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.
As a result of our cautious approach throughout the pandemic, AU is fully compliant with all new measures introduced—including requiring proof of vaccination to enter an AU facility or engage in any in-person university activity beginning Dec. 1, 2021.
The evidence is clearly highlighting the important role that vaccines play in providing an effective layered approach to managing COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated, along with physically distancing, wearing masks, getting tested, and self-isolating when you experience symptoms work hand-in-hand to protect you, your family, and our communities.
AU has made the decision to build on our existing COVID-19 measures to incorporate vaccinations to keep our environment safe for everyone moving forward.
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.
Information for AU team members
When will AU be reopening facilities?
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 put measures in place 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 at this time, our university will remain open to ensure that our learners get the supports they need as classes continue as usual.
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, please follow the most up-to-date health services advice for your province.
If you have been previously approved to be on-site, do not enter an AU facility, please stay home and work.
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 recently returned from out-of-town travel. What should I do?
The Government of Canada advises Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.
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 (if required).
How has AU adjusted requirements and cleaning protocol for those who are working in person?
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.
For AU team members working in any of our facilities, AU is still requiring that you practise social distancing by keeping at least six feet (or the length of a bicycle) from others, wear a mask at all times (except when working alone in an office, a safely distanced cubicle, or if a barrier is in place), and wash 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.
What is the protocol around business-related travel and in-person meetings?
All meetings should be held virtually at this time.
While AU continues to work remotely and maintains restrictions for in-person activities in response to COVID-19, we understand that there may be critical business needs for some place-based and in-person work arrangements.
Requesting access on a temporary basis to an AU location will continue to be managed by completing the Return to Place-Based Work Form, as has been the process since the start of the pandemic.
However, should a team need to engage in in-person activities for business purposes, such as face-to-face meetings and/or travel to locations and events, we have developed a process to consider exceptions where a critical operational impact can be demonstrated.
You must complete and submit the COVID-19 Face-to-Face Business/Activity Request Form for assessment and approval by the COVID-19 Planning Committee prior to any in-person AU-related activity. The health and safety of our team members continues to be a priority throughout the assessment process.
When submitting this request form, you will need an Administrative Council member and/or Executive Officer approval before submitting it for consideration to the COVID-19 Planning Committee.
Please submit your completed form (with Administrative Council member or Executive Officer approval) via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions about vaccinations
When will the new vaccination requirement be effective?
To be permitted to engage in any university activity in person by Dec. 1, 2021, all AU team members, learners, contractors, vendors, tenants, and visitors must be fully immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organization. Full immunization occurs 14 days after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
AU will also accept proof of a privately paid-for negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before entering university property or attending a university activity.
The policy also allows for exemption or accommodation requests due to a medical reason or other protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The full article on these requirements and how to comply can be found by visiting “How to comply with AU’s new vaccination policy and procedure” on The Hub.
Do I need to provide proof of vaccination to AU as a team member who is working remotely?
No. Full proof of vaccination is only required to enter an AU facility or engage in any in-person university activity.
AU has finalized the COVID-19 vaccination policy and procedure related to this requirement. We have also introduced the AU Safe website and the AU Safe app (available through Google Play or Apple’s App Store) so that you can report your vaccination status, negative COVID-19 test result, or vaccination exemption.
How do I provide a vaccination exemption?
Medical Exemptions: A valid medical exemption requires completion of the Statement of Medical Exemption for COVID-19 Vaccination form. This form must be completed by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner and must include your name that matches AU records, the physician or nurse practitioner’s name, address, signature, and must provide medical reasoning for the exemption as well as a time period for which the exemption is valid.
Religious Beliefs or Human Rights Exemptions: A valid Religious Belief or Human Rights exemption requires the completion of the Statement of Religious Beliefs or Statement Human Rights Exemption for COVID-19 Vaccination Form. You must be prepared to explain why your religion or Human Rights does not allow for vaccination. You must also be able to identify the name and address of the place of worship, the name of your faith-based leader, and the length of time you have been practicing this religion. The application must also include a letter from your religious leader explaining the connection between the religion you practice and your inability to be vaccinated certifying that they have read and agree with the declaration you have made.
Additional information regarding Medical and Religious Beliefs Human Rights Exemptions can be found on the Alberta Human Rights Commission website.
Where can I access my vaccination record?
More information about booking a vaccine in Alberta and getting your vaccination record can be found on the Government of Alberta website. If you live outside Alberta, please consult with your provincial government’s website for details about vaccination support in your community.
Questions about working from home
What happened to the internal mail services?
As many of our team members are working from home, internal mail service to all our AU buildings in the province is still 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.
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.
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.
As a reminder, you will need to contact your supervisor and your HR client partner to request permission to pick your office things up, complete a COVID-19 assessment, and arrange access.
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 email@example.com.
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?
It is important to remember some common-sense precautions to ensure the Personally Identifying Information (PII) we use to carry out AU’s 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.
AU’s Privacy Office has training available for all AU team members on the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP). Take the FOIP training today!
- 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 AU’s security of digital information and assets policies and procedures.
- Documents: Inter-office mail is currently 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 in that environment 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Melissa Sadownik, Director, Policy, Privacy and Records Management, 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.