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Working from home

Last updated on September 2020

General

IT Services

Note about hyperlinks to the IT Support Portal/Knowledge Base: If you get an error message when selecting a link to an article or form in the list below, ensure you are signed into the IT Support Portal and then try the link again.

Safety at home

Library

Although the Library is physically closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are digitally open and available to support your teaching and research.

General

Can I purchase equipment to use to work from home?

Updated guidance has been agreed regarding the purchasing and payment of goods and services during this period – this guidance applies to all members of the University and its subsidiaries including all staff, students and other associated individuals and MUST be complied with. Only essential services and supplies are to be purchased until further notice and the iProcurement system will be available only for orders related to ensuring essential services remain operational and exceptionally, orders for goods/services which will enable work to continue off-campus.

Requisitions will, in either case, need to be pre-approved by a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) member or their immediate delegate or will not be converted into a Purchase Order (PO) or issued to the supplier.

There are very limited circumstances under which goods may be delivered to a personal address. DO NOT arrange this yourself and do not ask for an exception unless the member of SLT or their delegate has pre-approved a case for so doing. In exceptional circumstances, SLT has agreed that consideration may be given for goods to be delivered to a personal home address. In addition to the revised controls for purchases, any request for home delivery must be accompanied by a completed checklist and documentation which can be found here (link to guidance again).

Can I collect items from the office to help me work from home? What items can I take home?

Over the next few weeks some University buildings will be temporarily opened, to allow colleagues to collect items (in a co-ordinated way) to help them work from home.

More information has either already been provided, or will be provided shortly, by your Faculty, School or Directorate. This message will explain how and when you can visit campus and kind of items you can take. You can collect both your own personal items and any University-owned equipment to help you work from home - however you will not be able to take home desktop PCs. You may take home only as much as is necessary. Another member of staff may collect items on your behalf if you give them your permission.

Please do not attempt to access University buildings unless you have made the necessary arrangements. Your co-operation and understanding during this period are very much appreciated.

I have a disability and usually have specialist equipment in the office, what should I do during this period? Will the University pay for equipment for me to use at home?

If you have not been able to take specialist equipment home and are experiencing disability-related difficulties with working, you should, first of all, discuss your requirements with your line manager to see if adjustments can be made to help you work from home. This might include taking more frequent breaks or adopting different working hours and practices.

If you feel you need to explore further support, please contact the Disability Advisory Support Service (DASS) on dass@manchester.ac.uk or call 0161 275 7512 and leave a voicemail. They will try their very best to provide any support they can whilst bearing in mind the current restrictions.

How do I look after my wellbeing while working on my computer at home?

It is particularly important to take regular breaks and maintain positive wellbeing when working from home. Please visit Wellbeing on StaffNet.

  • Also, make sure to take regular micro-breaks (2-3 minutes) every 20 minutes
  • Take a slightly longer break (5 minutes) every hour
  • You may find it beneficial to occasionally undertake some simple stretches, such as those suggested by the NHS.

Is support available to help me pay household expenses while I’m working from home?

The University has carefully considered whether it is able to make payments to colleagues to contribute to household expenses incurred whilst working from home, such as heating, lighting, internet connection etc.  On balance the decision has been taken not to offer such payments but to encourage colleagues to consider making a claim for household expenses in the form of income tax relief through Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).   Details about this tax relief and how to claim it are available on the HMRC website. HMRC advises that you make one annual claim for the period you have been working from home as the refund will likely be given in the form of a tax code adjustment, so you will pay less tax over the year.  Multiple tax payers from the same address can claim this tax relief.

You can find further FAQs about working from home, including information on how to access IT and other equipment to assist you on StaffNet.

IT Services

I’m a member of University staff and need to request a University laptop – what do I do?

We’ve been encouraging existing staff to use their own devices and the remote desktop service wherever possible, however if this is no longer sustainable to effectively work from home then you can request the use of a University laptop. For the latest information about requesting a University laptop please refer to the IT Services website:

Can a postgraduate research student request a University laptop to work remotely?

Yes. Postgraduate research students follow the same processes as staff – for example if they have a need to request a laptop loan or need additional help and support.

For the 2020/21 academic year, the provisioning of IT equipment (mainly laptops) for new PGRs has been different. Supervisors have been working with IT Services directly, and any new PGR should first check with their supervisor before getting in touch with IT Services.

For the latest information please refer to the IT Services website.

Can undergraduate students or post graduate taught students get a laptop from IT Services?

IT Services does not usually provide laptops for undergraduate students or postgraduate taught students, however we now work in partnership with the Library to deliver HelpMeGetOnline. This service offers a laptop loan or dongle for students if they meet certain criteria. You can also direct students to the Student Support website for resources on how to access online learning and services.

What options are available for connecting to University services from home?

There are two options:

  1. Connect to services directly using the GlobalProtect Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  2. Connect to your University computer via Remote Desktop connection.

If you only need to access your University email or personal network storage (P: drive) files, you can do this via the web without using the VPN:

Do I need to set up working from home if I have a University managed laptop?

No. If you have a University-managed laptop you are most likely already setup to work remotely using the GlobalProtect VPN and 2-factor authentication from Duo, and shouldn’t need to do anything more.

How do I connect to services directly using the GlobalProtect VPN?

Most University services can be accessed via the web, but you can also use the GlobalProtect VPN to access your files and emails directly from your personal computer. You’d need to ensure that your work is stored on a University network drive such as a ‘P:Drive’ to be able to access it. If you already have the Microsoft Office suite installed on your personal computer, then this may be the best option for you.

You will need to: 

Detailed information is available in our extensive 'Working remotely at The University of Manchester' downloadable guide:

How do I connect to my University computer via Remote Desktop connection?

Once set up you can use your personal computer to connect to your University-managed computer and have access to all of your programs, files and network resources as though you were accessing your University computer in person. To set this up for the first time you need to do a number of things using your University computer whilst on campus. If you didn't manage to do this before the closure of non-essential buildings, please contact the IT Support Centre as it may be possible for them to set you up. 

While on campus on your University computer you will need to:

  • Go to the Software Centre and install the Remote Access Setup application. This will set up your University-managed computer so that you can access it remotely. If you are unable to do this, please contact the IT Support Centre as it may be possible to set these permissions on your behalf.
  • Register your University-managed computer on the WakeIT service
  • Reboot your University-managed computer and ensure that it is kept switched on before you leave (sleep mode is okay)

When working remotely, you will need to:

Detailed information is available in our extensive “Working remotely at The University of Manchester” downloadable guide:

What tools are available for communication and collaboration?

IT Services support all staff and students to use email and Microsoft Teams for communication and collaboration. Specific questions about Teams can be directed to our Technology Champions via the Microsoft 365 Yammer group. For technical help and support contact the IT Support Centre. Media Services support the Zoom video conferencing tool and have instructions on how to get setup and use it securely and appropriately on their website. Any questions about Zoom should be directed to Media Services at mediaservices@manchester.ac.uk

Can I take my desktop computer home?

No. You must not take your University-owned desktop computer home. It is not supported and will not work.

I need help setting up or connecting my computer at home – who can I contact?

Please refer to the Working Remotely Guide in the first instance, but if you cannot find an answer to your question there, then contact our IT Support Centre

Can I buy equipment to enable me to work from home and claim for these items through expenses?

No, the University’s expenses policy does not cover the purchase of items such as screens, laptops, desks and chairs. It is important to note that staff making purchases like these will not be reimbursed. If you are concerned that you don’t have the appropriate equipment to enable you to work from home from either health and safety or occupational health perspective, please contact your line manager in the first instance.

Only essential services and supplies are to be purchased until further notice. From Friday, 20 March iProcurement will be available only for orders related to ensuring essential services remain operational. These will need to be pre-approved by a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) member or their immediate delegate or will not be converted into a Purchase Order (PO) or issued to the supplier.

For legal reasons, there are almost no circumstances under which goods may be delivered to a personal address. Do not arrange this yourself and do not ask for an exception unless the relevant member of SLT has pre-approved a case for so doing. Please forward the SLT member email approval with the request.

Should I be worried about cyber attacks when working from home?

With universities moving to remote teaching and working, there is now an increased risk that each of us may become subject to cyber-attacks. However, there are some simple but important actions that you must take to keep your personal data, and University systems, safe and secure. 

  1. Beware of email/phishing scams. DO NOT click on any messages or links from unknown or unexpected sources and take the 15 minute email phishing course. Report suspicious emails by sending them as attachments to phishing@manchester.ac.uk.
  2. Install anti-virus software on all your computers. University managed desktop and laptop computers come with McAfee Endpoint security already installed. However, anyone using a device other than a University managed computer should install an anti-virus application immediately.
  3. Keep your software up to date.
  4. Secure your computer by setting a password that needs to be entered every time you log-in to your device. Strong passwords are a non-obvious combination of least 10 letters, numbers and symbols. Further guidance on setting a strong password is available on the IT services website.

If you think you have a virus on your computer, please unplug your network connection and contact the IT Support Centre as soon as possible.

I need to return a mobile phone. What do I do?

Mobile phones are purchased and owned locally in Directorates' Faculties and Schools and will need to be returned via this route.

Safety at home

How do I set up my work area?

Depending on personal circumstances, your workstation set up may look very different from your normal office set up, but the aim is for you to be as comfortable as possible. Try to find an area with adequate space to create a suitable working zone. When setting up your working zone it is important to:

  • Find an area with adequate space;
  • Ensure there is sufficient light, ventilation and no trailing leads;
  • Include, where possible: a table/desk/surface; chair; laptop or PC; other equipment e.g. mouse, keyboard.

Given this situation, you are encouraged to think of alternative ways to make your work set up at home comfortable. This might include using:

  • Small boxes as a footrest;
  • Cushions to adjust the seat height and provide lumbar support;
  • Books or box files to raise screen/monitor height.

It is particularly important to take regular breaks.

  • Take regular micro-breaks (2-3 minutes) every 20 minutes;
  • Take a slightly longer break (5 minutes) every hour;
  • You may find it beneficial to occasionally undertake some simple stretches, such as those suggested by the NHS.

There is information on StaffNet about setting up your workstation and the display screen equipment poster for guidance for more details. Check your electrical equipment is safe to use. Do not overload sockets or join extension leads together. Use a correctly fused extension lead, not longer than 15 metres where possible and ensure the cable is completely unwound to avoid overheating.

For more information visit the Health and Safety Executive.

I can’t get my work area set up correctly, what can I do?

Colleagues who are continuing to work from home may wish to collect equipment and items from campus.  As the Government restrictions on non-essential travel have been eased it is now possible for colleagues to visit campus to collect items to help them work from home.  Some University buildings will be temporarily opened over the next few weeks to enable staff to briefly visit, in a co-ordinated way. More information has either already been provided, or will be provided shortly, by your Faculty, School or Directorate outlining how and when you can collect items.

Please do not attempt to access University buildings unless you have made the necessary arrangements. Your co-operation and understanding during this period are very much appreciated.

I don’t have a suitable office chair to work from, what should I do?

Colleagues who are continuing to work from home may wish to collect equipment and items from campus. As the Government restrictions on non-essential travel have been eased it is now possible for colleagues to visit campus to collect items to help them work from home.  Office chairs are one of the items you may take home. Some University buildings will be temporarily opened over the next few weeks to enable staff to briefly visit, in a co-ordinated way. More information has either already been provided, or will be provided shortly, by your Faculty, School or Directorate outlining how and when you can collect items.

Please do not attempt to access University buildings unless you have made the necessary arrangements. Your co-operation and understanding during this period are very much appreciated.

I am still not comfortable, what should I do?

If you are finding it difficult to work comfortably you should discuss the options with your line manager taking into account time, effort and practicalities. It may be possible for you to agree a more flexible approach to working by building in more frequent breaks but please note that your line manager will not be able to approve the purchase of equipment for you to use from home.

Updated guidance has been agreed regarding the purchasing and payment of goods and services during this period – this guidance applies to all members of the University and its subsidiaries including all staff, students and other associated individuals and MUST be complied with.

Only essential services and supplies are to be purchased until further notice and the iProcurement system will be available only for orders related to ensuring essential services remain operational and exceptionally, orders for goods/services which will enable work to continue off-campus.

Requisitions will, in either case, need to be pre-approved by a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) member or their immediate delegate or will not be converted into a Purchase Order (PO) or issued to the supplier.

Library

How do I access resources?

The Library provides access to one of the most extensive collections of digital resources in the UK, which are available from any location and device. Staff and students can search and access our electronic content using Library Search and/or install our browser extensions which will help ease access to our subscribed e-content. You may need to re-install browser extensions if you are using a different device whilst you are working from home. If the Library does not hold electronic copies of the books that you need for your research, please use the order a book service and we will get them for you, where available. The Order an article service is also open to all staff and students. If the Library does not hold an electronic copy of the article that you need, complete the order form and we will get it for you.

We are also working closely with publishers to provide access to additional e-resources, including e-books, during the period of the COVID-19 outbreak on a temporary basis.

What support is there for online teaching?

To manage your reading lists and order content for online teaching you can use Reading Lists Online. If you have a print reading list item that you would like to provide electronically, contact the Reading Lists team uml.readinglists@manchester.ac.uk who will investigate available options. All reading list items in Reading Lists Online for current teaching are being made available electronically wherever possible, including access to a growing list of 70+ free eTextbooks or within your relevant reading lists.

Full details of how to access Library resources and services while our sites are closed can be found on our Service availability page, which is being updated regularly.

Returning library books during the campus closure

We recognise that there is an issue about returning library books. Unfortunately, due to government restrictions and the closure of University buildings we are unable to accept book returns until the campus begins to physically re-open. However, we have renewed library books until 25 June 2021 and we will not be charging any fines. If you have any concerns, we are happy to help. Please contact us through Library Chat or our online enquiry service. We will update the FAQ and contact everyone with items on loan as soon as we are able to offer any alternative methods of return.