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Essential on-site operations

News from Mar 24, 2020

On March 23, 2020, the “Ordinance on Measures Necessary to Stem the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in Berlin” from March 22, 2020 came into effect. Sections 10 to 13 of the ordinance refer to universities, libraries, and cafeterias as well as non-university research institutions and prohibit them from opening to the public and holding in-person instruction. Section 14, subsection 1 defines the rules for limited personal contact that must be strictly observed. The ordinance calls for all residents of Berlin to stay in their homes or usual places of residence at all times with the exception of certain activities listed in section 14, subsection 3.

In order to comply with this ordinance, Freie Universität Berlin must reduce all on-site operations to only the most essential ones, in particular administrative operations.

As a result, you can expect the following changes:

All Freie Universität Berlin buildings are closed.

No one is allowed to be on the Freie Universität Berlin campus or in university buildings. Researchers and other non-research related staff and service personnel at Freie Universität Berlin must work remotely from home.

Exceptions can only be made for a small number of employees and service staff whose work on-site is necessary to maintaining essential operations (see section 14, subsection 3a of the SARS-CoV-2 ordinance). Freie Universität’s Executive Board is responsible for determining any exceptions.

Essential on-site personnel include 

  • The Executive Board
  • The coronavirus task force
  • Mail services
  • IT departments
  • Certain offices in the Personnel Division
  • Certain offices in the Finance, Procurement, and Position Management Division
  • Certain offices in the Engineering and Utilities Division
  • Certain offices in the Research Division
  • Certain offices in the Student Records and Registration Office
  • Departmental administration offices 
  • The Office of News and Public Affairs
  • Animal clinics at the Department of Veterinary Medicine
  • Certain offices in the Botanic Gardens

Some clarifications:

What do “essential on-site operations” mean?

We need all employees to help prepare for the upcoming summer semester and to be open to finding new ways to structure their work. On the one hand, we want to set up digital tools for teaching and research as soon as possible. On the other hand, the vast majority of Freie Universität’s employees are working remotely, and that requires a high degree of coordination and strong lines of communication.

In order to keep structurally relevant functions and tasks running, we urgently recommended that operational units form at least two teams that can then alternate between remote and on-site work, i.e., one team works remotely for two weeks, followed by two weeks on site. People in charge of specific functions should not be on the same teams as their deputies.

When working on site, employees still must keep personal contact to a bare minimum. It should only happen in exceptional cases, and contact with people from outside of the university must be arranged by appointment. When meeting in person, please strictly observe proper hygiene guidelines. Consultations or responding to questions, for example, concerning the hiring process, should be done by telephone or some other mode of electronic communication.

The university’s rules for working hours still apply generally; however, regulations concerning core on-site hours, minimum on-site hours, and documenting hours do not apply while these measures are in effect. If you do come into work at the university to support the essential on-site operations during this period, please enter “Präsenz” (present) under “Bemerkungen” (comments) on your employee time sheet. Employees are not allowed to work overtime hours.

Buildings where employees are still working should have reduced opening hours if possible.


The order to refrain from coming to the university also applies to people working in research. Please understand that you, too, are prohibited from working on site up until April 19, 2020, at the earliest. But you do have the option of working remotely as well.

Working remotely

Until further notice, all employees should work remotely. The only exceptions are employees who are essential to on-site operations.

You can find helpful information (in German) about working from home and the technical support available on the “Working Remotely from Home” website https://www.zedat.fu-berlin.de/HomeOffice. You are still covered by statutory accident insurance when you work remotely.

Given the challenges we are facing, we really need the support of all our employees. Everyone can contribute right now to what is going on, and we also need to think about how things are going to be after this crisis is behind us. How will your work responsibilities have changed? Are you able to keep up with developments online or through other publications? Is now the time to finally take a training course, for example, on how to use a specific software? Perhaps you can take a moment to inform yourself about recent changes concerning occupational health and safety. The Center for Continuing Education at Freie Universität Berlin is happy to answer questions about their online courses and help you sign up. You or your supervisor are welcome to contact the Center by phone, email, or other means of electronic communication. The same goes for Personnel Development at Freie Universität Berlin.

This might be the perfect time for you to review your work processes and how you organize tasks and make suggestions on how to improve them. Or maybe you can use this time to finish writing evaluations, articles, or concept papers. Is it possible to modernize, clean, or repair equipment that you use remotely? As you can see, everyone can find work to do remotely. 

Please contact your direct supervisor or your department to make appropriate arrangements. During this time, it is important to keep in contact either by phone or through other channels of communication.

As far as your working hours are concerned, they are the same as specified in your current employment agreement or as determined by prior individual arrangements. Please keep in mind Freie Universität Berlin’s regulations on working hours. Whenever you work remotely please enter “Mobiles Arbeiten” (remote work) under “Bemerkung” (comments) on your employee time sheet. You do not need to enter check-in and check-out times.

The heads of departments and units will then send the personnel office a list of names at the end of the month, stating who worked remotely during this period. 


Before you leave the university for remote work, please make sure that your workspace is tidy. Do not leave any valuable items in your office, and please clean out the refrigerators. You should also make sure that any plants are properly cared for or removed. Please unplug all appliances and electronic devices as you would during the university’s operational break around the holidays, including any coffee machines, electric kettles, lamps, printers, and extension cords. Finally, please turn the heat down to “1”.

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