagues in Information Services and our Unit for the Enhancement of Learning. 

Find out more by clicking on the guide now. 

Apple Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone and glasses on table

Top 10 tips for working remotely

CIPD, the professional body for human resources and people development, has put together a series of top tips to help you and your teams get the most out of homeworking. They include top 10 tips for working remotely.

Don’t forget to check out our own Information Services guide to working at home – everything you need on setting up your IT plus key information on data security, redirecting phones and health and wellbeing.

1. Set up a designated workspace. Separate space for yourself to work in, somewhere you can focus on tasks without being distracted and set up with everything you need for a normal working day – computer, phone, stationery, papers etc.

2. Make sure you have all the tech you need. This includes a reliable and secure internet connection, any necessary files, hardware and software, remote access to your company network and, importantly, knowledge of how to get IT support.

3. Get dressed. Changing into working clothes will help you mentally switch to productive work mode. It will also help you distinguish between ‘homeworking’ and ‘home life’.

4. Write a daily to-do list. Set out a list of realistic, achievable tasks to keep you focused.

5. Know when to step away from your desk. Be clear about when your working day begins and ends and take breaks to refresh. It’s easy to let yourself be ‘always on’ when your home and office are the same place. When work is over, be sure you switch off to avoid burnout. Think about having ‘core hours ’ which people you work with are around for.

6. Stay in conversation. Contribute regularly to team chats/group emails so you don’t drop off the radar. Ask about what people are working on and share what’s on your plate. Being physically separated means you miss the ‘water-cooler moments’ so this is a means to keep informed.

7. Foster relationships. Make time for non-work chats as you would in the workplace and use video calling to maintain face-to-face contact.

8. Be clear in your communication. Speaking in person gives you visual and audio cues that help you communicate. Conversing remotely removes a lot of that extra information so make your communications extra clear and concise.

9. Ask for support when needed. Speak out when you need assistance, further training or support. Your manager, colleagues and you are part of a team and should be supporting each other, especially remotely.

10. Make remote working work for you. Change where you sit, put on music, whatever helps you work. And enjoy the perks – no commute or uncomfortable shoes, and all your home comforts!

For more information and resources, see the CIPD webpages.

Tree structure internet networks

Coronavirus – key University and other links 

Action to combat Covid-19 is a fast-evolving situation and it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest information and advice. 

Below are some useful links for you to find out more support available at the University and our latest position, as well as key links for latest coronavirus information, health advice and higher education queries. 

University contacts 

For health and wellbeing, you can get support from our Occupational Health team, or access our new Employee Assistance Programme for help with both workplace and personal issues.  

To find more how the University is responding to Covid-19you can check our coronavirus website (which includes a regularly updated list of staff FAQs) or, if your query isn’t answered here,email the Coronavirus Response Group. 

Health advice 

The NHS Online service that can tell if you need medical help and advice. Use this service if you think you might have coronavirus; if you have been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus; or you have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus. Use th111 onlineweblinkor call 111 if you need to speak to someone. Don’t go to a hospital, GP surgery or pharmacy. 

Staff should contact the Wellbeing Team if they are asked to be tested or self-isolate by NHS 111 or a medical professional.  

Government updates 

Latest Government advice and guidance is available on the gov.uk website. You can also check the NHS website for latest health advice. You may also find media outlets such as the BBC useful sources of information. 

There is a daily update from the Prime Minister every evening. 

Higher education information 

The Department for Education can help with queries relating to higher education staff, students and parents with Covid-19 in relation to education. Phone: 0800 046 8687
(opening hours: 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk 

The Home Office can advise on immigration queries related to coronavirusfor international higher education staff and students. Phone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, free of charge) or email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk 

 

stay connected

How to stay connected while working remotely  

Do you miss the office camaraderie? With many of us now working from home, you may be feeling a bit lost without your colleagues near, or the chitter-chatter around you. But have no fear! With the use of Microsoft Teams, Skype or other virtual devices, there’s plenty of ways for you to stay connected. 

As well as conference calls, here’s a few suggestions on what you and your colleagues can do to stay virtually connected: 

Get set up

Making sure your PC or laptop is ready for home working is crucial for keeping in touch. Our amazing colleagues in Information Services have provided this great guide to working from home, to show you how. It also includes crucial information from other professional service colleagues on data security, redirecting you phone and looking after your health and wellbeing.

Weekly virtual coffee 

Schedule a time every week for you and your team to catchup over coffee via video conference. This can be different from your regular meetings – you can put the kettle on and chat about other things than your work, as you would normally in the office. This works for virtual lunch too!  

Share photos and videos 

A good way to bond with your colleagues is sharing (appropriate) photos or videos with them. Whether that’s your garden, your pets or even your work station, it’s a great way to create that personal touch you may have lost by working from home. Set aside a time in the day or week where you can share these photos and connect with other.

Please use #UniKentHomeWorking and share your home set up with us. Be careful with privacy though – please don’t include clues in the photos as to your location or the names of your family members. You wouldn’t want to have bank details lying around either!

Read all about staying protected, while working remotely. 

Morning status updates  

Start getting into a routine of having virtual updates with your team. A daily or weekly morning update via video conference is a great way to communicate important information and to share what work has or needs to be done. It’s also a good practice for setting people up for the day.   

Team activities 

Activities can be as simple as attending a webinar or starting a book or cooking club together. For a good sense of wellbeing, why not participate in weekly meditation or yoga as a groupIt’s a great way to stay connected, without it always being about work.    

Tell us what you think 

How are you keeping in touch with your colleagues? Share your thoughts and ideas on how to stay connected with colleagues by sending them to stories@kent.ac.uk 

Supporting your health and wellbeing

Staff are the University’s most valuable asset and your health and wellbeing is extremely important. 

There are many ways that colleagues, even when they are not working on campus, can access support and advice as and when they need it. These include a new Employee Assistance Programme specifically for Kent employees, as well as access to specialist advisers across the University. 

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) 

This new scheme offers University staff easy access to expert help with both workplace and personal issues. Whether you have questions on issues from debt and landlords, to nutrition and stress, our new EAP website should have the answers. To log-in, use the username: uokent and the password: university. 

Alternatively, you can phone the providers, Care first/Sodexho, free of charge on 0808 168 2143 and get free and confidential advice from an information specialist or accredited counsellor. 

Occupational Health support 

As well as EAP, the University has a dedicated Occupational Health team whose remit is to: 

  • prevent work-related ill health 
  • facilitate rehabilitation and return to work following periods of illness or injury 
  • promote physical and mental health and wellbeing at work. 

Your line manager can refer you to Occupational Health or you can opt for self-referral. Find out more on the Occupational Health webpageor the OH team’s Health and Wellbeing webpages.  

At the present time, it’s best to contact the OH team via email: occupationalhealth@kent.ac.uk 

Talking to your line manager 

Don’t forget that your line manager can also support you on health and wellbeing issues – either directly or pointing you to the right colleague/place to ensure you get the support you need. 

If you are able, speak to your line manager first. There may be a simple solution and they are not going to know you have a problem unless you discuss it with them. 

Line Managers can also take advantage of advice available from the EAP.  

HR contacts 

Our HR department is responsible for a number of staff wellbeing policies – from special leave to flexible working.  

The Employee Relations and Business Partnering Team provide line managers and other colleagues with specialist, professional advice, guidance and policy implementation on those policies, amongst others.  

Each area of the University has a specific Business Partner and Employee Relations Adviser – you can find out who yours is on the HR websiteTo make initial contact with the general ERBP team, email ERBP@kent.ac.uk. This address is monitored 09.00 to 17.00, Monday to Friday and using it will enable us to deal with your query as quickly as possible.  

Colleagues in Estates and Commercial Services have their own dedicated HR teams who can advise as necessary. 

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Working at home guidance

In line with Government guidelines on Covid-19, we are limiting face-to-face contact and adopting recommended social distancing measures. Unless physical access is absolutely essential, all staff should be working from home. 

Setting up at home 

Our HR and IS teams have put together a handy guide to working at home. This includes useful information on: 

  • Redirecting your office phone  
  • Setting up your work station and Display Screen Equipment 
  • Accessing network files through the VPN (Virtual Private Network) 
  • Storing sensitive data 
  • Using Office 365 
  • Accessing Staff Connect 
  • Staying in touch with your team members (eg through Skype for Business) 
  • Links to key resources 

IS have also published a comprehensive guide to accessing and using our IT services from home or elsewhere off-campus. 

In addition, you can find helpful advice on setting up your home work station in new guidance from our Safety, Health and Environment Unit. 

If you can’t work at home 

If you are unable to work due to caring responsibilities, then you should contact your manager. Our focus is on maintaining core services and it may be (particularly if two parents are working from home) that it is possible to rotate caring responsibilities so that you can undertake at least some of your core tasks. If staff are unable to work, they will be expected to use any accrued TOIL by agreement with their manager but pay will be maintained as normal.  

For timesheet staff who are available for work and have already agreed working hourstheir manager will arrange for these hours to be paid in the usual way. Timesheet staff who have not agreed any working hours will not be paid. 

Hourly-paid lecturers (HPLs) who have moved their teaching online and continue to support their students should continue to submit timesheets to their school for payment as normal. HPLs who are not able to continue with their teaching duties should speak to their school regarding alternative activities.   

How it affects your pay 

Our new University Pay Policy related to COVID-19 sets out temporary changes from standard policies, recognising that staff may find it difficult to work from home or while caring for dependents and that staff are concerned about their pay. 

 

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Monday’s VC staff update – 23 March 2020

I’m writing to provide an update of actions and decisions that we are putting in place post the Government announcements this evening at 8.30pm (Monday 23 March 2020) and I apologise for the lateness of the email.

As you are aware, we have been working to ensure we align our activities with government advice. The government has now made it clear that everyone in the UK should stop non-essential contact and stay at home, and comply with social distancing requirements.

As a result, we have accelerated the planned phased closure of buildings on the Canterbury and Medway campuses.

From 5pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020, buildings will be fully closed on the Canterbury and Medway campuses with staff working from home. While the majority of students have returned home and will remain at home until campus returns to normal operations, student residences remain open for those that need to stay with us.

This closure also applies to the Templeman Library building and the Drill Hall Library. However, the comprehensive digital library service will continue to be provided to all staff and students and additional collaboration technology has now been deployed to the whole university to ensure that meetings and student collaboration can continue for the remainder of the academic year. IT and Library support services continue to be available.

Please follow the updated advice and do not come onto campus. We are working with Estates and Commercial services colleagues to also put this action in place and managers in these areas will be in touch as appropriate to advise colleagues on actions they need to take. Estates Heads of Section will contact those essential staff this evening that are required to attend tomorrow.

Please contact your line manager for further information. Further updates will be given tomorrow.

In the meantime my good wishes to you and your families.

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

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Monday’s VC student update – 23 March 2020

I hope you had a good weekend, and managed to find some time for rest and peace.

I wanted to confirm that, by now, all taught students will have been emailed with information relating to the Summer Term scheduled timed written exams and to let you know that further information has now been published on the student webpages.

We also have an update for all students in on-campus accommodation. You can find out more here and the Accommodation Office will be following up directly with all those this applies to.

We know this situation continues to be challenging and our promise to you remains that we will ensure you are not academically disadvantaged by the current circumstances. Please continue to engage with your studies and we will continue to keep you updated.

With my very best wishes to you and your families.

Yours sincerely,

Karen

Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President