Working remotely from home or off campus - IT information

In this article:

Equipment you will need
Email and shared mailboxes
- Calendar sharing and availability
Files and folders
Zoom video meetings and webinars
- Instant messaging
Software for your personal computer
VPN and Remote Desktop
Access to online services and corporate systems
- Telephones and voicemail
- Keeping information safe
- Supported operating systems

Working from home guidance

If you have been asked to work from home as a result of the current situation, please read our working from home guidance (.pdf). We also have advice for managers whose teams are working remotely (.pdf) and information about working from home.

For more information related to working from home including webinar training and to connect with other people dealing with this new way of working, have a look at the new Working from Home moodle course.

Test everything in advance

If you're planning to work from home, we advise you to test that remote access is working in advance. If you have a University laptop it's best practice to take it home with you at the end of each working day.

Equipment you will need

  • A computer – use either your personal computer or your University laptop if you have one. If you don't have access to a computer please speak to your departmental or section administrator.
  • Internet access - preferably broadband. Alternatively you can use your own mobile phone as a wifi hotspot and connect your computer to it. See instructions for iPhone/iPad, Android or Windows Phone.
  • A webcam and headset for using Zoom. See our Zoom webpage for how to obtain these. You can use Zoom to make calls to not only Essex staff and students but anyone with an email address.
  • If Zoom is not appropriate for calling, you can request a telephone from IT purchasing.

If you don’t have access to the necessary equipment to work from home we have a very limited stock of equipment that can be loaned from the University. This includes:

  • Laptop or desktop computers
  • Spare monitors

Please speak to your Head of Section or Department to make an application for equipment. All applications follow a prioritised approval process – we cannot guarantee to fulfil every request. If approved, a member of ITS staff will contact you to arrange a collection or delivery.

Email and shared mailboxes

You don’t need VPN to access email.

Sign in to Webmail for quick and easy access to your email using a web browser. You don’t need to set anything up and it also works great on smart phones and tablets.

Also see how to open a shared mailbox in Webmail (.pdf)

Calendar sharing and availability

For better calendar visibility, we recommend that you share you Outlook calendar with team members and line manages when remote working. Set your calendar permission option to 'Can view all details'.

You can also let others know you are working elsewhere by setting your availability in Outlook:

  1. Open Outlook and go to your Calendar.
  2. Create a New Appointment and for Show As choose Working Elsewhere. Set it to be All day and Recurring.
  3. In the Title of the appointment let others know where you are working and how they can contact you.
    Outlook show as

Files and folders

How you remotely access your files and folders depends on where you keep them:

Service VPN required? More information
Box No Sign in to Box
OneDrive No Sign in to OneDrive
M: Drive No Access your M: Drive off campus
SharePoint Sites and Intranet No
Shared network drive Yes Access shared network drives off campus

Zoom video meetings and webinars

Zoom is the University’s supported tool for online meetings and video conferencing. You can use Zoom for virtual meetings, instant messaging, webinars and screen sharing. The IT Helpdesk may also use Zoom to provide you with remote assistance.

Recording meetings - if you plan on recording your Zoom meeting it's best practice to inform all participants at the start of the meeting that it's being recorded. Zoom will display an icon to indicate the meeting is being recorded.

Data saving tip - turn video off and use audio only as this uses less data. This may be helpful if you're on a limited downloads broadband package or using mobile data.

Instant messaging

We recommend using Zoom for group chat and private messaging. But please be aware that these work based discussions are subject to Freedom of Information requests and Subject Access Request.

Software for your personal computer

Get Microsoft Office 365 for your home computer or mobile device, free of charge.

Visit the Software Hub for all other available software.

If you need to access software that is only available on your work computer then you will need to use Remote Desktop.

VPN and Remote Desktop

Not all staff need VPN (Virtual Private Network) access to work from home. In fact most of our services are available off campus without VPN access. You should only use VPN if you need to.

Remote Desktop gives you access to everything on your work computer as if you were at your desk on campus. Remember to leave your University computer on campus switched on if you plan on using Remote Desktop - you may not be able to connect to it if it's switched off.

To remotely connect to your work computer on campus If you don't have a work computer on campus to connect to, for example if you have a work laptop

See setting up a VPN connection.

See Virtual Desktop service.

Access to online services and corporate systems

Service VPN required? How to access
Moodle No
HR Organiser No Sign in to HR Organiser
iTrent Yes Sign in to iTrent
Unit4 Business World Yes Sign in to Unit4 Business World
Tableau Yes
ESIS Yes Use Remote Desktop
Planet FM Yes Use Remote Desktop
Kx Yes Use Remote Desktop

Telephones and voicemail

Call diverting

Please do not set up call diverting on your University telephone unless you have been asked to do so. 

Instead, set up a voicemail greeting to let callers know how they can contact you when you're working off campus.

You can use Zoom to make calls to not only Essex staff and students but anyone with an email address.

Update your contact details

If you are no longer using telephone as a method of contact, we recommend that you:

  • remove your telephone number from your email signature
  • update any web listing or articles that have your telephone number on with new contact information.

Access your voicemail

You can remotely manage your telephone's voicemail:

  1. Dial 01206 87 3467
  2. During the greeting press #9 followed by your extension number.
  3. Enter your access code when asked.

Once logged in, you can use your voicemail as normal. See Telephone services for further instructions.

Forgotten your access code? Please open a new ticket and we will reset it for you.

Keeping information safe


  • Know that information security is just as important at home as it is in the workplace.
  • Understand that the usual rules on data protection apply wherever you are, including the IT Acceptable Use Policy and Information Security Policy
  • Access the information you need securely, online and through VPN and Remote Desktop.
  • Make sure your personal computer or device is up-to-date, has antivirus software and running a supported operating system. 
  • Report as usual if you accidentally share information with the wrong people.


  • Print out lots of information that you want to take home with you.
  • Email yourself lots of information - especially not to a non-University email address.
  • Copy lots of information on to a memory stick and take it home with you.

If you have any questions about keeping information safe when away from campus you can visit our working with information and data webpages or email one of our Data Protection Officers.

Supported operating systems

If you're connecting to the University's VPN service, it's important that the computer you're using is running a supported operating system and has antivirus software. Most operating systems now come with antivirus as standard, for example Windows 10.

This is because when you use VPN you are connecting your device directly to our network, and if your device isn’t fully protected against cyberattacks then it makes our network vulnerable. 

We consider the following operating systems to be supported:

  • Windows 10 (1809 or higher)
  • macOS High Sierra (10.13) or above
  • iOS 12.4.5, on newer devices iOS 13.3.1 and iPadOS 13.3.1
  • Android version 8 or above (Orea, Pie and Q all covered)
  • Chromebooks under 6.5 years old

If you're not running a supported operating system please contact the IT Helpdesk for advice on what to do.

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