In principle, employees have been working from home since March (and on campus in specific cases). This will remain the case until at least 2021. For colleagues with teaching duties, this meant switching to online education—and with impressive results. Zoom calls became a daily reality for almost everyone.
The main measures for employees:
A UM Safety Protocol (geared to the RIVM recommendations) outlines nine measures to minimise the risk of infection.
- This protocol also includes the health check that everyone must perform before visiting a UM location (individuals with symptoms or a higher risk of infecting others are not permitted to come to UM in person).
- Stickers and other notices have been placed in the buildings reminding people to keep their distance from one another (1.5 metres).
- In exceptional situations where social distancing is not possible, free face masks are provided. Medical-grade face masks are also available for certain higher risk educational activities.
- Ventilation in the buildings has been optimised and numerous hygiene measures have been taken.
- Because the success of such measures depends on people’s behaviour, this has been widely communicated. In each department, employees will take turns acting as ‘corona coach’, calling their colleagues to account if they fail to observe the safety measures. Enforcement for students is performed by corona stewards, which reduces the risk of infection for students and, ultimately, employees.
- Employees have received information about working from home in a healthy and ergonomically responsible manner. They can also request additional advice and, in some cases, take office furniture home temporarily.
- A stress coach and a pastor were appointed to assist employees with psychological issues, and attention was drawn again to the existence of the confidential adviser, ombudsman and company doctor. Managers received support in the form of tools and tips to promote bonding between employees.
- Training courses were and are being offered online through the Staff Career Centre and the Language Centre to ensure that staff development continues.
- During the lockdown of Belgium and Germany, employees received a signed employer’s statement or stamp allowing them to cross the border. They also received information about social security and taxation for border workers working from home during the corona pandemic.
- A protocol has been drawn up to be followed in the event of infections.
- Employees will retain their commuting allowance throughout the period of working from home.
- Employees received a one-off expense allowance of €50 to defray the costs of working from home.
- A Job Board was launched to link employees whose work could not be performed from home with other jobs/projects within UM. In spring, during the worst of the crisis, healthcare professionals from UM were temporarily seconded to MUMC+ to help care for COVID-19 patients.
UM is investing approximately €7 million from its own reserves to address issues that are set to arise in the near future. The respective faculties and service centres have identified trouble spots within their own units to ensure that the money is spent as efficiently as possible. Because the new approach to education has considerably increased the pressure on lecturers, the majority of the funds are earmarked for the expansion of teaching capacity. A considerable portion will also go to the management and support staff (OBP), as well as to academic research.
Our comprehensive COVID-19 safety policy is aimed at preventing the virus from spreading. Some UM measures—such as working from home until 2021—go beyond the RIVM recommendations. In view of this, the university trusts that it can occasionally call on employees (with the exception of specific groups) to come to their workplace in Maastricht or on one of the campuses for certain on-site activities. For more information about working safely in times of corona, please consult the website.
We again wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to all those employees who have made such significant contributions, in many different forms, to the continuation of our activities in education, research and operational management. Thanks to you, the continuity of UM has never been in question and we head into the new academic year in a strong starting position.