This Sussex Life: Nicole Klesser, SEF: “It’s important that students have someone to contact or see”
My role is to oversee the delivery of facilities management (FM) services throughout the University campus, both residential and academic. We have a team led by residential building managers and academic FMs, who provide cleaning, portering, building management and 24/7-cover for reception areas.
To ensure the welfare of the Sussex Estates and Facilities (SEF) team working on site during the pandemic, we have made changes to the public areas where we work to facilitate social distancing. We hold our meetings outside, with social distancing being the priority, or we have conference calls. The cleaning teams are split and prioritising cleaning the shared and kitchen areas. All staff are instructed to carry out their duties on their own, with staggered breaks.
I originally came to Sussex to study International Relations and Development Studies in 2000, when Sussex was (and still is!) amongst the highest-ranked universities for development studies in the world. Sussex was third only to Oxford and Cambridge when I joined. I’m from the Netherlands, and I liked living in the south of England, so I stayed here after graduating.
My first job at Sussex was as a summer cleaner in York House in 2001 while I was still a student. I’d had a few jobs back home in the Netherlands, and picked up a few more while travelling before I decided to study at Sussex.
It gets said a lot, but the Falmer campus really is a great place in which to work, especially in the summer. As a former international student myself, I also love how diverse the student population is. It’s great to see so many people from different backgrounds in one place. Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to seeing all our staff and students back on campus when this crisis has died down. Sussex is at its best when it’s busy.
The biggest challenge during the pandemic has been not knowing who’s still on campus after so many students left in a hurry to get home when the lockdown started in March. We wanted to make sure everyone was aware of what support was available and have since carried out room checks, which have helped to determine who is on site and has given us the opportunity to let people know what services are currently available. The list has allowed the University to be able to send targeted, regular communications to those here with relevant information and updates.
Apart from more rigorous cleaning in shared and kitchen areas to combat contamination, we’ve noticed that it’s been really important that students have someone to contact or see (following safe guidelines), whether it’s seeing our cleaners around during the day, or coming to see the porter to collect a package. There has been a great sense of community recently while also making sure that our students are properly looked after. For example, we collected and made available a thousand Easter eggs for students who were still on campus. It’s been nice to see appreciation for how essential the work our teams do really is!
The biggest priority of course has been health and safety, and ensuring that we are taking every precaution possible to keep our staff safe. This has included regular health and safety guidance, meetings in open air or via phone, support and guidance for staff from our partner company Interserve, allowing for more flexible working, and more. Our health and safety team, internal communications, and facilities managers/supervisors have all done a great job providing and communicating important information and changes to all of our staff.
I’ve also noticed that this crisis has brought out the best in people. So many people, including many here on campus, have gone out of their way to help and support others the best they can, which I hope continues even after the lockdown is over.
This profile is part of our This Sussex Life series.