Working from home
We understand that the recommendations and technology we are asking people to adopt will be unfamiliar to many. We encourage everyone to try new approaches, don't worry about getting things wrong, be understanding when things don’t go as well as we hoped and support everyone to learn and improve. You can do this by sending feedback to IT Services:
If you need help you can contact IT Support at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)1904 323838.
We've put together the following information to assist staff working from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Included are reminders of things you will need to have with you to work effectively, and guidance on how to accomplish specific kinds of tasks remotely.
Things you will need
1. Your University account
Make sure that you know your University username, email address and password. You will need these to access University services.
If you are not able to access your University account you can:
2. Computer - laptop or desktop
If you need to work from home, you will need a laptop or desktop. For example:
- a University laptop that was provided by your department
- your own desktop or laptop at home.
It may also be possible to do some work on a tablet (eg an iPad). But we recommend that if you do not have access to any laptop or desktop you should speak to your line manager to make them aware of this.
Make sure that you have any accessories that you may need, such as your laptop charger and mouse, as well as a suitable desk space to work at.
Think about the software you will need to allow you to work. For example:
- An up-to-date web browser: we recommend Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
- Microsoft Office: this is preinstalled on University managed laptops and the Virtual Desktop Service. All members of the University can download and install Office for free on their own devices.
4. A reliable internet connection
You will need to have access to a reliable internet connection to access University online services and resources from off campus.
If you do not have access to a reliable home internet connection:
- If you have a University mobile phone and a good signal, you can tether your laptop to it, and use the 4G data network. If you run out of data please email email@example.com or call +44 (0)1904 321015.
- IT Services have a small stock of 4G MiFi devices which provide an internet connection via the 4G data network. As these devices are in short supply we will need to prioritise any requests for staff to borrow these. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1904 321015 to discuss this further.
The UK’s broadband and mobile data networks will be under increased load during this period where many of us will be working remotely.
The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are doing what they can to provide as much capacity as possible, but there are some things we all need to be aware of, and some common sense steps we can all take to minimise our impact on network capacity:
Using a laptop or desktop at home
Using a University laptop
If you have have been provided with a laptop by your department we advise you to:
- Make sure you can successfully log in to it before leaving campus - particularly if you’ve just changed your University password.
- Take it home with you at the end of each working day. This way you will still have access to it should the University be forced to close at short notice.
Most laptops (including the University managed laptops) have speakers, a webcam and a microphone built-in to allow you to conduct online lectures and seminars, or make voice and video calls. However we recommend using a headset, if possible, as this will provide better audio quality. If you need a headset you should email email@example.com or call +44 (0)1904 321015.
Using your own desktop or laptop at home
If you have not been provided with a University laptop, consider whether you have a personal desktop or laptop at home that you will be able to use.
Please note: Only the University account holder should have access to University systems. Therefore if you are using a home device you must choose one of the following options:
- Use an account on the device that is password protected so that only you have access to it, rather than using an account that multiple people in your household have access to.
- If you use a Windows desktop that's managed by IT Services on campus, you can remotely connect to it from your home computer. This allows you to use your University computer as if you were sitting in front of it.
- Important: Read the document linked above carefully. There are some steps you'll need to take on the University desktop before you leave campus.
- Use the Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) - this allows you to login to a secure virtual Windows 10 machine that has the same look and feel as a managed University PC, and you can access your filestore and commonly used software.
- You don’t need to be connected to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to log in to the Virtual Desktop Service (VDS).
Remember! When working from home you still need to follow the University's Policy for safe use of University information on all devices.
This policy applies to staff, students, associates, and anyone else using University IT and University information. It explains what you need to do to make sure University information is safe when you are accessing, storing or managing it.
We've also condensed our IT security guidance into a handy one page guide:
Health and safety advice for working from home
This information and guidance has been developed by Health and Safety Services (HSS) to offer an easy reference guide to homeworking.
You should also refer to the University’s working from home guidance on the Human Resources website.
Homeworking is a relative low risk activity, as it is primarily ‘office-type’ work. Any equipment provided by the University for the purpose of supporting an individual whilst homeworking will have been risk assessed to ensure it is both safe and fit for purpose. But you should check that your electrical equipment is safe to use - don’t overload sockets or daisy-chain extension leads.
- DSE working from home advice
- This includes advice on setting up your workstation, what to do if you don’t have access to an adjustable chair, and what to do if you’re working from a smartphone or tablet.
You can also use this homeworking DSE checklist to identify any possible hazards in your home working area.
The University encourages homeworking activities that have been risk assessed, have appropriate controls in place, and are of an office-type and low risk nature. An example and generic risk assessment is available.
Look after your health and wellbeing
If you are working from home it is important you think about your physical and mental wellbeing.
People and Organisational Development have pulled together resources to support your wellbeing while working remotely
As well as our tips on team working, the following suggestions may help:
- Set a work schedule for your day
- Create a routine around meal times or other activities
- Set ground rules for those you sharing space with
- Schedule regular breaks - and take them. For example:
- A 2-3 minute break every 20 minutes
- A 5 break every hour (to make a hot drink or walk around)
- Do simple workstation exercises
- Keep hydrated - drink plenty of water
- Get out of the house for fresh air and sunshine throughout the day. You can go out for a walk as long as you stay two metres away from others
- Connect with friends/family and or colleagues over the phone or online regularly
- Find ways of switching off from work during breaks or at the end of your working day - such as watching TV or listening to music.
It is quite normal to feel anxious or stressed during these situations. Remember that all colleagues have free, unlimited access to Health Assured who provide an independent and completely free confidential telephone support line.
For further information or assistance, please contact Health and Safety Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access on-campus services
When working at home, you may want to access services and systems that are only normally available on campus (for example, your University filestore, SITS, Kinetics). There are two ways of doing this:
- Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) - if you're using a personal device. This is the only way you should access files containing confidential or restricted information from personal devices.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) - if you're using a University-owned device
Virtual Desktop Service
You can connect to the VDS from most devices, including your desktop, laptop, tablet or Chromebook. You can also access the VDS without installing any additional software - select the Parallels HTML5 Client option after logging in to use it within your web browser.
If you’re using the Virtual Desktop Service you do not need to be connected to the Virtual Private Network.
Virtual Private Network
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to connect to your University filestore and other University and external services that are normally only available when on campus. This is preinstalled and pre-configured on University managed laptops and can be downloaded and installed on other devices.
Once connected to the VPN you can access a University filestore from off campus or remotely connect to your University managed Windows desktop.
The speed will vary depending on your home broadband connection and may be too slow to be usable on a poor service. If you find this to be the case, either copy your files to Google Drive or use the VDS service.
Remember: Only connect to the VDS or VPN when you need them
A limited number of people can be connected to the VPN and VDS at any time.
Your University email, calendar and Google Drive do not require the VDS or VPN. For further examples of which University systems do and do not require the use of the VPN or the VDS see:
Don’t forget to log out if you’re not actively using them - this will free up your session for a colleague to use.
If you’re having problems connecting to either the VPN or the VDS, please take a look at our IT Status Board. We’ve added a Remote Working section - this will tell you if the VPN and VDS are low on available connections. If this is the case, please try again later.
We’re continuing to monitor these services and we’re working to make sure that they are available when you need them.
Use your University phone number from off campus
Circuit makes your University phone number portable - allowing you to make and receive calls on a computer, smartphone or tablet, just as you would using your physical desk phone. You can dial an internal extension and national or international numbers without disclosing your personal home or mobile number:
If you're remotely connecting to your University desktop computer you'll need to install the Circuit software on your home computer, smartphone or tablet. Our testing has shown that the microphone and speakers do not work correctly if you try and run Circuit remotely on the University desktop computer.
You can collect voicemail messages from off campus by dialing 1010 using the Circuit software, or by dialling +44 (0)1904 321010 from a mobile phone or landline.
IT Services can also arrange for your voicemail messages to be sent to you as an audio file via email (your computer will need to have speakers, or you will need to have headphones to be able to listen to these).
For full details on accessing your voicemail see:
Conference calls can be set up as required, including international dial-in numbers, using Circuit. This is similar to the UMeetMe service that some members of staff may have previously used, but self-service:
Team or group phone numbers
Team numbers such as pick-up groups etc can be answered via Circuit. If you’d like to redirect or change where your numbers are directed to please email email@example.com or call +44 (0)1904 321015 for assistance.
Move teaching online
In case it becomes necessary for teaching to be moved online, the Programme Design and Learning Technology team (PDLT) have produced comprehensive guidance. This guidance should be followed in consultation with your department:
Run a meeting with an individual or a small group (including seminars and supervisions)
Meetings are a key part of the work we do, and moving them online requires changing not just technology but how we run meetings.
Martin Weller from the Open University has a useful guide on how to teach online. This key point applies to all types of online meetings:
“Activities that can be done quickly face to face take much more time online, particularly collaborative activities.”
Allow extra time and accept that the first few may feel difficult. Practice in advance if possible.
The University has recently acquired a licence for Zoom - a web-based video conferencing tool that allows users to schedule and conduct virtual meetings online. Whilst the University provides several technologies that enable remote meetings, Zoom is now our first recommendation.
Zoom allows you to host meetings with up to 300 participants connecting through audio, video and chat. You need an account to host a meeting but participants are able to join without an account - making it easy to have meetings with people outside of the University. Meetings can also be recorded and saved locally to your computer or to the cloud.
Zoom can be used via desktop clients (available on Windows, Mac and Linux), mobile apps (iOS and Android) or within your web browser. You can also 'dial-in' to Zoom meetings by calling the UK phone number provided with the meeting invitation. We recommend that you install the desktop client when using this service as this provides a better user experience and enables you to access all the available features.
Recommendations for hosting a meeting: If you're hosting a meeting, there are some settings you need to familiarise yourself with to prevent unwanted participants from disrupting your meeting:
Zoom also provides comprehensive online guidance and daily webinars (on weekdays):
Google Meet offers an alternative way of conducting meetings online, as well as screen sharing so everybody can view an item together (for presentations etc).
Those invited can join a collective space, each with their own video (webcam) and audio (microphone) capabilities so people can easily interact (see/hear) with each other. There is also a chat feature (should people not have access to a webcam/microphone) where they can get involved in discussions. Be aware it is possible for all participants to talk/type at the same time so be patient and clear when first trying it.
Google Meet can be accessed via a web browser on a computer, and there are apps for smartphones and tablets.
Please note: When arranging a meeting, a US dial-in telephone number was previously added automatically as an option to connect. Calling this number may resulted in extra call charges. We have therefore disabled this 'join by phone' option (but it will still appear on existing calendar events). We recommend connecting using a web browser or the Google Meet mobile app.
Google recently announced that they are temporarily opening up the following advanced features:
- Larger meetings for up to 250 participants per meeting
- Live streaming with up to 100,000 University of York accounts
- Record meetings to Google Drive
You can find tips on our our Google Meet web page about recording and live streaming meetings using Google Meet.
Further help is available on Google's support pages:
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
If you are teaching a course, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is integrated into the VLE. Collaborative sessions can be launched from the VLE and the software is resilient, coping with large numbers of active participants.
- Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra with your students
- Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra with people who are not members of the University
Using other online meeting tools
If you're invited to an online meeting by someone outside of the University, you may find that they use a different online meeting tool. Many of these tools allow guests to join meetings via a web link without creating an account, and without having to download and install additional software.
The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT) have written additional information on:
Record and upload a lecture
You can use the Replay ‘at-desk’ recorder tool to record and upload lectures from your desk. Your students will be able to access these recorded lectures via the VLE.
This tool is available to install from Software Center on managed laptops, and can be downloaded on unmanaged Windows and Mac computers.
We recommend that you do not try and run live lectures remotely. With many students attempting to connect at a fixed time, the likelihood that some will not be able to connect due to technology issues is too high.
The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT) have written additional information on:
Run a virtual conference
If you were planning to run a face-to-face conference and now wish to run it virtually (ie entirely online), please note the below options based on whether your event is teaching, learning and/or assessment-related or not.
Teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences
You can make use of the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform, supported by the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT). This tool:
- supports up to 250 attendees within a single session
- is accessible to people who are not members of the University (presenters or attendees)
- is accessible globally (but potentially not in China)
- allows the presentation of slides and other materials (PDFs, screen-sharing, video/audio files, etc)
- allows control over what functionality participants can use (eg webcams, microphones, text chat).
If you wish to explore potentially using Collaborate for a teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conference, please email PDLT at the earliest possible juncture to discuss this, and complete the Online Workshop/Seminar Requirement Form.
Non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences
- supports up to 300 participants within a single session
- is accessible to people who are not members of the University (presenters or attendees)
- is accessible globally
- allows presenting of your entire computer or a specific application via screen sharing
- allows shared screens to be annotated by participants
- offers the ability to record meetings to your computer or to the cloud
- allows you display a virtual background on video calls (eg conference branding)
- allows the host to separate participants into smaller group chats (eg virtual break-out groups).
If you wish to explore potentially using Zoom for a non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conference, see our working remotely skills guide, the IT Services Zoom webpage or contact IT Support with details of your event.
Non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences may also use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for their event if desired, but unfortunately the PDLT will not be able to offer support for these sessions at this time - their focus will be on teaching, learning and/or assessment-related activities during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.