On Monday 23rd March 2020, the Engineering Photonics labs were closed with immediate effect due to the spread of COVID-19 that had originated in Wuhan four months earlier. Most EP staff were working from home from that point on until early April when most Cranfield staff were put on furlough. Furlough was done on a rota basis with everyone in the University being assigned a team: red, blue, purple, or orange.
In mid-June 2020, the EP labs were one of the guinea pigs, being one of the first in the University to re-open. The re-opening came with a host of safety procedures including a maintained rota system, use of hand-sanitizers and face masks, maintaining a social distance of at least 2 m, only one person to a lab, and regular cleaning of shared equipment. Mirrors were installed in the corridors to avoid contact with others passing by, and the white board was used with magnetic tokens to check in and out so that everyone knew who was present.
The alpha variant emerged in Kent at the end of 2020 and precipitated the third national lockdown in December. Whilst the labs remained open, access was more restricted with only essential work authorized. The period of managed access combined with intermittent furlough, known internally as ‘amber days’, lasted until around June 2021. By this time vaccines had been rolled out to more of the population and the COVID restrictions began to ease, eventually leading to a hybrid working scheme where staff continued to work a proportion of their time at home. Following the pilot phase the hybrid scheme continues to remain in place.