Pjs, dining tables and public records: Working from home and COVID-19

What do pjs, dining tables and public records have in common? Let’s chat about it.

COVID-19 – a once in a lifetime event changing our world!

In years from now we’ll be looking back at history to see what happened. In the same way we look back at the Spanish flu pandemic in Queensland in 1919. Did you know we had quarantine camps in 1919 and borders were closed too? (see letter above -sourced from Image Qld DID 2799).

Back to COVID-19…in the future we’ll want to know how COVID-19 impacted our country, our state, our local communities and our families and friends? How did we deal with the crisis, what worked and what didn’t? And what did we learn along the way and would change us forever? Our records are vital for this but it goes beyond looking back at our history.

It’s about the here and now! Our records provide us with valuable information to make informed decisions, to help identify trends, and help us allocate resources where they’re needed. And think about the important role agencies play. What actions are we taking to help the community or the government? How are we communicating with the community, our clients and partners? How are we changing how we work? How have our priorities changed? What important decisions are we making?

It has never been more important to make and keep records about the work you and your agency are doing.

Many of us will be working from home, making sure important services to the community continue. And you’ll need to create records, access information, share records with your colleagues, and keep records somewhere safe.

You might be working at the dining table, on the couch making phone calls or in your study having a teleconference with your team… In your pyjamas, track suits or jeans or in your normal work clothes. Just remember…

Your records management responsibilities don’t change whether you’re working from the office, your dining table, your couch or anywhere else.

Here’s some simple advice for everyone.

1. Make records

  • about the work you’re doing – focus on actions and decisions and the rationale (the why)
  • which may be in any format including text messages, emails, letters, briefs, other word documents, notes about phone calls, recorded teleconferences, spreadsheets, audio recordings, website content, social media posts and responses… and more
  • avoid using your private email, messaging apps or social media accounts for work if you can. If you do use your private accounts, any public record created or received in those accounts, must be captured into an official government account within 20 calendar days of creation or receipt (e.g. a work email in your private email account can be emailed to your official account). Also take note of any special requirements regarding the use of private accounts such as the Private Use Email Policy issued by the Public Service Commission.

2. Keep records

  • in an organised way, with an easy to follow file structure and titles
  • somewhere safe and not easily accessible except to those who need them
  • with good version control. It’s important to be able to identify the latest version and to keep older versions of documents and name them clearly so you know how things changed along the way
  • but avoid use of USBs as they’re easily lost and may contain sensitive information

3. Don’t throw records away

  • without authorisation from the State Archivist
  • if in doubt, keep everything at this stage

4. Follow guidance from your agency

  • know where to quickly find your agency’s recordkeeping policy and procedures
  • comply with those policies and procedures which may cover:
    • where records should be stored if you can’t access your recordkeeping system (e.g. one drive; Microsoft team files; specific location in the cloud)
    • which apps you’re allowed to use. This could include apps that help you share information, collaborate (and to teleconference with others (e.g. Microsoft teams, Skype, text messages)
    • keeping records secure. Some records may be particularly sensitive, confidential or personal and must be protected. Take special care to securely capture sensitive or protected information which may not be suitable for cloud storage
    • ensure privacy is protected.

5. Bring the records back

  • make sure you transfer the records into recordkeeping or business systems used by your agency once you have finished working from home. Your agency can advise about whether you need to provide the records:
    • progressively and how you should do that
    • when you’re back at your normal workplace.

If you’re a records manager, feel free to use the information above to communicate about records and make sure to include a link to your agency’s Records Management Policy and Procedures for easy access by staff.

Any questions? Email us at: rkqueries@archives.qld.gov.au

Lastly, we would like to acknowledge the Tasmanian Office of the State Archivist’s article ‘Working From Home and Recordkeeping’, published in their On the Record newsletter, March 2020.

Featured image: Letter from the Home Secretary’s Office to Miss Besse Seccombe from Konorigan via Lismore, regarding the closure of the quarantine camp in Coolangatta and the procedures for entry to Queensland via the quarantine camp in Wallangarra, dated 4 March 1919, DID 2799.

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