Thursday 7 May 2020

All staff email

Covid-19 update Thursday 7 May 2020 - social distancing and our community

Dear colleagues,

I am writing today to wish you a restful bank holiday on VE Day tomorrow.. As part of the commemoration, there will be a two minute silence at 11am tomorrow, and I know many of you will wish to participate.

Please also take the opportunity to switch off all the apps we have been using for work to rebalance work and home life. And a big thanks to those working on campus on the bank holiday - I hope you get your time off soon.

Future social distancing measures

As you may have heard, the highly-anticipated Government announcement on planning for easing lockdown is set to take place this weekend.

This is likely to set out a number of stages and universities may not figure too much in the early part of the process. However, a team of colleagues has been working hard behind the scenes to develop safe and carefully managed responses to what we might see in official announcements. We will provide further updates as the government develops its plans and as we make decisions on how we will implement them.

Throughout this pandemic, the health and wellbeing of our staff and students has been and remains the top priority. I think it likely that some form of social distancing rules will remain in place for months to come. This will be challenging for us especially as we look ahead to the new term in September. For this reason, we will be working closely with our peers across the sector to create a shared approach to these challenges. I am joining a Universities UK working group on transition from lockdown which meets for the first time next week and will keep you up to date with important developments.

Challenges of home working

I know that some of you are expressing concerns about the challenges of home working given ongoing childcare and other caring responsibilities.

I want to reiterate what I’ve said before - do what you can, when you can; talk to your line manager, so that they can understand your circumstances and any limitations to your availability, and so we can explore what else we can do to support you.

Colleagues in HR will be reviewing home working arrangements once we know more about the Government’s plans.

Our community efforts

In the meantime, I very much appreciate hearing and reading about the creative and caring responses members of the University community have made to the pandemic.

Please take a moment to look at our extensive media coverage about the contributions of our staff and students, and also our very own Head of English’s brilliant Twitter video, which has now amassed 350k+ views. No pressure on our other Heads of Department!

I also know there is a lot of hard work going into creating engaging, entertaining and interactive events online and I wanted to highlight just a few:

  • YUSU and its counterpart in Lancaster staged a brilliant Virtual Roses tournament last weekend which took a range of sporting and other challenges online - with York retaining the winners’ title.
  • Following on from the hugely successful inaugural fundraising ‘pub quiz’, raising funds for our Emergency Student Support Fund, the team will hold our next Big York Pub Quiz on Sunday 17 May.
  • Our adapted Short York Walk from the end of May will help fundraise for Mentally Fit York, and you can see my own quick video on it here.
  • And the York Festival of Ideas will return with an online programme from 2 - 14 June. The website with programme details will be live soon and you can also follow @YorkFestofIdeas for updates.

I hope you will join me in our future events - they go some way in recreating online the informal social interactions we normally have through the University, which I’m sure we all miss. I am delighted that our departments are also joining in with virtual coffee mornings, cocktail hours and other gatherings. It is tremendous to see colleagues and students responding to this situation in such a resourceful, creative and imaginative way. It is nothing short of inspirational.

Many thanks!