Working from home in the age of COVID-19
NUS staff embracing working from home (from left): Dr Martin Raič, Jacqueline Ang and Ng Tiong Beng

Working from home in the age of COVID-19

In support of the Singapore government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 through “circuit breaker” measures between 7 April and 1 June, the University moved all non-essential services staff to a telecommuting work arrangement. How does NUS, a large organisation with more than 12,000 staff ensure business continuity with the technology and infrastructure required to support remote work?

Ng Tiong Beng, Director of Infrastructure at NUS IT, shared that the IT infrastructure at NUS could support up to three quarters of the total staff and student population for remote work and study, and the support can be scaled up when required. “It is not possible to set up these technologies overnight. NUS was well-prepared for remote work because we had looked ahead,” Tiong Beng explained. This preparedness was in place even before the pandemic hit local shores.

Jacqueline Ang, Management Assistant Officer at King Edward VII Hall observed that working from home was challenging in the beginning, being used to having the convenience of office resources as basic as printing and Wi-Fi access. “Having to adapt to these changes meant picking up new skills that will remain relevant even after returning to the office environment,” Jacqueline enthused, and commended her colleagues for their advice and support during this period.  

For academic staff, the “circuit breaker” period meant that regular classes had to be moved online. “My initial impression was that online lectures cannot replace face-to-face ones. However, in a situation such as COVID-19, we have to be flexible. A presentation on its own is a one-way communication,” observed Dr Martin Raič from the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability. Being aware of this potential issue, he made it a point to check in on students after each slide was presented, and leveraged the annotation feature on Zoom to incorporate new ideas from students while he lectured online.

Recently, NUS IT launched digital platform Workspace ONE, enabling access to all NUS corporate applications from devices enrolled on the platform; staff can safely obtain data and applications wherever they are. In less than three weeks after its launch, the platform saw over 700 enrolments. With VPN to secure access to the NUS network and collaborative tools such as nBox, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, staff are ready to face the new norm as they continue to maintain their work momentum and connect with colleagues effectively.


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