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.
The COVID-19 Planning Committee continues to meet, review, and assess the current situation. We have made the travel process more streamlined, given that restrictions and public health orders have been lifted in Alberta and Canada.
We must remain vigilant and committed to following preventative practices and protocols, even as COVID-19 moves from a pandemic to an endemic state. Good hygiene practices and protocols are essential to prevent the spread of infection.
This page contains COVID-19 questions and answers for team members. You can also find COVID-19 Questions and Answers for Learners.
Information for AU team members
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.
What is the protocol around business-related travel, in-person meetings, and working in person?
Travel is not risk-free, and we have updated the business travel checklist to be more streamlined while still meeting our health, safety, and security requirements.
To find the updated AU business and travel checklist, as well as the process, please visit the employee health page on the AU intranet.
When will AU be reopening facilities?
Athabasca University (AU) will not be reopening any of its facilities to the public until the near-virtual assessment process is complete.
We will continue to support our learners in any way we can. 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.
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 exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 or if you test positive, DO NOT enter an AU location. Instead, notify your supervisor, and follow current provincial medical recommendations.
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 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.
How has AU adjusted requirements and cleaning protocol for those who are working in person?
All AU locations have enhanced cleaning procedures in place, with increased attention to commonly touched surfaces in all public areas and washrooms. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 780-675-6349.
More details can be found on the AU intranet in the employee health section.
What requirements are there for vendors and contractors at AU facilities?
For all vendors and contractors in any of our facilities, AU is encouraging everyone to practise physical distancing by keeping at least six feet (or the length of a bicycle) from others, and to wash your hands often.
AU no longer mandates wearing masks unless a hazard assessment dictates one is needed; however, we encourage wearing masks. More details on masking can be found on the AU intranet.
Questions about vaccinations
Is the vaccine requirement still in place?
With over 86% of Alberta’s population aged 12 and over now protected with at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination, the Executive Team approved a recommendation from the COVID-19 Planning Committee to rescind the COVID-19 Vaccination Policy effective May 30, 2022.
It is AU’s policy that those participating in any AU in-person activities offered at a facility not duly owned and operated by AU, in a jurisdiction outside of Alberta, adhere to the COVID vaccination policies and procedures of the facilities in which they are taking place, as well as the legislation, regulation, and advice/instruction of public health agencies and offices of the chief medical officers of health of the jurisdictions in which the facilities are located.
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?
We want to remind you that even though many of you are working remotely, it is still important that you are following our IT security policies and procedures, and more specifically, Security of Digital Information and Assets Policy and Acceptable Use of IT Assets Procedure.
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.
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 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 personally identifying information.
While you should not have any files that contain personal information home, you may, in the course of your duties, need to write notes or deal with situations that involve personally identifying information. Below are some considerations to help ensure personally identifying information 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 personally identifying information. Do not throw out documents and notes with personally identifying information 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 personally identifying information 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 personally identifying information 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: Sharing personally identifying information 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 personally identifying information 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 email@example.com 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.