COVID-19 questions and answers for team members
We understand Athabasca University (AU) team members may have specific questions arising as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This page contains COVID-19 Questions and Answers for team members. You can also find COVID-19 Questions and Answers for Learners.
For AU managers of teams, there is a resource available on our intranet, which requires your AU login, to help you answer the questions you may be receiving from members of your team. The HR team will be updating it as the situation changes.
Will AU reopen facilities as part of the Government of Alberta’s plan to relaunch the economy?
Athabasca University (AU) will not be reopening any of its facilities to the public at this time and will continue to take a cautious approach with our COVID-19 response strategy. Keeping our team members safe is our top priority. This means that we will continue to work from home, restrict work-related travel, and limit access to all of our facilities to minimize the risk.
Since the pandemic began, AU has been putting in place measures to protect team members, such as making work-from-home our first and preferred option, enhancing office protocols for place-based team members, and making masks mandatory everywhere in any AU location.
We will continue to support our learners through this situation in any way we can, including providing accommodations and alternatives for in-person class components such as labs and paper-based exams. Learners should discuss accommodations with their tutor directly or their Course Coordinator.
As a digital university, AU is fortunate to have the infrastructure in place to help learners complete their studies from home at their own pace. Although we are not reopening our facilities, our university will remain open to ensure that our learners get the supports they need as classes continue as usual.
Taking care of yourself
What precautions should I take to stay healthy?
The safety of our team members is a top priority. We encourage team members to take precautions and follow any instructions provided by the relevant public health authority in your area.
To protect against respiratory illnesses such as coronavirus, Alberta Health Services recommends using good hygiene practices such as social distancing and frequent handwashing and staying at home if you are feeling ill. More information about coronavirus can be found on the Alberta Health Services website.
We want to ensure that we do our part to keep our communities safe. AU supports and encourages all team members to get their COVID-19 vaccine as permitted by each stage of the rollout, should they choose to do so. If you manage or oversee a team, please try to accommodate, support, and make time to encourage your team members to be vaccinated when they are eligible and able to fit it into their schedules.
The Government of Alberta website has information about recommended precautions and public health orders regarding mandatory isolation periods and restrictions on mass gatherings.
I need some support, what additional resources are available?
All AU team members can access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for professional assistance and resources 24/7. This includes everything from connecting with a counsellor to learning how to meditate. You can connect with these services on the WorkHealthLife site.
AU team members can also access the mental health and wellness sessions through the Human Resources Wellness page.
A member of my household is self-isolating. What should I do?
If you do become a close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive, you must stay home, and isolate and quarantine, whether or not you have symptoms. Please contact 811 or Alberta Health Services for health advice.
Even if you have been approved to be on site, please stay home and work if it is not critical for you to be in an AU location on that day.
Inform your supervisor immediately, and complete the Self-Isolation Reporting Form.
Will self-isolation affect my sick leave or vacation entitlements?
If you are self-isolating but do not display any symptoms, you may be able to work from home.
We encourage you to work with your supervisor/manager to find appropriate solutions to continue working, while finding accommodations where we can. You will be paid as per usual.
For any other circumstances, please contact your supervisor or HR Client Partner.
I have self-isolated for 14 days and did not work; now I am ready to return to work. What do I do?
Contact your supervisor or HR Client Partner before returning.
They will discuss your readiness to return to work, how your work arrangements may have changed (work from your home instead of work from your AU office), and assist you with any obstacles or concerns that may be standing in your way.
I have recently returned from out-of-town travel. What should I do?
ALL travellers who returned from travel outside of Canada are required to self-isolate immediately, for 14 days, and monitor for symptoms.
Please give details of your travel (countries visited and dates) to your direct supervisor and/or HR Client Partner and fill out the AU travel form and the self-isolation form.
Can I travel?
All university business travel outside Canada must be cancelled or postponed, including professional development and research and study travel. We also advise against any non-essential travel within Canada at this time.
What is the protocol around public gatherings?
As restrictions change, please ensure you know what types of gatherings – public and private – are permitted. You can find information on gatherings on the Government of Alberta website.
All governance meetings (Board of Governors, GFC, Dean’s Council, Administrative Council, APPSC, Digital Governance) are fully virtual.
You should not be attending any place-based meetings at this time.
Questions about AU sites, safety, cleanliness, and security
What is happening with internal mail services?
As many of our team members are working from home, internal mail service to all our AU buildings in the province will be suspended. Please scan documents or simply take a picture on your cell phone and send it to your colleagues electronically.
An important note about photographing documents: Please do not take pictures of operational records that contain personal information (student ID numbers, etc.), confidential, or proprietary information. This process should only be used for submitting records, like receipts for expense claims.
With many AU team members now working from home, how is AU adjusting security measures?
Swipe card/key fob access to AU locations has been removed for all team members who don’t have prior approval to be in an AU location. If you need to access an AU location, you must contact your supervisor and your HR client partner to request permission, complete a COVID-19 assessment, and arrange access.
Remember that if you continue to work on-site, wearing a mask continues to be mandatory everywhere except when working alone in an office, a safely distanced cubicle, or if a barrier is in place.
We all have a responsibility to take every precaution to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe by reducing the spread of COVID-19. We also want to remind everyone that legally, all Albertans must physically distance and isolate when sick or with symptoms.
How is AU adjusting sanitization based on these updated security protocols?
We will be installing a sanitizing station at our AU Main doors near reception and installing hands-free faucets in our washroom facilities at AU Main.
For all AU team members working in any of our facilities, it is important that you practise social distancing by keeping at least six feet (or the length of a bicycle) from others, wearing a mask at all times (except when working alone in an office, a safely distanced cubicle, or if a barrier is in place), and washing your hands often.
All AU locations have enhanced cleaning procedures in place, with increased attention to commonly touched surfaces in all public areas and washrooms. Coffee stations and kettles are not to be used any longer, as they are not easily cleaned between uses. We would also ask that team members who are on site to wipe down touch-points that get used frequently, such as door handles, handrails, printers/copiers/scanners, microwaves, and fridges.
If an area requires additional cleaning or you need additional wipes, please submit a service request through the Facilities and Services request form. For urgent requests, please email email@example.com or phone 780-675-6349.
The facilities team will address all requests for providing sanitary wipes for personnel space as requested and/or arrange for contracted janitorial services to be dispatched depending on the reported situation.
However, please note that you should not be in any AU facility without prior approval from your supervisor and HR. Even if you have been approved to be on site, please stay home and work if it is not critical for you to be in an AU location.
Questions about working from home
Is there a plan to allow AU team members to work from home?
AU is committed to doing our part to help minimize the spread of the virus. As of March 13, 2020, AU is allowing for its team members to work from home, if they are able to, until further notice. Team members should speak to their direct supervisor about this.
AU will remain focused on maintaining services to ensure continuity for our learners.
I’m temporarily working from home. Can I move my office equipment to my home?
If you have equipment at the office that helps you do your work safely, such as an ergonomic keyboard, and you’d like to bring it home while you work from home, please feel free to do that, if you can do it comfortably and safely on your own. Don’t lift anything more than 40 lbs.
If you decide to take some of your office equipment with you, please let your supervisor know and please send a list of items to your HR Client Partner.
Do not bring physical files containing personal information home with you.
I can’t do my job from home. Does that mean I don’t have to come to work?
At this time, only AU employees who have permission to be in an AU location are permitted.
Do you have any resources for AU team members working from home?
AU team members can find more ergonomic information on our OHS intranet page.
These are also some resources that we have compiled to help folks who are working from home:
- Free and fun resources for everyone!
- MyHealth.Alberta.ca Office Ergonomics
- Government of Alberta Resource: Office Ergonomics
- 20 Tips for Working from Home
- Canadian Mental Health Association: COVID-19
- 3 Tips to Avoid Working from Home Burnout
- 8 Essential Tips for Working from Home
- Strategies to Overcome Challenges with Online Meetings
Questions about IT and cybersecurity
Where can I find more information on IT security policies and procedures?
What are some of the ways that phishing attacks are targeting people right now?
It may be a phone call trying to scam you or a phishing attack that may try to get you to click on malicious links or open infected email attachments. While this list is not exhaustive and the message could be an email, pop-up, or even a phone call, be on the look out for these suspicious asks:
- Any message that communicates a tremendous sense of urgency. The attackers are trying to rush you and cause you to make a mistake.
- Any message that pressures you into bypassing or ignoring AU IT security policies and procedures.
- Any message that promotes miracle cures, such as vaccines or medicine that will protect you. The best information on COVID-19 will be on official websites, see links to those from our Information on COVID-19 page on The Hub.
- Be very suspicious of any phone call or message that pretends to be an official or government organization urging you to take immediate action.
What should AU team members do if they’re targeted by phishing attacks?
Our best defense against phishing is your vigilance, please be alert. When you encounter any phishing or other malicious e-mails simply delete them without responding, and without clicking any links or attachments. After you delete the e-mail you can also empty your trash to remove it completely from your account. If it is impersonating AU or you have particular concerns, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I protect my data?
Do not save sensitive AU information to your personal devices, like a hard drive or a storage network. For a refresher on data classification please see the AU Data and Information Security Classification Procedure.
As with the need to be cautious on phishing described above, please be vigilant on social media and with your personal emails. Extra care and caution are required as your personal email is not typically as secure and protected as the AU email system. An attacker may leverage your personal email, which could potentially compromise your AU computer, accounts, and even data.
How can I report a cybersecurity incident?
Please report any apparent cybersecurity threats. If you suspect that you have been the victim of phishing, maybe you clicked on a link or file, or responded to an unsolicited communication, or you suspect that your computer has been compromised, please contact the IT Help Desk immediately for assistance.
How can I ensure I’m protecting AU data?
As more of the University Community is experiencing a new way of working amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to remember some common-sense precautions to ensure the Personally Identifying Information (PII) we use to carry out our day-to-day work responsibilities is protected. Any information that is about an identifiable individual, including learners and employees, is considered PII. While already directed not to take files that contain personal information home, you may, in the course of your duties, need to write notes or deal with situations that involve PII. Below are some considerations to help ensure PII remains secure.
- Clean Desk: Practice a “clean desk” policy at home just as you would at work. Set up a secure place only you have access to keep files and notes with PII. Do not throw out documents and notes with PII in the trash or recycling; keep these until you can access the secure shredding services at an AU location.
- Phone Calls: Make any calls where you will be discussing PII privately or schedule these calls when others in your environment can be elsewhere. If others are around, try to use non-personally identifying language such as “learner” or “employee”, and refer to PII in emails or AU systems rather than repeating it out loud.
- Work Devices: Lock computer screens and require a password to if you leave your remote workstation for a health break or lunch. Ensure any mobile devices are password protected so that only you can access the information on them and turn any notifications that display details of email or text messages off.
Sharing Personal Information
- Authorized Sharing: Share PII within AU in the same situations as you always have in accordance with the FOIP Act If you need it, or need to share it to carry out your day-to-day work responsibilities. As well you should be ensuring you are abiding by Athabasca University’s Data and Information Security Classification Procedure, available on the Policy And Procedures Manual web page.
- Documents: As advised in the Facilities Update on March 19, 2020, inter-office mail is suspended. If you have a document that contains PII that needs to be shared, here are some ways to do so securely:
- Share documents within the AU computing environment (use a shared OneDrive, Teams site, SharePoint site, etc. or email to and from AU email accounts).
- If you need to use a scanner, scan your document to your AU-provided computer, then save it directly into the AU computing environment. Ensure the image or scan is deleted from your local environment.
- If you have an AU issued mobile device designated for work, use this if you need to share a photo of a document to and from AU files or to and from AU email accounts. Ensure you select the Encrypt feature found at the top of AU’s Office 365 Compose Email function.
- If there is no other option, and you must use a personal device to share a document, ensure that your privacy settings on your phone are maximized before taking a photo:
- Turn off access to your camera and photo libraries for ALL third-party Apps (e.g. Facebook, Instagram).
- Turn off all Location Services setting on your personal phone.
- Login to your AU Office 365 account using the O365 app you can download to your personal phone. Start an email to yourself and take or attach the photo of the document you need to send.
- Once you send the document, immediately delete the photo of it out of your photos and any other folders permanently. As the photo has now been sent into the AU O365 environment, you can continue to use it within there as normal.
Note: Settings will vary depending on the device you are using. Consult your manufacturer’s help information to determine how to set up and control your privacy settings. (i.e. Apple, Samsung, etc.)
If you are not sure what to do to protect personal information, reach out to your supervisor, or contact the Privacy Office at email@example.com or Melissa Sadownik, Privacy and Policy Coordinator, at 780-392-1218.
What videoconferencing software is suitable for doing work related to Athabasca University?
The only video conferencing tool that you should use for AU business is Microsoft Teams. If you need support using Teams for videoconferencing, please visit the Team page set up by AU’s IT team.