Hello from home: IT Services

It’s been almost three months since many of us embarked on this period of digital working. And while working from home isn’t without its challenges, it feels like it has quickly become our new normal. None of which would be possible without the support and assistance from IT Services.

A huge thank you to colleagues in IT Services who have been working tirelessly to help us in this transition. From supporting online teaching and remote meetings, and assisting with technical queries, to making sure we’re all working safely and securely. 

Behind the scenes

Proactive measures were taken to make sure that the Virtual Private Network (VPN) service would cope with the likely increase in demand. This work was taken early to reduce any impact on end users.

Around 450 laptops have been provided for staff to be able to work from home. IT Services re-purposed 280 laptops from around campus and created a process for departments to request them for critical business need. A team of staff was put in the Computing Centre to set the laptops up and make sure that staff receiving the devices had them set up for their individual needs. Each device was tested with the user to make sure that each person was ready to go when they got the device home.

IT Services increased the licences for our remote desktop support software from 10 to 40 licences in order to be able to cope with the increased demand for supporting a remote workforce. This allowed for an increased support demand on existing IT Services and Faculty IT Support teams. It also allowed for other teams to offer their services remotely (e.g Research Support and Guidance).

IT Services took advantage of software suppliers who increased their availability or functionality due to the worldwide pandemic. For example, Google increased the functionality of Meet to allow meetings of up to 250 participants and introduced live streaming and recording capabilities for our version. Adobe changed their product to be available to students free of charge for institutions that applied.

Google Chat was introduced which enabled teams to have chat rooms.

A dashboard was created for IT Services Executive and Incident Team members to monitor how our systems and services were being utilised with both live and trend data.

A remote desktop service was developed to allow students to be able to access specialist software and the computing resources to run these applications from off campus. 

A glimpse of your online activity:

  • VPN usage is now up from a peak of around 100 users to a peak of over 2,000 concurrent users.
  • Remote meetings using Google Meet have increased from around 200 to almost 19,000 sessions in total for a week.
  • Blackboard Collaborate reached a peak of 2,000 sessions in a day, reaching just over 11,000 unique users. This is up from around 20 sessions per day. Encore Universal Capture reached a peak of 102 sessions in a day. Up from around one or two a day previously.
  • The IT Service Desk dealt with a peak of 2,500 total contacts in a week, up from a high of around 1,500 before. Now averaging 1,800 contacts per week.
  • They also dealt with a peak of 350 calls regarding VPN in a week, up from around 10-20 before. Now averaging around 75 VPN calls per week.
  • Visits to the remote working pages increased from 400 visits per week to 17,600 and visits to the VPN pages increased from 180 visits per week to 19,000 visits.
  • Connections to the Eduroam wireless network are down from around 21,000 on average per day, to 3,000 per day, showing the reduction in people on campus.

We caught up with colleagues and teams across the department, to find out more about their work during the covid-19 pandemic and how they’re coping with remote working themselves:

Daniel Courtney, Head of Service Transition (Interim)

Dan Courtney

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

I start work at around noon as I am home schooling the kids (three boys) in the morning when my wife is working for the NHS. The afternoon tends to be filled up with online meetings and trying to find the occasional 5 minutes for a cup of tea can be tricky. Meetings tend to stop at around 5pm, but I continue to work until about 6.30pm when I stop for time with the family and get the kids to bed. I would usually find another hour or two in the evening to catch up on some more work and prepare for any meetings the next day.

In terms of adapting, the virtual meeting technology works really well and generally they are as effective as face to face ones with very little technical issues. I have missed those chance conversations with colleagues in the corridor or whilst making a cup of tea - this was clearly quite an important way to keep up to date with some things!

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

When the covid-19 incident started, I was given the role of co-ordinating the department’s response and what we needed to do to support the University. The most rewarding part for me was seeing how well the whole department pulled together and how so many people went the extra mile to do what was needed. IT Services has had such great feedback from all across the University in how it operated in response to this incident and this is due to all that work that was put in across the department.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Easy - home schooling. No way would I have thought it would be so intense and challenging to home school the kids, even with all the resources that the schools have provided. Transitioning from being a teacher to work each day at around noon has its own challenges and I've tried to reserve the first 30 minutes or so to get up to speed and get my head in the right space.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

I think there has been a real push to understand people as individuals and an awareness of non-work factors that might be affecting them. I think IT Services were pretty good at this already, but that hopefully we retain this culture of putting people first and releasing that by doing the best for our staff, we get the best out of them too.

Jonny Hooton, Creative Media Service 

Jonny Hooton

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

Since starting working from home, my normal day to day stuff has changed a lot, with the Creative Media Service only being able to support online, most of the work I would be doing during this time has stopped. A typical day usually involves responding to emails, planning, researching technology, meetings and probably some video or audio work of some kind.

It has meant I have been working on many different projects including creating videos, live streaming and looking towards supporting events in the future. I've had to adapt by looking at what people want to achieve and what technologies we have available to be able to do this.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Being able to offer support, use my skills and the technology we have invested in to be able to deliver on projects across the university. For example being able to provide the support and technology to allow MA Broadcast students the ability to run virtual newsdays as part of their course or the live streaming of the medical school virtual graduation.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Being able to get into a routine, at the start of working from home it was very difficult to get a routine in place with so many things needing to be done. It took a bit of time but I feel I have a much more structured day and find it a lot easier now to switch off on an evening. I think for our service, the biggest challenge will be in the run up to starting the next academic year and what we can and can't do and how we will need to adapt to the new normal.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

I've learned to be more adaptable and think differently about how we can use technology in the future especially when it comes to filming remotely, events and how we can deliver online material.

Adam McSweeney, Audio Visual Service

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

We start the day with a catch up via Google Meet. Half of us spend the day supporting large meetings, open days and virtual conferences via Blackboard Collaborate, Google Hangouts and GotoWebinar. This ranges from training, moderating, technical support, testing and set up. The rest are on site taking deliveries and imaging laptops to enable people to work from home.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Helping people to understand video conferencing software who have never really used it before and supporting teams to help them work together remotely.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Being taken, out of the blue, from our usual working environment and thrown into something completely new. I think the biggest challenge will be transitioning from the relaxed home environment back to uncertainty of how the next semester will work on campus.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

Flexibility and communication is key.

The Business Relationship Management (BRM) team

Business Relationship Management team

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

We start each day with a 9am catchup, or 8.30am if other commitments require it. We discuss common challenges across all the Faculties, and Professional Services, and AMRC. We also look at 'non standard' requests - where people are asking for exciting new things and we see if we can find them something that we already have to do the job, or speak to colleagues about making something new happen!

We've also played an important role, alongside colleagues in the IT Support team in making sure students have access to hardship funds where they are needed, and that staff have access to a raft of loan equipment to be able to fulfil their roles remotely.

This has all been made possible by the excellent work by some IT Services colleagues who have been on campus a couple of days a week, and have done anything and everything to get stuff out to grateful remote working staff!

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

I think connecting people rapidly with IT solutions to covid-19 enforced problems. We all left campus so quickly, and adjusted in such a short time things are almost 'normal' now with business as usual making a welcome return. IT Services took a lot of the strain during the first couple of weeks, and I don't think any of us have seen a time where there have been more requests/emails/meets etc flying in. As we are the known IT Services faces in our area we quickly became the go to people for problem solving, which was good if not hectic for a while.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Making sure firstly, that all staff had the equipment and access they needed to work remotely - and do so safely and in a way that doesn’t put undue pressure on anyone's finances. Secondly that teaching could start. The department (especially the good folks of the desktop, server and web teams) pulled out all the stops to deliver a remote student desktop service, using computers in buildings around campus. Now students can log on via a web page and access all the software they could at University.

If you had said that was something we’d have in place within 3 weeks at the start of lockdown I think we’d have thought it impossible. In addition, we’ve rolled out extra security measures to more than 7,000 staff now, introducing Multi Factor Authentication and password changes. The work behind the scenes by the Cyber Security Programme has been fantastic.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

People adapt very quickly, and things that are totally crazy to start with quickly become the norm. That relates to how we’re all using hangouts, blackboard, chat and all manner of other technologies to stay in touch with one another. It's just the done thing now. Also I think our team probably sees, and communicates more daily that we ever did on campus. We spend most of our days normally flitting around between meetings in our various Faculties and departments, now we make time to have daily catch ups, have a chat room or two and generally keep in touch. I think this is invaluable in that we can provide a consistent joined up approach to the whole University.

Dr Michael Griffiths, Head of Research and Innovation Support

Mike Griffiths

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

Before lockdown I would commute into Sheffield and start work at around 7am, I’d be focussed entirely on work. During lockdown, with a teenage girl and a boy about to start high school, this dynamic has changed. We are fortunate, our two youngsters have managed to follow a school work timetable and much of the time they will do this unsupported. A challenge for us was that at the time of lockdown my wife had just undergone knee replacement surgery.

The covid-19 working day has a number of segments. Early in the morning, I'll do a quick strength and conditioning workout. I start work at 8am, plan my day, check e-mail and then at 9am it's time for the team stand up meeting. This has proven to be a great way to kick off the day. Days are filled with meetings, I have to shuffle meetings and make time to complete tasks such as preparation and delivery of teaching, processing of HPC service and hardware purchases. Fridays, are normally taken up with active research running simulations, developing simulation code, analysing data and writing up the research.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Recruiting a contractor a few days before lockdown was a bit of an adrenaline ride, thanks to the management team for helping to take this forward. Seeing the team play its part in the fight against covid-19 by supporting various projects is rewarding. It has been good for all of us to develop and deliver our online training material. We are as busy as normal delivering business as usual and, when the opportunity arises, using innovation. There are still many gaps in our service and a need to recruit officers to support our research community, despite this there is a dedication to providing a quality service. A great team effort from colleagues in research computing and across IT services.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

I like the way we can mix work with family life, this is still quite a challenge when you have a group of people under one roof utilising IT resources and interacting with their respective school/work communities. I don’t know how we managed to support my wife when she was recovering from her knee surgery. It’s at times like these when the balance can tip. A combination of factors helped us through this including support from work and helpful youngsters.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

At this time we are doing so much more, but the pace of work appears to be a bit slower this is not always a problem… it’s a positive we give one another the space we need and there is more attention to detail, we can all be satisfied with a better job done.

Robert Needham, Head of Product Management for Workplace & Collaboration Services

Rob Needham

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

A lot of things have remained the same but with the obvious change of the working environment. I still start work early at 7.30am but find I now work later, but with no commute and the option to occasionally squeeze in a longer lunch to get out on my bike into the Peak District it works well.

Work is slightly more complicated with homeschooling my two daughters, so on Mondays to Wednesdays I'm teaching and feeding them while my wife works (as a nurse). Thursdays and Fridays tend to be a little less manic.

Overall I'd say my working days have gotten busier with lots of requirements from Workplace & Collaboration products to enable the University to function through these changing and challenging times.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Delivering change quickly and for the benefit of the University has been rewarding. Alongside others, we implemented a number of key changes in the initial weeks of the University to provide functionality that the University needed.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

For me the biggest challenge has been balancing helping the kids with school work alongside working. Working remotely otherwise hasn't caused any real concerns for being able to do my job.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

The PMO team were previously operating in a flexible way, with time allowed to work off campus, hot desks etc and so they adapted to the changes very well. The team has coped really well with the changes. For me, I've learnt that I like not having to commute in to work and being able to get a bike ride in on a sunny lunch time.

Andrew Kerr, Senior IT Support Specialist

Andrew Kerr

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

My day starts off as normal as I have been going to campus to prepare laptops for dispatch and also accept the delivery of equipment with other staff members so I've had some sort of normality. The days when I am working from home I find the commute time is a lot easier! I have roughly the same setup at home as I do in the office and have a room with a desk so kind of like a private office. The way that I have adapted is I have moved the coffee machine from my kitchen to my office so I don't have to walk as far, another adaptation is the whole virtual meeting environment. Although it has been good, I personally like sitting in a room with people and having a discussion.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

The most rewarding part of my role has got to be that when all this started I was put in charge of the IT Support Team to coordinate the response from the said team to assist the University in moving to a remote working model. For me personally, I was so proud of the IT Support Team how they just took it all in their stride, pulled together, and got the job done. We had so many comments from staff coming in for laptops "how are you guys still smiling?" and "you've all been so professional, thank you so much" it's always nice to hear positive feedback but shows what a fantastic group of staff we have.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

I know a lot of people would say homeschooling but my daughter has been fantastic about the whole thing. The biggest challenge has been trying to explain to her why she can't go play with her friends or having to console her when she can't see and hug grandparents and other family members.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

The thing that I have learned is that remote working has its place. For IT Support as a team repairing computers remotely takes far longer than having it in person for obvious reasons but for writing documentation it's absolutely fantastic so hopefully going forward we can have a combination of both which I think will be highly productive.

Martin Rapier, Head of Solution Assurance

Martin Rapier

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

I tend to wake up early in the summer, so I start early now I don't have to go into the office. Usually at my desk between 6.20-6.30am, usual email catch ups. Break for breakfast around 8am. Get dressed into my work clothes, go for a walk around the block or do ten minutes on the treadmill while catching up with Twitter and the BBC. Back in the 'office' by 9am.

Otherwise it is the regular round of project related meetings, workshops, line management, governance boards, work planning and review meetings. On average, seven to 9 video calls a day. I attempt to get some work done in the short gaps in between, although occasionally there are longer breaks and I've managed to carve out some thinking time. I've even managed to do a Certified Information Systems Auditor course, it is such a rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

My work hasn't really changed although the day is now about an hour longer. Some things you can do in an office setting just don't work remotely, but other things seem to be easier. I've noticed meetings in general getting shorter as video calls are so exhausting. It is really hard to grab five minutes with someone remotely, it once took me most of the day to schedule a five minute catch up, which is a significant barrier. Chat is OK but sometimes you need a face-to-face interactive session.

Main adaptation is that you need to be very organised to work remotely. I've binned my reliance on paper, whiteboards and post-it notes. Everything is in JIRA or Trello now (or spreadsheets, google docs, Word docs, Powerpoint...) The downside of electronic task organising tools is it easy to create huge backlogs which will never get cleared, and duplicate items, something you don't get with physical bits of paper. I still block out time in google calendar to get things done, which seems to work well, and it makes it much easier to fill my timesheets in.

I'm not taking enough breaks from the screen, it seems much harder to do at home. Something I need to work on. I also had to get some bits and pieces to make the 'office' more usable, the real life saver was a gigabit wireless network extender, a headset, the old office chair my daughter had left behind and YoYo Direct Access. Thank you network and desktop team. If your working environment isn't good, it is an extra barrier.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

I really enjoy the daily stand ups. Good to see everyone's faces, hear what they have been up to, and it reduces the need for and length of, the more intermittent team meetings as it keeps everyone in the loop.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

It is just really hard work. It seems much more tiring than being in the office. I can't imagine how people with kids at home are coping. Otherwise it is that you are missing out on all the informal conversations and networking.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

The main thing is that people are very resilient, adaptable and supportive of each other. We work together really well as a social group. I guess I knew that already but this has reinforced it. Let's keep those daily stand ups going.

Andrew Horne, Head of Platforms

Andy Horne

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

Before this period, I'd walk from home and get into the office at about 8am. Now I can make it to the desk much earlier although I choose not to, what I do instead of the walk in is the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercises as a bit of a wake-up before arriving in the spare bedroom for 8am.

Most of the work myself and my team do can be done remotely apart from replacing the occasional failed piece of hardware - I'm on the critical workers list so I occasionally get to come in and try not to replace the wrong component... One of the main changes is that I've had to tidy my desk at home as it had become a repository for books and all sorts of things that I thought I'd lost. Adaptation has been quite straightforward, I quickly decided that sitting at a desk in a more formal environment would be better for me to be able to separate work life from home life, so rather than sitting downstairs with a laptop on my knee I chose to tidy my desk to provide that space.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Keeping in touch with my team, getting a reaffirmation that people want to do the right thing, recognising that people have challenges in their lives and that in spite of some quite difficult situations there is still a commitment and desire to ensure a good service is provided. This has been a stand-out point for me.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Initially the large number of meetings, and the back to back meetings was very stressful, particularly as there were practical challenges that needed attending to enable the increase in provision of remote working. Fortunately, that preponderance of meetings has diminished now, although there is still a substantial amount of work the pressure has reduced. Other challenges have been dealing with human interaction, without face to face meetings with us being physically present in the same location we lose a lot of the background cues that would usually give us an indication of how a situation is progressing, not just the "after you Claude" sometimes stumbling nature of the video call but we lose the nuance that is valuable in effective communication.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

The main point is that it has been demonstrated that remote working ought to be a big player in the future of our working lives. For myself and my team it is quite possible to do most tasks remotely. There is the caveat that communication is often best done face to face and for us to get the most out of remote meetings we need to be aware that we will be missing some qualities of that.

Laura McNally, Academic Systems and Operations Administrator

Laura McNally

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

A typical working day starts with answering emails, then we have the team catch-up video call to kickstart the day, see how everyone is and share any projects we are working on. This meeting every morning has really helped as it gets us focused, we can share updates and ask for help and support when needed. Most days do have a large number of video meetings, which is to be expected, but is also quite draining!

My work has changed quite a bit since working from home, I have had to keep my focus more on the help and support materials we provide for staff and students with regard to lecture capture, as well as creating new guides in the form of screencasts for staff and student users. This work has needed to be completed quicker than normal due to all staff and students being off campus. I have also been helping with online tutorials and workshops with staff members across the institution with regard to using the lecture capture system off campus and how they can do this for their teaching and learning practice.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

I would say the most rewarding part of my role so far has been being able to support staff members more with the lecture capture service and conduct more training and support sessions when necessary.

It has also been extremely rewarding to see how quickly and seamlessly we could move ourselves off campus and start supporting the online delivery of teaching and learning. The team really pulled together and adapted quickly, so being a part of this team and the wider IT services department has been the most rewarding part.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Adapting to working from home rather than being in the office was a bigger transition than I thought, however, I have really enjoyed it! It has been nice to have more focused time to work on projects. Spending more time generally at home has been lovely for the most part!

I have found it challenging to keep in contact with everyone I would like to as I am relying on virtual chats or video calls. So contact with my friends and colleagues has been the biggest challenge with remote working so far, especially when we are working on a group project.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

I think the thing I have learnt throughout this period is to look out for everyone as much as you can, as everyone is going through something even if they don’t ‘look’ like they are. This period of change has impacted people in many different ways, so actions as simple as messaging someone to ask how their day is going can make the difference and give them some support and remind them that people are there.

I think the biggest takeaway for me and the team would be to listen to each other and be supportive where possible. This period of change has really opened up the team to being more honest with each other, and I hope that will continue when we are back to ‘normal’... whatever the norm will be.

Suzie Murray, Information Security Coordinator

Suzie Murray

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

I normally start my day at a team stand up on Google Meet at 9am, where we all have a chance to do a temperature check, talk about what we’ll be working on that day and to ask the rest of the team any questions we might have around the Cyber Security Programme.

We didn’t do this before transitioning to working remotely, and it’s really valuable to be able ‘see’ everyone at the start of the day, as being away from the office can feel quite lonely at times!

For the rest of the day, I’m usually supporting the IT Service Desk taking calls and responding to queries around the Cyber Security Programme rollout - particularly our two mandatory tasks for staff to change their password and enrol in Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Before the covid-19 outbreak, we planned to deliver the majority of support for MFA and Password changes in person. Instead, we’re delivering this support remotely so we’ve come up with great solutions as a team to ensure that staff still received the same high level of support. We’ve shifted departmental briefing sessions and drop-in sessions online using Blackboard Connect and Google Meet. We’ve also offered other solutions for MFA such as SMS authentication for users who are waiting for Hardware Tokens to be dispatched in the post, instead of us distributing these tokens in person.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

I’ve really enjoyed providing one-to-one support for staff at the University when they’ve contacted us with queries or problems with MFA and password changes. It’s really rewarding when you know you’ve provided reassurance or solved a problem for a member of staff, particularly because we have directly impacted how staff can access their account, systems and data.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

Adapting to how I’ve been supporting staff with these changes has been the biggest challenge. Previously when I was supporting staff in person it was sometimes easier to set up devices or troubleshoot a problem with someone with all of the information there in front of you. Supporting users over the phone or via email has meant that I’ve had to ensure I ask all the right questions to diagnose issues and give understandable instructions to staff so they are able to fix problems themselves.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

I’ve learned a lot over the past 10 weeks, but I think the main takeaway is how amazingly well we were able to adapt to the changes to our working environment and the Cyber Security Programme. We rose to the challenge of delivering the core actions of the programme in a condensed window of eight weeks (compared to several months!) and as of writing, we have over 8,000 members of staff who have changed their password and enrolled in MFA, all whilst working remotely! It’s a real joy to work in a team that is so adaptable and dynamic in its approach to delivering such large scale changes for the University.

Mark Phelan, IT Support Assistant

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

I usually login to Muse and Top Desk to check emails for messages and contact colleagues and line managers through the IT Support team chat/IT Support Job Board. Through emails I check to see what jobs have been assigned across to us from the Helpdesk. I then open the Jobs and accept them in the usual way and make contact with the user via email or telephone to get further details of the issue to be resolved. Normally I would then go to the user’s office/place of work to resolve the problem, however now this work is being carried out remotely via a remote desktop connection, Bomgar. I can usually resolve any IT issues by this method and through providing instructions to the user.

Some of these remote connections have taken over two hours to fix which has meant I take longer working on individual jobs than I normally would, however, the user is then able to continue working as soon as I have finished. Under normal working conditions I would take the laptop/PC back to the workshop to fix and arrange for a substitute laptop/PC to be delivered to the user, which is a much bigger disruption to their ability to work. It also takes me more time in terms of travel backwards and forwards to the users, but in the workshop I can work on several PCs/laptops at once to fix issues so I don’t feel as if I am waiting, unable to do anything else, whilst software loads, for example.

Some staff need their laptops setting up from out of the box. This happens when a laptop has been sent to them directly from the supply company and requires a University set up by us to connect them to their network and add any software they need to do their jobs from home. Again I can set this up remotely, installing Bitlocker and VPN, Mapping U:drive and X:drive.

I communicate with colleagues if I find a solution to a problem with software which is useful to share or if I need help resolving a problem.

Along with these direct support jobs I regularly update the University inventories where necessarily and keep records of new equipment staff have been issued with. I should finish work at 5pm but I have to work until 6.30pm in order to finish the individual job for the user, to ensure the laptop is ready for use the following day and not have them waiting for us to get back to them.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

Being able to fix and resolve IT problems for staff and students when they need IT to work more than any other time and which has often caused them to feel stressed and anxious if it doesn’t work. Remote working is vital for continued service at this time so everyone is really appreciative of the work I am doing and I am receiving really positive feedback and thanks. I also show the user how they could fix the problem if it happens again if possible and always let them know we are here to help them.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

The wellbeing of myself, family, friends and colleagues is challenging, however I find I am able to carry out my work to a great extent with the exception of dealing with hardware issues.

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

I have learned that I am able to assist people remotely in much the same way as I did when I was able to work face to face in the office. I think as a team we are supporting each other and helping each other where needed.

Working from home has been a positive experience too and has saved time in dealing with users IT issues as I don’t have to travel to and from different University buildings, also with no travel to and from work, I am less stressed and tired at the start and end of the day (traffic and driving can be stressful!).

Network Services team

Describe a typical working day during covid-19. How has your work changed and how have you had to adapt?

The Team is quite large with a number of sub sections. We have a full team catch up via Google Meet at 8.30am each morning to ensure everyone is OK, go over any specific work scheduled for that day or important upcoming activities, check that essential reports have run and that the network is healthy. After that it’s business as usual undertaking changes, working on developments or addressing any issues with all aspects of the network, supporting infrastructure and telephony systems. As with many teams we rely heavily on collaboration tools to keep each other up to date and complete tasks. Whereas before this would be in person at the office it now takes place virtually. With a team of this size, heavy use is made of the ‘mute’ button to avoid talking over each other. At the end of the week we have a team debrief which segues into a virtual social after work - recommended.

In terms of changes there has been an increase in reactive work as a result of covid-19, largely to support the changes and challenges that we have all faced. We are also having to plan future activities with a greater degree of unknowns than before.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?

IT Services as a whole has delivered a considerable amount very rapidly in response to covid-19. A lot of what Network Services does is about keeping things online and running smoothly, enabling the University to function. Our role in supporting the move to remote working for staff, through a rapid expansion of VPN, assisting key service areas with changing telephony requirements, and many individual day to day changes has been rewarding.

What has been the biggest challenge during this period of remote working?

A number of us have child care or other at home responsibilities which can be challenging to juggle with work. The lack of in person face to face contact with team mates and other colleagues is certainly missed. We also have to plan our approach to things a little differently while away from campus as the equipment that we manage is no longer a short walk away. For some, the lack of an available hairdresser has presented new stylistic challenges (or opportunities)!

Have you learned anything from this challenging period? What will be the biggest takeaway for you and your team?

There have been some real positives to remote working. For many the lack of commute has given time back to enjoy and removed an often stressful part of the day. Something to takeaway is to continue to be flexible and understanding of things outside of work.

Hello from home!

Colleagues in IT Services put together this video to share messages from home