28 March 20

Letter to Synod Office, Brooklyn Park Campus and Venues Staff

Greetings to you all on this very beautiful Adelaide morning. The sun is shining. A light breeze is visible through the trees. The birds are singing, seemingly unperturbed by our change in circumstances. As we continue this ‘new normal’, I am mindful that it will be effecting you all in a variety of ways. I am lucky that my job is deemed essential (for the moment!), that my home office has a window and I can be distracted by passing walkers in my street and that my desk and chair are comfortable.

However, I am lamenting that some of our staff have already lost their jobs because of their contractual arrangements. I am lamenting that along with the congregations and other ministries we are seeking to resource and serve, we are feeling unsettled about our staff, distressed about how sustainable our work places might be, if this new way of being continues too long.

I am encouraged this morning by the story of Noah (Genesis 7 and probably 8), the story of a family isolated by flood waters. Noah and his family took in provisions and set up daily routines that would sustain them through a period of time, the length of which was unknown. They were sustained by hopefulness, a sense of purposefulness in their daily tasks and a belief that God would sustain them and bring them through the events they were enduring. I encourage you to have a read.

The Crisis Management Team is continuing to meet and respond to the constantly changing landscape. The Federal Government announcements yesterday did not make significant changes to our processes and procedures around dealing with COVID-19. At our meeting;

  • We affirmed our commitment to relocate all staff, enabling as many staff as possible to be meaningfully employed remotely. 
  • We recognise that this will take some adjusting too. However it is important for everyone to hear very clearly that all our office buildings will be closed to staff for the immediate future.
  • Executive Officers will on rotation, monitor our facilities and ensure mail, phone messages  and other information is circulated,
  • and that our primary focus is on keeping our staff and their families safe and well.


I want to thank everyone again for your cooperation and willingness to adhere to these increasingly defined restrictions on our work practices. Please be encouraged to stay in close communication with your managers. I know many of you are meeting through video conferencing once a day. Others are maintaining contact by phone and weekly meetings. I hope you all have a ‘buddy’ that you are looking out for and that you are exploring creative ways to bring some joy to each other along the way. The Secretariat and Communications team will meet (via MS Teams) next week with coffee and cake and I am looking forward to seeing what yummy cakes the team will make.

To assist us to be safe and well, we have a few tips, suggestions about sustainable practices for working at home;

  • To be productive, you need an environment that allows you to be comfortable and to stay focussed.
  • It is always helpful to have a schedule or a plan for the day or a set of goals you are working towards.
  • A structured routine will help you effectively manage your workload and stay on task to meet deadlines. Spending some time each morning mapping your day might help.
  • Talking with members of your household about how you are all going to work together might also help.
  • Be aware of how much time you are working and not working. Be mindful of what you are spending time on, what detracts from achieving you daily goals and celebrate what you have achieved at the end of the day to help keep you motivated.
  • Avoid checking personal emails and visiting social networking sites during work hours.
  • Stay connected with immediate colleagues and your team regularly throughout the day using emails and MS Teams.
  • Schedule regular breaks and exercise – think stretching, yoga, dips and lunges, natural resistance exercise and spending time outside in the fresh air.
  • Don’t forget to set time aside for family and friends. Use some of your break times to call or email close contacts.

Below you will find the specific notes that came from our meeting. They state succinctly and clearly the details around office closures for this coming week. 

General Secretary Note to all Staff 27/03/2020

  • All Synod sites will be closed from Monday 30 March 2020.  All staff will be working remotely from home from Monday.
  • Only designated staff will attend the 212 Pirie St office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to attend to certain administrative tasks.
  • Designated staff will also attend the Brooklyn Park Campus each day of the week to attend to necessary on site tasks.
  • If you need to come in to the office or campus (only if there is a task that cannot be done from home), please seek approval through your Manager, from your Executive Officer and advise the Office Contact prior to your arrival.
  • The Synod Office reception phone will be answered by Chris, who is working from home
  • Mail will be processed on these days, scanned and forwarded to the relevant departments.
  • If you do need to come in (and it has been approved by your EO via the General Secretary) you will need to swipe your building access card in the lift to access L 2.
  • You will need to sign in and out if you attend the office or campus.  You will need to sign a declaration stating that you are well.

Keep in mind that services to the office and campus will reduce, e.g. cleaning arrangements have been put in place for all aspect of the office functioning.  If you have any concerns or questions about any of the arrangements, please contact your Manager.

Office Contacts for the coming week are:  

  • Tuesday: Sue Raw
  • Wednesday: Sue Page
  • Thursday: Peter Battersby

Please do not just ‘pop’ in to the office to pick something up, or come after hours to do something. 
We cannot do this. We must stay away unless the proper procedures for approving access is adhered to.  This is for the health and safety of all our staff, and the wider community.

Please have a good read (below) of the attached Working from Home Protocols document.
It is a useful ready reference guide.


May you experience joy in the little things today and know that we experience grace in abundance when we focus on God in community

Working from Home Protocols - A Ready Reference Guide

  • All UC policies and procedures must continue to be complied with at all times
  • All Uniting Church work is to be worked on within VM Ware (with the exception of calls through MS teams which should be done directly from your browser on your device) and saved onto our servers. No work or documents are to be saved onto your local drives unless you have a UC owned and issued laptop


Access to UC sites (212 Pirie St, Brooklyn Park and Venues Sites) from Monday 30th

  • All Synod sites will be closed from Monday 30 March 2020
  • Designated staff will attend the  212 Pirie St office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to attend to certain administrative tasks
  • Mail will be processed on these days and scanned and forwarded to the relevant department
  • Designated staff will attend the Brooklyn Park Campus each day of the week to attend to necessary on site tasks
  • If you need to come in to the office or campus (if there is a task that can not be done from home), please seek approval through your Manager, from your Executive Officer and advise the Office Contact prior to your arrival
  • You will need to swipe your building access card in the lift to access level 2
  • You will need to sign in and out if you attend the office or campus
  • Keep in mind that services to the office and campus will reduce, e.g. cleaning


General Protocols

  • Make sure there is more than one reliable way to contact emergency services, your manager or to get other help;
  • Have a first aid kit;
  • Have equipment at hand to put out a small fire. This may be a fire blanket or an appropriate fire extinguisher;
  • If possible, have a Residual Current Device (RCD) installed which limits the chance of electric shock;
  • As far as possible, try to limit trip hazards such as additional leads for device chargers etc;
  • We also advise you to contact your Home and Contents insurance provider to let them know you are working from home, as some policies require this to be specified
  • Keep in regular contact with your manager and other members of your team.
  • Try to maintain regular work patterns consistent with when you would be in the office (eg regular working hours and lunchbreaks etc.)  This will also help you to avoid snacking more than usual!
  • Take walk in the fresh air a lunchtime (always maintaining physical distancing)
  • Speak to your manager if you have any concerns
  • Protect all UC physical information as you would electronic information. Any paper documents / files begin taken from the office, must be approved by the EO to ensure we comply with privacy requirements.
  • Ensure that your place of work at home is safe, free from distractions, clean and healthy
  • Let your manager know if you are unwell or unable to work due to carer responsibilities
  • If you need to leave your home based workplace for any reason during usual work hours, please let your manager know where you are going and when you will be back. We still need to be able to care for our staff and ensure they are safe at all times during normal work hours.


Safe working environment

  • Employees must ensure the home based work site is a safe area to work;
    - systems of work undertaken in the home based work site are safe;
    - any incidents should be reported to WHS as if you were in the office
  • Employees must ensure they have a suitable workstation, chair and IT related equipment and forward a photograph of the area containing these to the WHS coordinator.
  • Require that all personnel use appropriate safe transport of IT equipment (packing, transport, setup)
  • Use appropriate lifting and handling techniques and equipment when transporting large equipment or numbers of files and documents.  Wheeled hand luggage cases can be good for this.



  • No additional computing items are to be taken home without first seeking permission from IT&T
  • All loan equipment is for use by Uniting Church SA staff only
  • All loan equipment much be secured appropriately
  • IT&T have spare headsets available should you require one
  • report any damage to IT equipment to your manager and the IT Manager ASAP
  • seek prior approval for the purchase of any equipment to assist with undertaking work-related tasks and assisting with technological communications and understand that such purchases remain the property of the Uniting Church
  • you will need to return all equipment and resources to UC in good working once we return to the workplace or leave employment of the UC



  • When you’re working from home ensure you bind MXIE to the “Internal Softphone” and setup a headset to ensure good call quality. Make a test call from your mobile to be sure this works correctly!


MS Teams

  • Ensure you have a version of MS Teams installed on something other than your VMware Horizon desktop. Video and Audio calls via VMWare Horizon will be suboptimal. Options for voice / video calls are mobile phones, tablets or laptops.
  • Start MS Teams each time you login (even inside VMware Horizon Desktops for Chat and alerts etc.)
  • Keep Teams open and chat with co-workers, send messages the same way you'd have normal office conversations and banter so you don't become isolated
  • You can use Teams for both voice and video calls (and if you have this installed on your mobile you can even receive these on the go). If you are doing a video call make sure you have a look at the video your sending to make sure this is presenting a flattering image!
  • Don’t forget to mute your microphone in larger meetings
  • Use your status to show if you are at your desk or not but don’t be tied to these (you are allowed to leave your desk at home same as you are at work)



  • Be vigilant with your cyber security... You may be in your home environment but don't let your guard down and fall for any scams / Covid-19 click bait.





It is likely that most staff will need to work predominantly at a computer while at home, so it’s important that we follow ergonomic principles so that work is comfortable and safe.

Sitting at a computer for long periods is not recommended, even if the workstation is perfectly set-up. Staff should take regular breaks such as standing up for a few moments, doing different tasks, gently stretching or changing position about every half an hour.

It would be helpful to consider where a good place to work from would be. There might not be a perfect spot, but it may be helpful to take the following into account;

  • Is there somewhere to set up a workstation – a desk or table, and a reasonably supportive chair (with a backrest)?
  • Can your laptop be plugged in from that area, or is an extension cord needed? Would the cord need to be taped down so it can’t trip anyone?
  • Check that you have earphones or buds which can plug into your computer or phone. Cradling a phone under your chin can cause neck strain.
  • Please let WHS know if further, more specific advice would be helpful. This might be especially if you have had ergonomic issues in the past.


The following diagram gives an indication of the general principles of effective workstation set-up;

Below are some suggestions to ensure that working from home is safe and sustainable.

To be productive, you need an environment that allows you to comfortably work and stay

Schedule your day

  • A structured routine helps to effectively manage tasks and stay on target for deadlines
  • A short planning session in the morning to map out your day can be very effective
  • Speak with members of your household about how you may all work together
  • Be aware how much time you spend working and not working.
  • What are you spending that time doing and how much does it detract from your work goals?
  • Focus on what you’ve accomplished at the end of each day to keep yourself motivated.

Avoid checking personal email or visiting social networking sites during work hours

  • A serious distraction that can go by unnoticed - and cost you your day

Stay Connected

  • It's easy to lose contact. Check in with your immediate colleagues and team regularly throughout the day using email or Microsoft Teams
  • Don’t forget family and friends, set aside time or use your breaks to call or email close contacts, stay in the loop

Take regular breaks and “exercise”

  • Respite from your desk is important especially when you’re confined to your home. Best to schedule regular breaks
  • Staying active can be a challenge, especially cardio. Think stretching, Yoga, dips, lunges, natural resistance exercise.